Bilkis Bano, a gang-rape survivor of 2002 Gujarat riots, on April 24, addressed a press conference at New Delhi. The press conference was held a day after the landmark judgement passed by the Supreme Court on April 23. SC directed the state of Gujarat to pay a compensation of Rs 50 lakh, a job, and accommodation to Bilkis Bano. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, and comprising of Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna passed this judgement. This is the first time a compensation of this magnitude has been awarded to a survivor of communal and targeted violence.
This judgement came after a long-drawn legal battle that Bilkis Bano had been fighting for almost two decades. Bano said at a press conference, “For 17 years I have kept my faith with my conscience, my Constitution, and my judiciary. And today the honourable Supreme Court has let me know it stands with me. It understood my pain, my suffering and my struggle to regain the constitutional rights that were lost to me in the violence of 2002. No citizen should have to suffer at the hands of the State whose duty is to protect us.”
She added, “My victory is also on behalf of the many other women, who suffered, and who never managed to reach the courts. I wish to use a part of this money to help other women survivors of communal violence, in their journeys to justice; and to help educate their children.” She said that she wants to do this in the name of her firstborn daughter Saleha, who was killed during the riots, and whose body was never found.
Also Read:Bilkis Bano Case: SC Orders Gujarat Govt to Give Rs 50 Lakh Compensation, Job
During the Gujarat riots, Bano’s family was trying to move to a safer place, like many other Muslim families. The family of 17 was traveling in a truck, when they suddenly found themselves under attack by a mob of about 30-35 rioters near Randhikpur village in the Dahod district of Gujarat.
Bilkis Bano, who was five-months pregnant at the time, was brutally gang-raped by the attackers, and left for dead. 14 of her family members, including her three-year-old daughter Saleha, were murdered in front of her eyes. She was the only adult survivor and eyewitness to the horrific massacre.
What followed was a long legal battle that lasted 17 years. 18 people were convicted of the massacre in May, 2017, by the Bombay High court, where the Bilkis Bano case had been shifted to in the year 2004, by the order of the Supreme Court. This was a result of a plea filed by Bano to transfer her case outside Gujarat, as she kept receiving threats, which forced her to change her residence as many as 20 times in the two years that followed the incident.
Also Read: "I Want Justice, Not Revenge": Bilkis Bano
Bano said, “As a victim, I suppressed all my dreams. As a vindicated survivor, they are boundless. And they are mostly for children, mine and others. I will use this money to educate my children and give them a stable life. My eldest daughter who wants to be a lawyer, will perhaps appear before the same court someday, to argue for justice to others. This is my prayer.”