Bilkis Bano: Hundreds Gather at Jantar Mantar Against Remission of Sentence to 11 Convicts
The protests were called by 22 organisations, including AIDWA, AIPWA, YWCA, AISA, NAPM, AIUWFP among others. Image Courtesy: Facebook
New Delhi: Several rights groups on Saturday organised protests across the country against the remission of life sentences given to 11 convicts by the Gujarat government in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gang-rape case.
The protests took place at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, Bengaluru’s Freedom Park, and Mumbai, all of them condemning the Gujarat government's decision and demanded that the convicts' life sentences be reinstated. The protests were called by 22 organisations, including AIDWA, AIPWA, YWCA, AISA, NAPM, AIUWFP among others.
The 11 men sentenced to life imprisonment in the Bilkis Bano case had walked out of the Godhra sub-jail on Monday, August 15, after the Gujarat government approved their release under its remission policy. The convicts were later garlanded by groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).
The men had gangraped Bano in a village near Ahmedabad on March 3, 2002, during the riots in Gujarat. She was 19 and pregnant at the time. Fourteen members of her family were also killed in the violence, including her three-year-old daughter whose head was smashed on the ground by the perpetrators.
Citizens have been protesting since the day the convicts were released.
Maimoona Mollah, member of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), who was present at the protest, told NewsClick: “I applaud Bilkis for her courage but this decision is anti-women and at the same time this is an attempt to make Muslim women second class citizens.”
Many protesters present at Jantar Mantar shared Mollah’s sentiments.
Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student Apeksha Priyadarshi told NewsClick that the circumstances under which this decision was taken was questionable. “Everyone is playing the blame game now. The BJP government is saying that the court released them and the Supreme Court is saying that we had only asked to form a committee. But no one thought of Bilkis and her family.”
She further raised questions about the security of Bilkis and her family now that the 11 convicts were set free by the court. “After this decision, there is fear among the Muslim population around the village of Bilkis and many families are afraid by the release of these heinous criminals,” she said.
Veteran Indian actress Shabana Azmi, who was also present at the Jantar Mantar protest, to extend her support and express solidarity with Bilkis and her family told mediapersons that: “We will only believe the Prime Minister’s tall claims regarding women's safety when we see the results. Put these criminals in jail in a week, then their words can be believed.”
Azmi also termed a BJP leader's attempt to save these criminals by portraying them as “cultured and Brahmins”as “disgusting”.
“This country had united and fought in the case of Nirbhaya. People's struggle is the only way. We will unite and take to the roads for Bilkis till justice is served,” Azmi added.
Accusing the BJP of playing politics over religion, Kavita Krishnan, general secretary of All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA), said: “Today, there is anger across the country due to this decision of the government. The BJP is using it to polarise its Hindu votes. BJP wants to get votes in 2022 on the basis of this incident that happened 20 years ago. But, we have to ask Prime Minister Modi why he is silent on the matter of Bilkis? We want to hear Bilkis name from Modi's mouth. I dare him!”
In fact, AIDWA had called for protests across the country on Saturday. The women’s organisation informed that similar protests and resistance meetings have been and are taking place in all the states of the country including Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M) Politburo member and AIDWA's National Vice President Subhashani Ali along with two others, has challenged the decision in the Supreme Court as well. Talking to NewsClick, Ali said: “It is not just a question of justice for women, but whether there will be rule of law in the country or not.”
She further said that people are angry with BJP because of this incident simply because it is against humanity. “This is a long battle that will be fought together,” Ali said.
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