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Bilkis Case: 9 of 11 Convicts Whose Remission was Quashed by SC Reported ‘Missing’

The 11 gangrape convicts were ordered by the country’s top court to surrender in two weeks.

New Delhi: Two days after the Supreme Court quashed the remission given by Gujarat government to 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano gang-rape case, nine of them were reported to be “missing”, according to a report in The Indian Express.

Hours after the SC verdict, the IE reporter who visited all the places in two neighbouring villages where the 11 convicts reside, found nine of them “missing” from the addresses given. When asked, relatives of the “missing” men were reluctant to say anything.

For instance, the father of one of the convicts, Govind Nai, told the IE reporter that his son had left the house “a week ago” and blamed the conviction on “Congress vendetta”.

Radheyshyam Shah, another convict, was also not home. His father told the IE reporter that he had been away “since the last 15 months’, but some neighbours and shopkeepers in the area claimed to have seen him on the Sunday before the SC verdict.

 The reporter said most shopkeepers in the area were tight-lipped about the whereabouts of the convicts, but one villager told her that ““You won’t find them now. All of them locked their houses and left.”

Recall that all the 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano gang-rape case during the 2002 Gujarat communal riots were awarded remission by the BJP government in Gujarat on August 15, 2022. They walked out of the Godhra jail and were welcomed by sweets and garlands, the day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was holding forth on “nari shakti” (woman power) from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi. Modi invoked woman power or ‘nari shakti‘ from the Red Fort, calling for an end to ‘every behaviour, culture that humiliates and demeans women.’

The IE reporter saw a constable posted in front of all the locked doors, which was said to be part of the police “bandobast” ahead of the SC verdict,

Pradip Modhiya is another convict who was found “missing” from his address.

“Sub-Inspector R N Damor, stationed outside his house, said that Pradip left early Monday and will return soon “since he also left his vehicle (a bike) here”, the report said.

When IE tried to speak with Ramesh Chandana, another convict who the reporter had met after his release, the villagers said he no longer lived in Singvad and was based mainly in Godhra.

“His son-in-law, whose house is metres away from Pradip’s, said that Ramesh “is not in a state to talk or meet to discuss the verdict, even over phone”.

“The other convicts included brothers Shailesh Bhatt (65) and Mitesh Bhatt (58), neighbours of Radheshyam. The Shah family feigned ignorance about the whereabouts of the Bhatts.

The remaining convicts with their residences in the village are Rajubhai Soni, Kesharbhai Vohania, Bakabhai Vohania and Bipinchandra Joshi, who is now purportedly based out of Vadodara,” the villagers told IE.

Bilkis Bano was five months pregnant when these men, who were part of a mob during the 2002 communal violence in Gujarat, raped her. Fourteen members of her family were killed, including her 3-year-old daughter, whose head was smashed by the rioters. Thousands of Muslims were killed in the carnage, including Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, whose widow is still awaiting justice. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was then the Chief Minister of Gujarat.

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