Bilkis Bano, then 19 years old and pregnant, was gangraped in the 2002 infamous communal violence of Gujarat. 14 of her family members were also killed including a 3 years old daughter. Case was registered after the intervention of National Human Rights Commission. In 2004 the trial was moved to Mumbai by Supreme Court. In 2008, 11 accused were convicted. After many years one of the convicts moved the SC for pre-mature release. The convicts enjoyed liberal parole and furlough before this. SC asked the Gujarat government to take a decision. A committee formed, consisting of 2 BJP MLAs, decided to release all 11 convicts on account of good behaviour under a 1992 policy. New policy doesn’t allow pre-mature release for rapists and murderers. Union government endorsed state government committee’s recommendation and 11 convicts walked free on 15 August, 2022, to garlands and sweets, immediately after Narendra Modi, speaking from the Red Fort, was advising citizens to treat women with respect. One of the BJP MLAs on committee which decided the pre-mature release went on to say that some of the convicts were sanskari Brahmins. In December 2022 SC dismissed Bilkis Bano’s petition seeking review of SC order to Gujarat government to consider plea of one of the convicts for pre-mature release. In another petition seeking review of the order for release of 11 convicts, Justice Bela Trivedi recused herself. When asked to consider constitution of another bench, Chief Justice said it was irritating to ask for this repeatedly.
CJI may consider it irritating when Bilkis Bano case is mentioned repeatedly but has he considered how a woman, survivor of gruesome violence, might feel being forced to live with 11 convicts in the same area? Bilkis Bano has to live in hiding feeling insecure.
We demand that the 11 convicts must be sent back to jail. This is the least that can be done to ensure justice is done to Bilkis Bano. Otherwise, women will not safe in this country. We’ve recently witnessed how even after vehement protests by women wrestlers, the head of Wrestling Federation of India was merely asked to step aside. Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh still continues to be a member of Parliament of the ruling party. Such incidents strengthen the already entrenched patriarchal and misogynist tendencies.
We demand justice for Bilkis Bano and all other women such as Shraddha Walkar, Ankita Bhandari, among recent ones, who have been victims of violence. We have to create a safe environment for women, children and persons from the LGBTQIA+ community, only then can we be called a civilized society.
Socialist Mahila Sabha, Hindu Muslim Ekta Samiti, Socialist Party (India)