Yakub Rasool, the husband of Bilkis Bano, on Tuesday said that he and his family were worried about their safety after the men who gangraped his wife and killed their daughter walked out of a prison in Gujarat, reported The Indian Express.
Bano was gangraped on March 3, 2002, during the riots in Gujarat. She was 19 and pregnant at the time. Fourteen members of her family, including her three-year-old daughter, were murdered by the rioters near Ahmedabad. One of the men had snatched the girl from her mother’s arms and smashed her head on a rock.
More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died in the 2002 riots. Bano’s case was one of the most horrific episodes of the large-scale violence.
On Monday, 11 men sentenced to life imprisonment for gangrape and murders were released from the prison in Godhra town after the Gujarat government approved their application for remission of sentence. They were welcomed with garlands and sweets.
“What happened [in 2002] was so horrific that one can imagine what must be going through her mind,” Rasool told The Indian Express. “She was brutalised but witnessed the murder of her own daughter. She was violated not just as a woman but also as a mother and a human being – what can be worse than that?”
Rasool said that Bilkis Bano was distressed, melancholic and not able to talk to anyone following the release of the 11 convicts.
“We have not even had the time to process this news and we know that they [the convicts] have already reached their homes,” he said. “It is not that they never took parole; they did several times. But we did not expect that they would be released in such a manner.”
Rasool said that his family was grieving the Gujarat government’s decision, reported The Wire.
“We are now scared of what will happen,” he told The Wire. “We are not sure as to what we will do now because we feel that there is no hope. There is nothing left for us to do now.”
Rasool added that he was using the money paid by the Gujarat government as compensation to educate his five sons. But he said that the administration has not yet made any arrangements to provide a job and accommodation as directed by the Supreme Court in 2019, reported PTI.
Gujarat Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Raj Kumar had told The Indian Express that the government considered the remission application of the convicts as they had served 14 years in jail as well as due to other factors such as “age, nature of the crime, behaviour in prison”.
Kumar had explained that according to the law, a life term means serving at least 14 years in prison and after that convicts can apply for remission. He had said that the government takes a call on premature release on the basis of eligibility as well as the recommendation of the prison advisory committee and the district legal authorities.
However, in June, the Centre had written to the states and Union Territories detailing the process by which prisoners could be selected for special remission, under which they would be released on Independence Day.
Section 5 (vi) of the guidelines on granting such special remission states that such a relaxation cannot be given to those convicted of rape, among other crimes. Section 5 (ii) of the guidelines also states that special remission should not be granted to those sentenced to life imprisonment.