A day after 11 men convicted of gangraping her were released from jail, Bilkis Bano on Wednesday demanded her right to live in peace and without fear.
“No one enquired about my safety and well-being before taking such a big and unjust decision,” she said in a statement, urging the Gujarat government to “undo the harm” caused by its decision to release the 11 men sentenced to life imprisonment.
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 snatched the girl from her mother’s arms and smashed her head on a rock.
The convicts were released from a Godhra jail on Monday after the Gujarat government approved their application to reduce their sentences under its remission policy.
In the statement released through her lawyer Shobha Gupta, Bano said on Wednesday that the Bharatiya Janata Party government’s decision had left her numb and bereft of words.
“Today, I can say only this - how can justice for any woman end like this?” she said. “...The release of these convicts has taken from me my peace and shaken my faith in justice. My sorrow and my wavering faith is not for myself alone but for every woman who is struggling for justice in courts.”
Opposition parties have questioned the mindset that led the BJP government to take the decision. They have also urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene into the matter to overturn the Gujarat government’s stance on the matter.
Read the full statement of Bilkis Bano:
“Two days ago, on August 15, 2022, the trauma of the past 20 years washed over me again. When I heard that the 11 convicted men who devastated my family and my life, and took from me my three-year-old daughter, had walked free. I was bereft of words. I am still numb.
Today, I can only say this – how can justice for any woman end like this? I trusted the highest courts in our land. I trusted the system, and I was slowly learning to live with my trauma. The release of these convicts has taken from me my peace and shaken my faith in justice. My sorrow and my wavering faith is not for myself alone but for every woman who is struggling for justice in the courts.
No one enquired about my safety and well-being before taking such a big and unjust decision.
I appeal to the Gujarat government, please undo this harm. Give me back my right to live without fear and in peace. Please ensure that my family and I are kept safe.”