Bharatiya Janata Party’s Gujarat MLA CK Raulji, who was part of the panel that recommended the release of 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case, defended his decision saying that the men were Brahmins by caste and had good values, the Mojo Story reported on Thursday.
“I don’t know whether they committed the crime or not...” he said in an interview to the news portal. “Their conduct in jail was good, they were Brahmins...men with good sanskaar [values].”
On Monday, 11 men who were sentenced to life imprisonment in the ganagrape case were released from a Godhra jail after the Gujarat government approved their application under its remission policy.
Bilkis 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.
Gujarat Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Raj Kumar said that the government considered their remission application as the convicts had served 14 years in jail as well as due to other factors such as “age, nature of the crime, [and] behaviour in prison”.
The decision to release them was based on the recommendation of a panel formed by the Gujarat government under the guidelines of the Supreme Court.
On Monday, the convicts were greeted with sweets by their relatives after their release. A member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh felicitated them as well.
In the interview to Mojo Story, Raulji also said that in cases of communal violence, innocent persons are often targeted. He added that family members of the convicts were “honest”.
Raulji’s statement has drew widespread criticism from several Twitter users.
Historian Audrey Truschke said the comments showed that caste was “in action in modern times”.
“In premodern Sanskrit texts, different punishments are prescribed for people depending on caste, with Brahmins getting off easiest,” she wrote on Twitter. “Why? Because they’re Brahmins.”
Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation leader Kavita Krishnan said the Narendra Modi-led central government was attempting to fool women in the name Uniform Civil Code and women empowerment initiative Beti Bachao.
Congress spokesperson described the BJP as a “casteist party”, while Telangana Rashtra Samithi social media convenor Y Sathish Reddy said this was the lowest a political party could ever stoop.
Dalit activist Dilip Mandal shared the video clip with a verse from the Hindu scripture Manusmriti which mandates lesser punishment for Brahmins for crimes like rape and murder.