Protests were held in several parts of the country on Saturday against the Gujarat government’s decision to release all 11 men convicted of rape and murder in the Bilkis Bano case.
As India had celebrated its 75th Independence anniversary on August 15, the men walked out of the gates of a prison in Godhra to the cheers of their supporters after the state government approved their application under its remission policy.
The men had gangraped Bano in a village near Ahmedabad on March 3, 2002, during the riots in Gujarat. She was 19 and pregnant at the time. Fourteen members of her family were also killed in the violence, including her three-year-old daughter whose head was smashed on the ground by the perpetrators.
Citizens have been protesting since the day the convicts were released.
In Karnataka, protests were organised on Saturday in different parts of the state, including Bengaluru, Gulbarga, Yadgir, Davangere, Hassan, Chamrajnagar, Chickmaglur, Ballari, Bidar, Mudhol and Mahalingpur in Bagalkot district and Bijapur.
In Bengaluru, several community members, organisations and activists participated in the rally that began from Freedom Park.
They said they stand in solidarity with Bano and her family members.
A memorandum carrying the signatures of 200 people against the remission will be submitted to the Karnataka governor, reported The Quint.
In the national capital, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) held a protest at Jantar Mantar. The party has demanded to revoke the release of the 11 men convicted in the case.
Actor Shabana Azmi was also present at Jantar Mantar and gave up a speech criticising the decision to release the convicts, according to The Quint.
Members of various women’s organisations also staged a protest at Jantar Mantar on Saturday. Some of them observed a sit-in at the protest site.
Women activists of the Thane-Palghar unit of the Nationalist Congress Party on Saturday held a protest as well, PTI reported.
Protestors at Shivaji Square in Thane shouted slogans against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central and Gujarat governments.
“The release of these convicts comes at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his Independence Day speech, spoke about empowering and respecting women,” said Ruta Awhad, president of the NCP women’s wing in Thane-Palghar.
Another protest will be held at Mumbai’s Carter Road Promanade at 5 pm on Sunday.
Demonstrations were also held in Nagpur and Bhopal.
On Friday, members of the Trinamool Congress’ women’s wing hit the streets in West Bengal as well, the Business Standard reported.
State Health and Family Welfare Minister Chandrima Bhattacharya said the Gujarat government’s decision has set a “dangerous precedent”.
“We are ashamed,” she said. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks about ‘nari shakti’ and giving respect to women. Yet, his party members in Gujarat allow the convicts of the heinous crime to be released.”
The party’s women’s wing has been staging demonstrations in the state since Thursday over a host of issues, including “vendetta politics” of the BJP government.
The early release of the convicts has sparked massive outrage.
Retired judge Justice UD Salvi, who had sentenced 11 men to life imprisonment in 2008, senior advocate Rebecca John and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom have criticised the Gujarat government’s decision.
The Supreme Court said it would look into a plea challenging their release.
In a statement on August 17, Bano had urged the Gujarat government to “undo this harm” and give her back the right to live without fear and in peace.
“How can justice for any woman end like this?” she had asked. “I trusted the highest courts in our land. I trusted the system, and I was learning slowly to live with my trauma. The release of these convicts has taken from me my peace and shaken my faith in justice.”
On Saturday, demonstrations took place in Karnataka, Delhi, Maharashtra, among other states. Protests were also held in West Bengal on Friday.