Questioning the Gujarat government’s decision to release all 11 men convicted of rape and murder in the Bilkis Bano case, the Shiv Sena on Sunday said that just because she is a Muslim, the crime against her cannot be forgiven.
“We cry out loud when similar atrocities take place in neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh,” the party wrote its mouthpiece Saamana. “Then where has our sensitivity gone in the case of Bilkis Bano?”
The Shiv Sena also questioned the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah on the release of the convicts in the case.
The 11 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.
On August 15, the convicts were released from a Godhra jail after the Gujarat government approved their application under its remission policy. On the same day, the convicts were greeted with sweets by their relatives after their release. A member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh felicitated them as well.
Their release was based on the recommendation of a panel formed by the Gujarat government under the guidelines of the Supreme Court. Out of the ten members of the panel, five are office bearers in the BJP. Two of them are currently MLAs.
On August 18, Gujarat MLA CK Raulji, who was part of the panel, had said that the convict’s conduct in jail was good. Raulji also said that in cases of communal violence, innocent persons are often targeted. He added that family members of the convicts were “honest”.
On Sunday, the Shiv Sena said Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar also feels that Modi is not concerned about women empowerment, about which he had spoken at length in his Independence Day speech.
“This is not about Hindu-Muslim, but about the soul of Hindutva and pride of our greatest culture,” the party said. “If Bilkis’s rapists are released for the sake of Hindu votes in upcoming Gujarat elections, then this tendency would destroy us.”
The premature release of the 11 convicts has been condemned by several civil rights groups and activists. A report also found that some of the convicts had allegedly threatened witnesses in the case and attended political events when out on parole.