A prosecution witness in the Bilkis Bano case on Monday wrote to Chief Justice UU Lalit claiming that he was threatened by one of the men convicted of murder and rape. The convicts in the case were released on August 15.
The man, Imtiaz Ghanchi, is a resident of the Singvad village in Gujarat’s Dahod district, which is also the village where Bano and the convicts hail from, according to The Indian Express. He presently lives in the Devgadh Baria town.
In the letter to the chief justice, Ghanchi said that on September 15, he was travelling from Singvad to Devgadh Baria when the convict, Radheshyam Shah, saw him at a railway barricade at the Piplod village.
According to Ghanchi, Shah told him: “What did you get by calling me a criminal? I’m out now.”
The witness claimed that the convict referred to him disparagingly as a fakir (an ascetic who lives off alms).
Ghanchi wrote in the letter that Shah told him it was time for him to leave the village. The convict and his driver laughed at him before leaving, he said in the letter.
The witness said that there was a threat to his life and sought “appropriate legal proceedings” against the convicts. He also sent copies of the letter to the state home secretary, the National Human Rights Commission, the district collector and the Dahod Police.
A group of 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.
Eleven men, including Shah, were convicted in the case.
However, 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.
During the trial, Ghanchi had told a special Central Bureau of Investigation court in Mumbai that he had seen an accused man, Naresh Modhiya, holding a knife and another accused man, Pradeep Modhiya, pelting stones near his home, according to The Indian Express.