ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

‘Urge SC, Undo This’: Rights Groups Demand Bilkis’ Rapists Be Sent Back To Jail

The statement was signed by around 6,000 citizens, and endorsed by multiple human rights groups.

Published
Gender
5 min read
story-hero-img
i
Aa
Aa
Small
Aa
Medium
Aa
Large
Hindi Female

Condemning the Gujarat government's decision to release 11 individuals who had been convicted for the gang-rape of Bilkis Bano, a statement signed by human rights activists, scholars and women's groups called on the Supreme Court "to undo this grave miscarriage of justice."

The statement, signed by around 6,000 citizens and groups such as the All India Progressive Women’s Association and Saheli Women’s Resource Centre, contrasted the reference to 'Nari Shakti' in PM Modi's speech on Independence Day with the Gujarat government's decision.

It read, “On the morning of August 15, 2022, in his Independence Day address to the nation the Prime Minister of India spoke of women’s rights, dignity and Nari Shakti. That very afternoon Bilkis Bano, a woman who embodied that ‘Nari Shakti’ in her long and daunting struggle for justice, learnt that the perpetrators who killed her family, murdered her 3-year-old daughter, gang-raped and left her to die, had walked free."

"No one sent her notice. No one asked how she, a gang-rape survivor, felt about the release of her rapists... it shames us that the day we should celebrate our freedoms and be proud of our independence, the women of India instead saw gang-rapists and mass murderers freed as an act of State largesse."
Statement by citizens and rights groups condemning the release of the convicts
ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

‘Will Have a Chilling Effect on Every Rape Victim’

The statement added, "The remission of sentences for the 11 convicted of gang-rape and mass murder will have a chilling effect on every rape victim who is told to ‘trust the system’, ‘seek justice’, ‘have faith’."

Arguing that government policies and guidelines were flouted in order to release the convicts, the statement said, "The remission of these sentences is not only immoral and unconscionable, it violates the State of Gujarat’s own existing remission policy and the guidelines issued by the Central government to States on a prisoner release policy to coincide with Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav which also clearly states that among the categories of prisoners NOT to be granted Special Remission are “those convicted of rape."

"Most importantly, in a case investigated and prosecuted by the CBI, no remission can be granted by a State without concurrence by the Centre. That such a remission was even considered, and then permitted, reveals the hollowness of the public posturing about Nari Shakti, Beti Bachao, women’s rights and justice for victims."
Statement by citizens and rights groups condemning the release of the convicts

The statement urged the Supreme Court to "undo this grave miscarriage of justice" and demanded that "the remission of sentences for these 11 convicts be immediately revoked and they be sent back to prison to serve the remainder of their life terms."

0

The Signatories

The statement was signed by "about 6000 ordinary citizens, grassroot workers, women’s, human rights, peace, secularism, anti-caste, disability, queer rights and other peoples’ movements, groups and activists, eminent writers, historians, scholars, filmmakers, journalists and former bureaucrats and many more."

Signatories included activists Syeda Hameed, Shabnam Hashmi and Kavita Krishnan, lawyer Lara Jesani, author Mukul Kesavan and others.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Full Statement

The following is the full statement issued by the concerned citizens and rights groups:

On the morning of August 15, 2022, in his Independence Day address to the nation the Prime Minister of India spoke of women’s rights, dignity and Nari Shakti. That very afternoon Bilkis Bano, a woman who embodied that ‘Nari Shakti’ in her 17-year long struggle for justice, learnt that the perpetrators who killed her family, murdered her 3-year-old daughter, gang-raped and left her to die, had walked free. No one asked for her views, or enquired about her safety. No one sent her a notice. No one asked how she, a gang-rape survivor, felt about the release of her rapists.

Bilkis has always said that her struggle for justice is a struggle for all women, and on August 15th the rights of each rape victim in India has received a blow.

It shames us that the day we should celebrate our freedoms and be proud of our independence, the women of India instead saw gang-rapists and mass murderers freed as an act of State largesse. The remission of sentences for the 11 convicted of gang-rape and mass murder will have a chilling effect on every rape victim who is told to ‘trust the system’, ‘seek justice’, ‘have faith’. The early release of these murderers/rapists only strengthens the impunity of all men who commit rape and other acts of violence against women. The remission must be revoked.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Bilkis was just 21 years old, and 5 months pregnant in 2002 when she was gang-raped, watched her 3-year-old daughter Saleha’s head being smashed on a rock, watched 14 members of her family murdered. Saw several female members of her family raped and murdered. It was the most heinous of crimes. As the sole adult survivor of this horrific massacre, Bilkis Bano then embarked upon a brave and long battle to secure justice. She did what we tell all rape victims to do – she found inner strength, stood her ground, testified to her truth and trusted the criminal justice system. It was a long journey but justice came. All perpetrators were convicted by the Special CBI Court in Mumbai in 2008. The conviction was upheld by the Bombay High Court, and by the Honorable Supreme Court. As Bilkis herself said in 2017, when the Bombay High Court upheld life sentences for the convicts - “.. this verdict does not mean the end of hatred but it does mean that somewhere, somehow justice can prevail. This has been a long, seemingly never ending struggle for me, but when you are on the side of truth, you will be heard, and justice will be yours in the end.”

Today, that justice stands undone.
ADVERTISEMENT

The remission of these sentences is not only immoral and unconscionable, it goes against the State of Gujarat’s own existing remission policy which expressly states such remission is “NOT” for those convicted of rape or gangrape.

Additionally, it violates the guidelines issued by the Central government to States on a prisoner release policy to coincide with Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav which also clearly states that among the categories of prisoners NOT to be granted Special Remission are “those convicted of rape”.

Most importantly, in a case investigated and prosecuted by the CBI, no remission can be granted by a State without concurrence by the Centre. That such a remission was even considered and then permitted reveals the hollowness of the public posturing about Nari Shakti, Beti Bachao, women's rights and justice for victims.

To those who facilitated the release of 11 murderers and gang-rapists in contravention of the law of the land, we say this: You have let down every woman in the country. Made us more unsafe, more threatened and more at risk of violation. You have diluted our faith in the idea of justice for women of India.

We end with reaffirming our solidarity to Bilkis Bano and every other victim of sexual assault who has the courage to stand up for justice today. We express deep concern for her safety and that of her family. We are pained that this brave woman has to relive the trauma of the past 20 years. We demand that women’s faith in justice be restored.

We demand the remission of sentences for these 11 convicts be immediately revoked and they be sent back to prison to serve the remainder of their life terms.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from gender

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD
Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More
ADVERTISEMENT
×
×