Backtracking on his 'Brahmin sanksar' comments a day after making them in light of the release of the 11 convicts in the the gang rape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of 14 members of her family during the 2002 Gujarat riots, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA from Godhra, CK Raulji, said that they were shown in a different light.
Raujli said in a tweet, "Rapists have nothing to do with caste, nor have I said that. The statement is being shown in a wrong way. If a person is guilty, then they should be punished. The decision of the court should be respected."
Earlier, speaking to the news portal Mojo Story, Raulji had said that he did not know whether the convicts had committed the crime and added that the convicts were Brahmins, and therefore had good sanskar.
"Crime kiya ki nahi kiya, hum ko pata nahi hai. (I do not know if they have committed the crime or not). Their families' activities were very good, they are Brahmins. Brahmins have good sanskar. People may have had malicious intentions behind punishing them and keeping them imprisoned."CK Raulji, BJP MLA from Godhra
Why Were Raujli's Comments Significant?
Raulji's comments are especially significant since he was a member of the committee headed by Godhra Collector and District Magistrate, Sujal Mayatra, that "unanimously" recommended the remission of the 11 convicts. BJP MLA from Kalol in Gujarat, Sumanben Chauhan, was also part of the same committee that recommended the release of the convicts.
The Gujarat government accepted the recommendation of the advisory committee and allowed the remission and premature release of the convicts.
Post their release, the convicts were welcomed outside the jail with sweets and in a subsequent event, they were reportedly felicitated by the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP).
The convicts had been sentenced to life imprisonment in 2008 by a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Mumbai, on the charge of gang rape and murder of 14 members of Bilkis Bano’s family. Their conviction was later upheld by the Bombay High Court.
Filled With BJP Links: Here Are the Members of the Advisory Committee
Here are the members of the committee that deliberated on whether it should recommend that the 11 convicts be released:
Sujal Mayatra, Godhra Collector and District Magistrate
CK Raulji, BJP MLA from Godhra
Sumanben Chauhan, BJP MLA from Kalol
Pavan Soni, member of the BJP state executive
Sardarsinh Baria Patel, head of BJP’s Godhra taluka unit
Vinitaben Lele, vice-president of the BJP women’s unit in Godhra
Police superintendent of Panchmahal district
Jail superintendent of Godhra jail
District social welfare officer
Sessions judge of Godhra court
It is also worth noting that till May 2022, Murli Mulchandani, a social worker and former Godhra municipal councillor from the BJP and Snehaben Bhatia, a worker with the BJP women’s wing, were members of this advisory committee. The terms of Mulchandani and Bhatia ended in May.
Commenting on the composition of the advisory committee, veteran Congress leader P Chidambaram tweeted, "Was this a neutral, non-partisan panel of experts in criminology and penology?"
Gujarat Govt Went Against Mumbai Court's Opinion
While ordering the release of the convicts, the Gujarat government reportedly sidestepped the opinion of the Mumbai trial court that had sentenced the convicts to life, Scroll reported.
The trial court had submitted a “negative opinion” on the remission plea, according to a member of the jail advisory committee that took a decision on it.
‘How Can Justice End Like This?’: Bilkis Bano
In her first statement after the release of the 11 men, including those convicted of gang raping her and murdering 14 members of her family during the 2002 Gujarat riots, Bilkis Bano on Wednesday, 17 August, said, "I was bereft of words. I am still numb. Today, I can say only this – how can justice for any woman end like this?"
In a statement released by her lawyer, Bano said, "Two days ago, on August 15 2022, the trauma of the past 20 years washed over me again. When I heard that the 11 convicted men who devastated my family and my life, and took from me my 3-year-old daughter, had walked free."
Stating that the move has taken away her faith from India's justice system, she said, "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."
She further said, "My sorrow and my wavering faith is not for myself alone but for every woman who is struggling for justice in courts."
"No one enquired about my safety and well-being before taking such a big and unjust decision. I appeal to the Gujarat government, please undo this harm. Give me back my right to live without fear, and in peace. Please ensure that my family and I are kept safe," she added.