"He threatened me saying we'll beat you people blue and black till you leave the village," recalled 45-year-old Imtiaz Ghanchi.
On 20 September, Ghanchi, a key witness in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gang-rape case, wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of India UU Lalit alleging that one of the key convicts had 'threatened to kill him'.
The 11 men convicted of gang-raping Bilkis Bano and killing 14 members of her family – including her three-year-old daughter – during the Gujarat riots of 2002 were released from a sub-jail in Godhra on 16 August after a state government panel approved their application for remission of sentence.
Speaking to The Quint, Ghanchi said that he was apprehensive that this would happen since the day of the release of the convicts. So, on 15 September when he was travelling from Singvad village to his residence in Devgadh Baria, convict Radheshyam Shah spotted him at the Piplod railway barricade, he was scared but not surprised.
"I was on a bike, waiting for the train to pass when Radheshyam Shah spotted me and signalled me to walk up to him," Ghanchi said. "I was scared to go near him but I went anyway. He then threatened me saying ab to hum bahaar aa gaye hain. Tum logon ko maar maar ke gaanv se nikaalenge (Now we're free. We'll beat you people blue and black till you leave the village)," he added.
A native of Singvad (Randhikpur), 45-year-old Ghanchi left his home after the 2002 riots and moved to a relief colony in Devgadh Baria where he has lived for the last 20 years with his wife and children.
"We left the village (Randhikpur) in 2002 after the riots. Never had the courage to go back. But I am a daily wager. I have to go to the village to find work," Ghanchi said.
"I have also sent a copy of the complaint letter to the Dahod district Collector and Dahod Police. I want them to make sure that I am safe and take strict action against these criminals."Imtiaz Ghanchi, Prosecution witness
In his representation dated 19 September, Ghanchi said that Shah and the driver of his vehicle laughed before leaving. Subsequently, Ghanchi sought "appropriate legal proceedings," claiming that there was a threat to his life.
Moreover, he sent copies of the letter to the Gujarat home secretary and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
Ghanchi's Statement During Bilkis' Trial
During the Bilkis Bano trial before the special Mumbai Central Bureau of Investigation court, Ghanchi said that on the day after the Godhra train burning incident, he had seen one of the accused, now deceased Naresh Modhiya, holding a Rampuri knife in his hand.
He added that he had seen another accused, Pradeep Modhiya, pelting stones and chanting slogans near his residence in Gujarat's Randhikpur.
Ghanchi said that fearing the mob, he had left his residence along with his mother and sister, seeking refuge at the house of a person named Lalu Madiya Parmar for two days.
He further deposed that no one from the mob entered Parmar's house, but said that he witnessed his residence being burnt and saw his belongings being looted.