'We Are the Reason Bilkis Bano Was Raped’: Revati Laul, Who Fought Rapists in SC

The SC has struck down the remission of Bilkis Bano's rapists. Revati Laul is one of the petitioners in the case.

4 min read

When Revati Laul was writing 'The Anatomy of Hate', a book which presented an account of the perpetrators of the 2002 Gujarat riots, she decided against meeting Bilkis Bano. Bilkis had been gangraped in the riots, and the rapists had also murdered many of her family members, including her three-and-a-half-year-old daughter. She wrote about Bilkis' quest for justice in the book, which had been widely reported, but never met her personally.

Several years later, in 2022, when the Gujarat government granted remission to the 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case, Laul decided to do something about it. Laul, CPI(M)’s Subhashini Ali and professor Roop Rekha Verma filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the remission.


Last week, on 8 January, the Supreme Court struck down the remission, calling it an “abuse of power” by the Gujarat government.

Laul spoke to The Quint about her decision to approach the Supreme Court and what the verdict means for society at large.

'Fundamental Questions That Go Beyond Bilkis': Why Laul Went To SC

Laul said she was shaken on seeing the convicts being released on 15 August, 2022—Independence Day. They were subsequently garlanded at the VHP’s office.

“It was an abomination and a blot on our democracy. The convicts weren’t just released on the clearance of the Gujarat government, but their decision was sanctioned by the Home Ministry. They got assent from the Centre for these rapists and murderers to be freed,” said Laul.

Days after the convicts were released, BJP MLA CK Raulji, said that they were “Brahmins with good sanskaar (values) and someone with ill intention may have punished them.” Raulji was one of the two BJP leaders who were part of the review panel that granted remission to the 11 convicted rapists.

“The optics of it is the politics of it, they used India’s 75th Independence Day celebrations to do this, what does it say about our government, democracy, and justice? These are fundamental questions that go well beyond Bilkis Bano or any woman. If any government decides to disregard a court ruling, it is a travesty of justice....This is why we decided to approach the Supreme Court,” explained Laul.

'Bilkis Bano's Rape Is A Valorised Performance. We Are The Audience'

Laul said that instead of pinning everything on politicians, the Indian society needs to reflect about why incidents like these occur in the first place.

“We are a society that is sick to its core and the BJP is delivering to its electorate what the electorate wants which is a grotesque performance of hate over and over again,” Laul said.

Laul added that other parties also behave in similar fashion, in different states. The author gave the example of Madhya Pradesh, where three men were charged with the National Security Act (NSA) for allegedly slaughtering cow, in 2019, when Congress was in power in the state.

“We as people need to reflect what we are doing for someone like Bilkis Bano to be raped and for her rape to be a valorised performance? It’s because we are the audience. It is with us in mind, as voters who like this, that this is being done. If we didn’t like it, it wouldn’t be done,” Laul said.  

We Have To 'Bilkis The Moment'

Laul said that every time we are confronted with a choice about whether to further hate or weaken it, we should ‘Bilkis the moment’.

“Am I part of the fantasy of hate or am I helping weaken it? We have to ask ourselves this, and ‘Bilkis the moment’, just like we google things,” she said.

The author and activist said that individuals need to now make conscious choices in their day to day lives. “Everyday we are confronted with choices about what we buy, fund, support and who we fraternise with,” she said.

“Every time we are invited to a dinner or literary event where a rapist is being feted, or people who have been part of this megapolis of hate...Whether we support corporates who fund this politics of hate, buy their products, we have to choose....We can help it. Or else we are the reason Bilkis was raped,” she added.  

Why The SC Verdict Is Relevant For Future Cases Too

The SC in its judgment said that the Gujarat government’s decision to remit their sentences and set them free was illegal. “Gujarat government had no jurisdiction to entertain the application for remission or pass the orders as it was not the appropriate government,” the court said. Therefore, the court ruled that the competent government in this matter would be the Maharashtra government, where the 11 men were convicted.  

Maharashtra is ruled by a coalition, led by the BJP. While this could mean that the convicts could approach the Maharashtra government too, in a remission plea, Laul said the SC judgment has laid out procedures for the same. “The court has said that in any such case, the opinion of the prosecuting judge (in this case in Maharashtra) has to mandatorily taken. This is another layer of deterrence,” Laul said.  

“I would not diminish the light that Bilkis has shone, and the SC has shone on all of us, in these very dark times,” she added. 

(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.)

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