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The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) has condemned the release of the 11 persons convicted for murder and mass rape of 14 persons in the Bilkis Bano case in the communal carnage following the Godhra incident. It is outrageous and shocking that after the commission of such a heinous and violent crime, these 11 accused who had been convicted by the trial and High Court for rigorous imprisonment for Life, which meant the whole of their lives, were released by the Gujarat Government under its Remission Policy of 1992 just because they had completed 15 years in jail.

The entire incident of gang rape and murder took place in front of Bilkis Bano’s eyes, who was five months pregnant at the time. Inspite of that she was gangraped and had to witness of the horror of her mother and three other women of her family being gang raped while even her three-year old daughter along with 13 others were killed by a mob of 30 to 40 people who deliberately and viciously attacked them with sickles, swords and sticks while they were trying to hide in a field to escape the carnage being carried out against Muslims. However, out of 19 people who were eventually charged the special court acquitted seven accused for want of evidence while one of the accused had died during the trial. Against those 11 eventually convicted there was obviously overwhelming evidence.

It is relevant to mention that one of the accused, Radheshyam Shah had approached the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court had unfortunately directed that the Gujarat Government consider his case under its 1992 Remission policy within two months. It is important to point out that the remission policy of 1992 did not exclude murder cases decided by the CBI court while the subsequent 2014 policy which replaced this does. Subsequently it appears that the Gujarat Government set up a panel which released all those convicted in the Bilkis Bano case. The basis on which the remission took place is not spelled out except that these convicts had completed 15 years in jail.

It is a travesty of justice that those convicted of such a heinous crime after such a long and torturous legal fight should be released in this manner. On a day when the Prime Minister was highlighting the issue of the need to protect women against crimes, the BJP Gujarat Government decided to release those convicted of brutal gang rape and murder. This shows that though crimes against women are rising in this country the BJP Government is not concerned about even the most brutal of these crimes.

It sets a bad precedent that crimes against Muslims can be committed with virtual impunity and no accountability. It gives an indirect encouragement to those elements of the Sangh Parivar who give threats of death and call for violence against the minorities - specially Muslims - that they can do so with impunity and without fearing any adverse consequences. It shows that these crimes had the tacit approval of the government as normally sentences of those who have committed gang rapes and murders are not remitted. Even the Central Policy on remission announced on this Independence Day excluded those convicted of murders and rapes. The decision of the BJP Gujarat Government clearly highlights that rapes and murders of Muslims in the 2002 communal pogrom are inconsequential and in tune with their Manuvadi Hindutva agenda. AIDWA deprecates the fact that these convicts were greeted with sweets when they came out of jail as if they were heroes. How could the State Government have allowed this to happen?

In the meanwhile, Bilkis Bano’s trauma continues after she thought that justice had finally been given to her. It is reported that once again her life and that of her family is in danger and she fears for her safety. This must be immediately provided to her.

In 2019 the Supreme Court had given a compensation of 50 lakhs to Bilkis and directed that she must be given a house and a job. She has not yet been given a house and a job. The Court must once again set aside this totally unwarranted, audacious and inhuman decision of the Gujarat Government to remit the sentences of murder and gang rape convicts in the Bilkis Bano case. AIDWA will hold protests all over the country against this highly unjust, anti-women decision of the BJP Gujarat Government.