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11 Men Released from Prision after Gang-raping Muslim Woman, Bilkis Bano

India has once again come under fire after the Gujrat Government released eleven convicted in a high-profile gang rape case against Bilkis Bano, a Muslim woman. The verdict has sparked outrage across India as people took to the streets and several government officials have condemned the rather rash decision.

Bilkis Bano, the victim of the case, was gang-raped by eleven men during the crackdown against Muslims in the state of Gujrat in 2002. The men stormed into her home, killed her 3-year-old daughter by smashing her head on the ground and molested Bilkis while she was 5 months pregnant. The then 21-year-old Bilkis Bano survived the ordeal by playing dead and later fell unconscious.

The year 2002 witnessed a blood bath against the Muslims after a train carrying many Hindu pilgrims caught fire and killed 59 people. Hindu right-wing groups blamed Muslims and shortly after, the violence erupted, killing over 2000 people, most of them Muslims.

Several women were also raped. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the state minister of Gujrat during the riots and was accused of not taking enough action to halt the crimes against Indian Muslims.

The eleven men were later sentenced to life imprisonment in 2008, and 17 years after the incident in 2019, Bilkis Bano was rewarded a compensation of five million rupees ($63,000).

However, Bilkis Bano’s fight for justice went in vain when the rapists were released from jail on Monday 15th August 2022. Videos on social media showed the eleven men being adorned with garlands and were even offered sweets, a somewhat common gesture in India when welcoming esteemed guests.

The state of Gujrat is citing a 1992 ruling that said that the circular “pertains to the early release of the life convicts who on and after 18.12.1978 have served out 14 clear years imprisonment.”

One of the eleven convicts approached the Supreme Court and when his case reached the state, a committee was formed by the government and they unanimously decided in favor of remission following the state’s 1992 policy which ultimately led to the release of all eleven criminals.

The SC said that the crime was indisputably committed in Gujarat, which is the appropriate government competent to examine the application filed for premature release.

It said, “And that is the reason for which the High Court of Bombay in Criminal Writ Petition No. 305 of 2013 filed at the instance of co accused Ramesh Rupabhai under its Order dated 5 August, 2013 declined his request to consider the application for pre mature release and left the application to be examined according to the policy applicable in the State of Gujarat by the concerned authorities.”

The order added, “It has been settled by this Court in State of Haryana Vs. Jagdish that the application for grant of pre mature release will have to be considered on the basis of the policy which stood on the date of conviction.”

Bilkis Bano who initially thought that justice was served, released a statement saying

“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. My sorrow and my wavering faith is not for myself alone but for every woman who is struggling for justice in courts,” she said.

“Please undo this harm. Give me back my right to live without fear.”

Opposition lawmaker Rahul Gandhi attacked PM Modi on Twitter, “The entire country is seeing the difference between your words and deeds.”

Vrinda Grover, a lawyer, called the decision a “travesty and grave miscarriage of justice.”

“BJP’s bias for a religion is such that even brutal rape & hate crimes are forgivable,” prominent Muslim politician Asaduddin Owaisi said, referring to Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

As India plunges deeper into religious conflict, the Bilkis Bano case has only further ensued more outrage, as racism against Muslims prevail in a country that always boasts about its diversity and peaceful co-existence.

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  • Zamena Manekia Manji

    Zamena Manekia Manji is a breaking news writer for TMJ News with experience of over 10 years in the field. Her areas of focus are important breaking stories in North America specifically untold stories from a minority lens.

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