Bilkis Bano gang-rape case life-term convicts released, welcomed with sweets
All 11 men sentenced to life for the brutal gang-rape of Bilkis Bano in the wake of the 2002 Gujarat riots were released from jail on Monday and welcomed with sweets. Their release—on the 76th Independence Day—came as a shocker to many, especially due to the heinous nature of their crimes: gang-raping Bano and killing seven of her family members, including her three-year-old daughter.
Why does this story matter?
Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when riots broke out in Gujarat, post the burning of a Sabarmati Express coach. On March 3, 2002, Bano and her family were attacked by a mob that raped her and killed her family members at Randhikpur village near Ahmedabad. The 2002 Gujarat riots reportedly led to the death of 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus.
11 life-term convicts released from jail
The life-term convicts were released from the sub-jail in Godhra on Tuesday as part of the Gujarat government's remission policy, PTI reported. Their release was decided on by a committee formed a few months back, and the state government approved the recommendation of the committee, Panchmahal District Collector Sujal Mayatra told Hindustan Times. The convicts had served more than 15 years in jail.
Allowed to walk free after a plea in SC
The 11 men were granted premature release following a plea by one Radheshyam Shah (also a convict). Shah had approached the Supreme Court with a special plea for his premature release, which paved the way for all the convicts to be freed. However, their release contradicts a central government notice from June this year, which says rape convicts cannot be granted special remission.
Watch: Now free, Bano rape convicts greeted with 'laddus'
How has Bano's family reacted?
Bano and her husband—who continue to live on non-permanent addresses even 20 years after the incident—said the convicts' release has surprised them. "We had no knowledge about when they processed their applications... We never received any...notice," her husband Yakub Rasul told PTI. He said they don't intend to comment on the development, but they remember their deceased family members, including their daughter, every day.
What were the charges against these men?
In 2008, a special CBI court in Mumbai sentenced the 11 accused to life for raping a pregnant woman, murder, and unlawful assembly. The Bombay High Court upheld the conviction later. Seven others were acquitted for lack of evidence; one died during the trial. In 2019, the Supreme Court directed Gujarat's government to provide Bano a Rs. 50 lakh compensation, government job, and house.