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Communalism

Gujarat: BJP MP, MLA Share Stage With Man Convicted of Raping Bilkis Bano

Jaswantsinh Bhabhor, the BJP MP from Gujarat's Dahod, and his brother Shaileshbhai Bhabhor, the BJP MLA from Limkheda, shared a stage with Shailesh Bhatt.

New Delhi: Jaswantsinh Bhabhor, the BJP MP from Gujarat’s Dahod, and his brother Shaileshbhai Bhabhor, the BJP MLA from Limkheda, on Saturday (March 25) shared a stage with Shailesh Bhatt – one of the 11 men convicted for raping Bilkis Bano during the 2002 Gujarat riots and released on parole by the Gujarat government.

Both Jaswantsinh and Shaileshbhai tweeted pictures of the launch of a Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board (GWSSB) project in Karmadi village in Singvad taluka of Dahod district, and Bilkis’s husband Yakub Rasool confirmed to The Quint that one of the men on stage was Bhatt.

“These people (convicts) were felicitated the moment they stepped out of the jail. We are not surprised to see them share stage with those in power. Our only hope for justice is the Supreme Court now,” Rasool told the portal.

According to the Indian Express, in photographs of the event released by the Dahod District Information Department, Bhatt is seated in the front row, between Jaswantsinh and Kanta Damor, president of the Singvad taluka panchayat.

“It (GWSSB) was a public event that I attended… I don’t have anything else to say,” Bhatt told the Indian Express.

While Jaswantsinh refused to comment, Shaileshbhai reportedly said, “Being the MLA, I was so busy at the event that I did not see who else was sitting on the dais. I will check if he (Bhatt) was present at the event.”

Pradeep Parmar, Deputy Engineer of the GWSSB, Dahod, told the Indian Express that he did not know who had invited Bhatt, “The invitations are not sent out by the water supply department even if the event is organised by us… The taluka panchayat members would have invited the guests. We do not know who decided the seating on the dais. It is possible that the local engineer of the GWSSB in Limkheda would have been privy to the list.”

Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra reacted sharply to the incident, calling Bhatt a “monster” who should be put back in jail.

Bilkis Bano and others have file pleas in the Supreme Court against the early release of the 11 convicts. The court is supposed to hear the petitions on Monday.