New Delhi: A day after the Supreme Court ordered the Gujarat government to give Bilkis Bano Rs 50 lakh as compensation for her rape during the Gujarat violence of 2002, the woman whose case exemplified the complicity of the state in the denial of justice, addressed a press conference in Delhi to declare that she was not “at peace”.
Bano was gang-raped by 11 men; and 14 members of her family were murdered during the Gujarat violence in 2002, including her 3-and-half-year-old daughter. She was the only adult survivor and eyewitness to the massacre.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court told the Gujarat government to provide her Rs 50 lakh as compensation, as well as a job and a house. Each of the convicts has also been asked to pay Rs 55,000, which will go to Bano as compensation.
This landmark compensation comes 17 years after the original crime.
“The honorable Supreme Court has let me know it stands with me. It understood my pain, my suffering and my struggle to regain the constitutional rights that were lost in the violence of 2002. No citizen should have to suffer at the hands of the state, whose duty it is to protect us,” she said in a statement.
Bano said that after many years of her dreams being suppressed, she stands vindicated as a survivor. “My dreams are boundless,” she said. She says she has big dreams for her children: “I will use this money to educate my children and give them a stable life. My eldest daughter wants to be a lawyer. Perhaps she will appear before the same court some day, to argue for justice to others. This is my prayer.”
She also said her victory is on behalf of other women who also suffered communal violence, but may not have been able to get justice from the legal system. Bano says she wants to use the compensation to help these women survivors and help educate their children.
She wants to help the survivors in memory of her first husband and their first born daughter Saleha, who were killed during the riots.
“I pray today that the spirit of the victims like her, the courage of survivors, the struggles of ordinary citizens, and the democratic institutions of India will come together again and again to end the hate and fear that is gripping our country,” says Bano.
She also gave special credit to various agencies such as the NHRC and the CBI, which she says believed in her case and re-investigated it “with honesty and impartiality.”
Only in 2008 did a special court convict and sentence 11 men to life imprisonment for the rape and murder. The Bombay high court upheld the sentence and also set aside the acquittal of other accused persons, such as some Gujarat police officers and government doctors.
The Supreme Court also asked the Gujarat government what action it had taken against the police officers involved in her case, as they were continuing to receive government benefits. The Gujarat government told the Supreme Court that they had demoted one of the police officers by two ranks.