Key Witness in the Bilkis Bano Case Claims 'Threat to Life', Writes to CJI: Report

"Now we're free. We'll beat you people blue and black till you leave the village" said Radheshyam Shah recently during his chance encounter with Imtiaz Ghanchi, a witness in the case.

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New Delhi: Imtiaz Ghanchi (45), a key witness in the Bilkis Bano case, has claimed that he was recently threatened by one of the convicts Radheshyam Shah and wrote to the Chief Justice of India, U.U. Lalit, to seek protection in the wake of the “threat” to his life, The Quint reported.

“He [Shah] threatened me saying we will beat you people blue and black till you leave the village,” recalls Ghanchi about his chance encounter with Shah on September 15.

Shah was one of 11 men convicted for gang-rape of Bano and mass murder of her 14 family members, including her three-year-old daughter, during the Gujarat 2002 riots in Godhra. After the Gujarat government controversially approved their application for remission, the convicts were released from a sub-jail in Godhra on August 15.

Recalling what transpired on September 15, Ghanchi told Quint that he was spotted by Shah at the Piplod railway barricade when he was on his way to his residence in Devgadh Baria from Singvad village. Although he was scared, Ghanchi says he wasn’t surprised, adding that he has been apprehensive of such a situation since they were released.

“I was on a bike, waiting for the train to pass when Radheshyam Shah spotted me and signalled me to walk up to him. I was scared to go near him but I went anyway. He then threatened me saying ab to hum bahaar aa gaye hain. Tum logon ko maar maar ke gaanv se nikaalenge (Now we’re free. We’ll beat you people blue and black till you leave the village),” Quint quotes Ghanchi as saying.

In the immediate aftermath of the riots in 2002, Ghanchi left his home in his native village of Singvad (Randhikpur) along with his family and shifted to a relief colony in Devgadh Baria. Since then, he has been living there with his wife and children.

“We left the village (Randhikpur) in 2002 after the riots. Never had the courage to go back. But I am a daily wager. I have to go to the village to find work,” Ghanchi rues.

In his letter to CJI, dated September 19, Ghanchi recalled that Shah, who was sitting in his car along with his driver, threatened and laughed at him when he was about to leave from there. Since then, Ghanchi has written to several officials, including the CJI. He has also sent a copy of the letter to CJI to the Gujarat home secretary and the National Human Rights Commission, stating that there is a threat to his life.

During the trial at a special Mumbai Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in the case, Ghanchi had told that on the next day of the Godhra train burning incident, he had seen one of the accused, now deceased Naresh Modhiya, holding a Rampuri knife in his hand.

He had also informed the court that he had seen another accused, Pradeep Modhiya, pelting stones and chanting slogans near his house in Gujarat’s Randhikpur.