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New Delhi: Around 6,000 signatories, including activists, eminent writers, historians, filmmakers, journalists and former bureaucrats, on Thursday, August 18 urged the Supreme Court to revoke the early release of 11 rapists in the Bilkis Bano case.
In 2008, these men had been sentenced to life for gang-raping 21-year-old Bilkis Bano, who was also five months pregnant, and murdering 14 people, including Bano’s three-year-old daughter, during the 2002 Gujarat communal riots.
The convicts walked out of the Godhra sub-jail after the Gujarat government approved their application for remission.
“On the morning of August 15, 2022, in his Independence Day address to the nation, the Prime Minister of India spoke of women’s rights, dignity and ‘Nari Shakti’. That very afternoon, Bilkis Bano, a woman who embodied that ‘Nari Shakti’ in her long and daunting struggle for justice, learnt that the perpetrators who killed her family, murdered her three-year-old daughter, gang-raped and left her to die, had walked free,” the signatories said in a joint statement.
“The remission of sentences for the 11 [men] convicted of gang-rape and mass murder will have a chilling effect on every rape victim who is told to ‘trust the system’, ‘seek justice’, ‘have faith’,” it said.
“Most importantly, in a case investigated and prosecuted by the Central Bureau of Investigation, no remission can be granted by a State without concurrence by the Centre. That such a remission was even considered, and then permitted, reveals the hollowness of the public posturing about Nari Shakti, Beti Bachao, women’s rights and justice for victims…Hence, the statement urged the Supreme Court to undo this grave miscarriage of justice,” it added.
An article in The Wire explained that in June this year, the Union home ministry had issued guidelines to states pertaining to the release of convicted prisoners. These guidelines were issued under a special policy formulated as part of India’s 75th year of Independence.
As per the guidelines, special remission was to be granted to prisoners on August 15, 2022, January 26, 2023 (Republic Day) and August 15, 2023. However, the guidelines made it clear that persons sentenced to life imprisonment and rape convicts were not entitled to be prematurely released.
Therefore, several experts have questioned whether the Gujarat government violated the central guideline by releasing the convicts in the Bilkis Bano case.
The full text of the joint statement and list of signatories is appended below.
20 YEARS AFTER HORRIFIC GANG-RAPE AND MASS MURDERS IN GUJARAT, ABOUT 6,000 CITIZENS SPEAK OUT IN SUPPORT OF BILKIS BANO’S CONTINUING STRUGGLE FOR JUSTICE!
Demand the revocation of the pre-mature release of 11 gang-rapists and mass murderers in Gujarat.
Appeal to the Supreme Court of India to undo this grave miscarriage of justice.
Call upon citizens to stand with all victims of rape against such an injustice.
Full text of statement and complete list of signatories below.
Coming together to express their shock and horror at the pre-mature release of 11 men convicted of gang-rape and mass murder, about 6000 ordinary citizens, grassroot workers, women’s, human rights, peace, secularism, anti-caste, disability, queer rights and other peoples’ movements, groups and activists, eminent writers, historians, scholars, filmmakers, journalists and former bureaucrats and many more, came together to say, “On the morning of August 15, 2022, in his Independence Day address to the nation the Prime Minister of India spoke of women’s rights, dignity and Nari Shakti. That very afternoon Bilkis Bano, a woman who embodied that ‘Nari Shakti’ in her long and daunting struggle for justice, learnt that the perpetrators who killed her family, murdered her 3 year old daughter, gang-raped and left her to die, had walked free.” No one sent her notice. No one asked how she, a gang-rape survivor, felt about the release of her rapists… it shames us that the day we should celebrate our freedoms and be proud of our independence, the women of India instead saw gang-rapists and mass murderers freed as an act of State largesse.
The remission of sentences for the 11 convicted of gang-rape and mass murder will have a chilling effect on every rape victim who is told to ‘trust the system’, ‘seek justice’, ‘have faith’. Further the statement stated that the “remission of these sentences is not only immoral and unconscionable, it violates the State of Gujarat’s own existing remission policy…” and “the guidelines issued by the Central government to States on a prisoner release policy to coincide with Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav which also clearly states that among the categories of prisoners NOT to be granted Special Remission are “those convicted of rape”. Most importantly, in a case investigated and prosecuted by the CBI, no remission can be granted by a State without concurrence by the Centre. That such a remission was even considered, and then permitted, reveals the hollowness of the public posturing about Nari Shakti, Beti Bachao, women’s rights and justice for victims.
Hence, the statement urged the Supreme Court to undo this grave miscarriage of justice. Prominent among the signatories to the statement are:
Groups, organisations and networks: Saheli Women’s Resource Centre, Gamana Mahila Samuha, Bebaak Collective, All India Progressive Women’s Association, Uttarakhand Mahila Manch, Forum Against Oppression of Women, Pragatisheel Mahila Manch, Parcham Collective, Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, Amoomat Society, WomComMatters, Centre for Struggling Women, Sahiyar, Stree Mukti Sanghatana, Women & Transgender Joint Action Committee, Bailancho Saad, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties, All India Lawyers Association for Justice, National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements, Bhagat Singh Ambedkar Students Organization, All India Students Association, Mission Justice; Bahutva Karnataka, Swaraj Abhiyan, Democracy Collective, National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations, Penn Urimay Iyakkam, Delhi Solidarity Group, Collective, Peoples’ Watch, United Christian Forum, Jharkhand Jan Adhikar Mahasabha, National Platform for Rights of the Disabled, CityMakers Mission International, Association of Protection of Democratic Rights, Progressive Writers Association, Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan, Delhi Science Forum, National Federation of Indian Women, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Movement For Secular Democracy, Hindus for Human Rights, South Asia Forum for Human Rights.
Activists, scholars, and other citizens: Syeda Hameed, Zafarul-Islam Khan, Roop Rekha Verma, Devaki Jain, Uma Chakravarti, Subhashini Ali, Kavita Krishnan, Maimoona Mollah, Hasina Khan, Rachana Mudraboyina, Shabnam Hashmi, Gabriele Dietrich, Zakia Soman,
Arundhati Dhuru, Meera Sanghamitra, Madhu Bhushan, Kavita Srivastav, Ammu Abraham, Navsharan Singh, Khalida Parveen, Anjali Bharadwaj, Malika Virdi, Bittu K R, Pyoli Swatija, Dr Ajita, Dipta Bhog, Poonam Kaushik, Bondita Acharya, Chayanika Shah, Kalyani Menon Sen, Madhuri K, Maya John, Vahida Nainar, Monisha Behl, Mridul D, Sarojini NB, Vihaan Vee, Rumi Harish, Ranjita Biswas, Lara Jesani, Amrita Johri, Aqsa Shaikh, Mira Shiva, Sabina Martins, Fr Cedric Prakash, Veena Shatrugna, Keval Arora, V Geetha, Padmaja Shaw, Sadhna Arya, Nivedita Menon, Nandini Sundar, Kumkum Roy, Pratiksha Baxi, Rohini Hensman, Nandita Narain, Kumkum Roy, Pulin Nayak, Suvir Kaul, Subir Sinha, Vineeta Bal, Salil Mishra, Meena Kandasamy, Kalpana Sharma, Mukul Kesavan, Pamela Philipose, Laxmi Murthy, Freny Manecksha, Brinelle D’Souza, Revati Laul, Ammu Joseph, Sujata Madhok, Sameera Khan, Sagarika Ghosh, Maya Krishna Rao, Sheba Chachhi, Rajiv Mehrotra, Amar Kanwar, Niranjani, Yousuf Saeed, Reena Mohan, Sameera Jain, Pushpamala N, Priya Thuvassery, Anjali Monteiro.