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New Delhi: Over 400 writers, artists and other prominent citizens have said that they are “shocked beyond belief” over the release of 11 convicts guilty of the brutal gangrape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of 14 members of her extended family, including her three-year-old daughter.
They issued a statement condemning the “unspeakable brutalisation and trauma” suffered by Bilkis Bano, and said the Gujarat government’s decision to release the imprisoned convicts under the state’s remission policy on August 15 makes it even more “inhumane”. They also expressed anguish over convicts being felicitated.
Among 401 signatories are Rajya Sabha MP Jawhar Sircar; politician and columnist Sudheendra Kulkarni; journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta; actor, activist and politician Nafisa Ali.
“We believe that the remission and the government’s silence sends out a signal of impunity and sets a precedent that is inhuman and immoral. We, therefore, urge you to ensure immediate and complete revocation of the order of remission and thus restore the faith of all our citizens in justice, humanity and civilisation,” the statement said.
Earlier, in an open letter to the Supreme Court, 134 former members of the All India Services, under the banner of the Constitutional Conduct Group, had expressed their “deep distress” over the premature release of convicts. They had urged the top court to rectify the “horrendously wrong decision” by the Gujarat government, questioning the grant of remission to the convicts.
Separately, around 6,000 signatories, including activists, eminent writers, historians, filmmakers, journalists and former bureaucrats, had on August 18 urged the apex to revoke the premature release order.
“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 had said in a joint statement.
Reproduced below is the full text and list of signatories of the latest statement condemning the release of convicts in the Bilkis Bano case.
Statement Condemning Remission granted to the 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case
We, the writers, artists and concerned citizens of India, are shocked beyond belief at the remission granted to 11 convicts guilty of the brutal gangrape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of 14 members of her extended family, including her 3-year old daughter.
That the convicts were freed on our 75th Independence Day on August 15, a day when our leaders champion the cause of women, makes it even more inhumane. As Gandhiji mourned the violence of 1947 on the day India became free, we too mourn with profound sorrow and express our solidarity with Bilkis Bano who suffered unspeakable brutalisation and trauma and now watches helplessly, as her tormentors are felicitated and their release celebrated.
We believe that the remission and the government’s silence sends out a signal of impunity and sets a precedent that is inhuman and immoral. We therefore urge you to ensure immediate and complete revocation of the order of remission and thus restore the faith of all our citizens in justice, humanity and civilisation.
Thanking you in anticipation,
Citizens of India
1. Jawhar Sircar, Politician & Humanist, New Delhi
2. Sudheendra Kulkarni, Politician & Columnist, New Delhi
3. Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Media, New Delhi
4. Sudipto Mukherjee, Director at United Nations, Damascus
5. Nafisa Ali, Actor, Activist, Politician, Goa
6. Shubha Mudgal, Singer, Mumbai
7. Aneesh Pradhan, Musician, Mumbai
8. Jayanta Mahapatra, Poet, Cuttack
9. Raghu Rai, Photographer, New Delhi
10. Naveen Kishore, Writer, Publisher, Kolkata
and 391 others