Bilkis Bano Case: A Decision That Shattered PM Modi Stand For Women Empowerment

Recently, on August 15, when the entire nation was busy celebrating the 75th year of independence, a decision of the Gujarat government shocked everyone. The shock was nothing but an order by the state government to release rape convicts from jail. Well, this incident is about Bilkis Bano, whose family members were murdered, and she was gang-raped by some of her known people. Surprised by the government's decision, over 6,000 people have urged the Supreme Court to revoke the early release of convicts in the Bilkis Bano case. Writing a letter to the top judicial office in the country, the signatories termed early remission of convicts "a grave miscarriage of justice" and demanded the revocation of the pre-mature release of the convicts. The signatories included over 6,000 ordinary citizens, grassroot-level workers, human rights activists, eminent writers, historians, scholars, filmmakers, politicians, journalists, and others. They cited, "It shames us that on 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". They added that the remission of these sentences is immoral and unconscionable and violates the State of Gujarat's own existing remission policy and the guidelines issued by the central government to states.

What Was Bilkis Bano Case? 

Bilkis Bano's 2002 case is a case in which rioters raped a five-month pregnant Bilkis Bano and killed her family members. The incident dates back to the time when Gujarat was burning under the flames of communal violence between Hindus and Muslims.  According to reports, Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when a group of rioters (recently released convicts) killed her family members and raped her in the aftermath of the Godhara killing. In that incident, Bano lost seven family members, including her three-year-old daughter. Additionally, Bano mentioned the killing of seven other members whose bodies were declared 'missing' by the police.   Reports added that Bano, after regaining consciousness, borrowed clothes from a tribal woman and went to the Limkheda police station in Dahod district to file a complaint. To her bad luck, Bano was treated badly in the police station, too, as the head constable in the police station suppressed facts and wrote a truncated version of the complaint.  The filing of the FIR was just the beginning of Bano's struggle to get justice, as she started receiving death threats and verbal abuses from unidentified miscreants. Threats to life prompted Bano to approach the Supreme Court in 2004 to shift the trial from Gujarat to Mumbai. 

Court Verdict On Bilkis Bano Case

A special CBI court in Mumbai delivered its verdict on the Bilkis Bano case in January 2008. In its verdict, the court convicted 11 of the 20 accused on charges of conspiracy to rape a pregnant woman, murder, unlawful assembly, and other charges under various sections of the Indian Penal Code. Additionally, the court convicted the head constable for 'presenting incorrect records' to save the accused. In that case, seven out of the total accused were acquitted due to lack of evidence, while one person died during the course of the trial. 

Recent Events 

On August 15, all the 11 convicts who were serving life imprisonment in the 2002 Bilkis Bano case walked out of the Godhra sub-jail under the government's decision to release the convicts in Bilkis Bano case. As per media reports, right-wing groups open-heartedly welcomed the accused and feted them with garlands and sweets. One media report also suggested that BJP's sitting MLA from Godhra, CK Raulji, said, "the accused are 'Brahmins' and have 'good sanskaar'". The comments of the BJP MLA came at a time when the country is experiencing widespread outrage over the release of the accused. The decision of the Gujarat government, as reported by NDTV, opens up new debate on PM Modi 's stand to women empowerment versus the actions taken by his party members in his home state. 

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