- Bilkils Bano said the development has shaken her faith in justice and left her numb
- "I trusted the highest courts in our land. I trusted the system," Bano said
- How can justice for any woman end like this, Bilkis Bano asked
Bilkis Bano has said the premature release of all the 11 convicts serving a life sentence in a case related to her and seven family members, has shaken her faith in justice and left her numb.
Bano, a survivor of the 2002 post-Godhra riots in Gujarat, has appealed to the Gujarat government to "undo this harm" and give back her right to "live without fear and in peace."
The 11 convicts, sentenced to life imprisonment in the 2002 case of Bilkis Bano's gang rape and murder of her seven family members during the riots, walked out of the Godhra sub-jail on Monday after the BJP government in Gujarat allowed their release under its remission policy.
Criticising the move, Bilkis Bano on Wednesday said nobody enquired about her safety and well-being before taking "such a big and unjust decision."
"On August 15, 2022, the trauma of the past 20 years washed over me again when I heard that the 11 convicted men who devastated my family and my life and took from me my three-year-old daughter had walked free," she said in a statement released by her lawyer Sobha.
"I was bereft of words. I am still numb," said the survivor of the gang rape and murder of her family members in one of the worst riots triggered by the Godhra train burning incident.
Bilkis Bano said all she can say is "how can justice for any woman end like this?"
"I trusted the highest courts in our land. I trusted the system, and I was learning slowly to live with my trauma. The release of these convicts has taken from me my peace and shaken my faith in justice," she said.
"My sorrow and my wavering faith is not for myself alone but for every woman who is struggling for justice in courts," she said.
The survivor asked the state government to ensure her safety and of her family members post the release of the convicts.
"I appeal to the Gujarat Government, please undo this harm. Give me back my right to live without fear and in peace. Please ensure my family and I are kept safe," she added.
Bilkis Bano gangrape: The case history
The Gujarat government had released all the 11 convicts after the Supreme Court directed it to consider their plea for relief under the 1992 remission policy.
A special CBI court in Mumbai had on January 21, 2008, sentenced to life imprisonment the 11 accused in the case for murder and gang rape.
Their conviction was later upheld by the Bombay High Court.
These convicts served more than 15 years in prison, after which one of them approached the Supreme Court with a plea for his premature release.
The apex court had directed the Gujarat government to look into the issue of remission of his sentence as per its 1992 policy on the basis of the date of his conviction.
Thereafter, the government formed a committee and issued an order allowing the premature release of all the convicts from jail.
On March 3, 2002, Bilkis Bano's family was attacked by a mob at Randhikpur village in Limkheda taluka of Dahod district.
Bilkis Bano, who was five months pregnant at the time, was gang raped and seven members of her family were killed by rioters.
(With inputs from PTI)