Thursday, May 11, 2017

Bilkis Bano, Gujarat riots gangrape victim, likely to approach Supreme Court if state govt fails to give "reparation"

Yakub Rasool, Bilkis Bano, RK Shah
By Our Representative
Will the Gujarat government, accepting state responsibility, provide “reparation” to one of the worst victims of gang rape, Bilkis Bano, during the 2002 Gujarat riots? Addressing media in Ahmedabad, Bilkis’ husband, Yakub Rasool, declared, he would “wait” to see how the state responds to the recent High Court verdict, and if there is none, Bilkis and he would be forced to approach the Supreme Court.
“We have seen that the state so far has not been positive towards us. We were living under constant stress. We demanded security, but the state refused to provide any. We will see if it decides to adopt a conciliatory approach now”, Rasool, sitting next to Bilkis, said.
The issue of state providing “reparation” to one of the worst surviving victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots cropped up following human rights activist Gagan Sethi, who supported Bilkis’ legal battle for 15 long years, said, “It is the right time when the Gujarat chief minister says ‘sorry’ to this riot victim.”
Sethi insisted, “Bilkis is not begging any compensation. Without waiting anyone of us to approach the Supreme Court, the Gujarat government must provide her the reparation. She does not have to ask for compensation. She is not a beggar. It is her right.”
Gagan Sethi
Earlier, Bilkis said, she was “satisfied” with the Bombay High Court judgment, which while upholding life sentence to 11 persons for gangrape and murder of the sessions court, convicted five policemen and two doctors for tampering with evidence.
“We faced threats. We had to change our house 10 to 15 times. We were not provided with any security, even though we sent our request several times. Yet, we are satisfied that those responsible have been punished”, she said.
Added Rasool, “What could be a bigger humiliation than we being forced to leave our own homeland, Gujarat, and seek justice elsewhere because of security reasons? We only hope that the ordeal that we have undergone is not repeated for others.”
Bilkis’ and Yakub’s strong words came following felicitation of well-known advocate RK Shah, who was special public prosecutor in the Bilkis Bano case. Shah and his assistant Naina Bhatt were felicitated by human rights activists for their “exemplary” job, leading to the conviction of the guilty.
Rejecting the argument that those responsible for the gangrape of Bikis should have been awarded death sentence like the Nirbhaya case, Shah said, “No two cases are similar. It is wrong to make comparison between Bilkis and Nirbhaya case.”
Bhatt explained, “There is a huge difference between the two. In the Nirbhaya case, the state machinery was responsive, it did not compromise. In the Bilkis case, the state machinery tampered with evidence, and there was just one eye-witness, Bilkis, on whose evidence the entire case was hanging. There were 72 others, but had Bilkis not stood firm, this judgment wouldn’t have come.”
Denying any evidence of direct state complicity, Shah said, “There is a difference government and state. Of course, the state machinery did not perform its duty, one reason why cops and doctors were convicted. However, the state machinery is different from the state.”
Sandeep Pandey
Taking a different view, Sandeep Pandey, top Magsaysay award winning Gandhian academic, told media, “It is time one should look at the way the state has been behaving. The state is favouring those responsible for atrocities, and acting against persons like Varsha Dongre, assistant Superintendent of Raipur Central Jail, who in a Facebook post expressed pain over the rape in police lockups.”
Added Gujarat political activist Mahesh Pandya, taking a similar view, "One has just to see how Prime Minister Narendra Modi reacted soon after the Nirbhaya judgment, tweeting in its support. One wonders why he did not make a tweet in Bilkis' case."

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