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State stands convicted: Gujarat riots gang-rape victim Bilkis Bano on "historic" SC verdict

Counterview Desk
In what is being described as a “historic day for women’s rights and state accountability”, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered that the Gujarat government should give Bilkis Bano, a gang rape victim during the 2002 communal riots, should be given exemplary compensation of Rs 50 lakh, a job and a house for she suffered.
Senior activists (Farah Naqvi, Dipta Bhog, Gagan Sethi, Madhavi Kuckreja, Malini Ghose and Huma Khan), who stood by her, claimed on Thursday in Delhi at a media conference, in which Bilkis Bano and her husband Yakub Khan were present, that this is “for the first time in India a compensation of this magnitude has been awarded to a survivor of gang-rape and mass murder during communal and targeted violence.”
Bilkis Bano said in a statement, “I kept my faith in the Constitution and in my rights as a citizen, and the Supreme Court has stood with me. For that I am truly grateful to the honorable judges.”
Speaking about her 17 year long struggle for justice and seeking accountability from the State, she said, “It has been a journey of a million steps, first seeking criminal conviction of those who destroyed my life, my child, my entire family.”
She added, “But today the state has been convicted in a court of morals and constitutional principles. The Supreme Court’s order to me is not about the money. It is about the signal it has sent to the State and to each citizen of this country. We have rights that no state can be allowed to violate.”
On what she planned to do with the money, she said she wanted to finally give her children a stable life, perhaps see her eldest daughter grow up into a lawyer who can defend others.
“I also want to use part of the money to help other women survivors of hate and communal violence seek justice. I want to help educate their children, in whose lives the spirit of my daughter Saleha will live on,” said Bilkis, with her husband Yakub by her side.

Text of Bilkis Bano’s statement:

My friends in the media, my fellow citizens, my fellow Gujaratis, my fellow Muslims, and women everywhere; for 17 years I have kept my faith with my conscience, my Constitution and my judiciary. And today the honorable Supreme Court has let me know it stands with me.
It understood my pain, my suffering and my struggle to regain the constitutional rights that were lost to me in the violence of 2002. No citizen should have to suffer at the hands of the state whose duty it is to protect us. They must pay for their enormous lapse of all morality in those hate-filled days and nights. This is the message for them, that I hear in this order. And that is good and that is right.
As a victim, I suppressed all dreams. As a vindicated survivor, they are boundless. And they are mostly for children, mine and others. I will use this money to educate my children and give them a stable life. My eldest daughter who wants to be a lawyer, will perhaps appear before the same court some day, to argue for justice to others. This is my prayer.
But I have always said, my victory is also on behalf of the many other women, who suffered, and who never managed to reach the courts. I wish to use a part of this money to help other women survivors of communal violence, in their journeys to justice; and to help educate their children.
I want to do this in the name of our first born, our daughter Saleha. Her body was lost in the tide of hatred that swept over my Gujarat in 2002. Yakub and I were unable to fulfill our duty as parents, and give her a proper burial. There is no grave for Saleha that I could visit and weep upon.
That has haunted me, in ways I can never express. But her spirit has been with me. I know she is up there, somewhere, and through helping others, she will live on in the lives of other children.
I pray today that the spirit of the victims like her, the courage of survivors, the struggles of ordinary citizens, and the democratic institutions of India will come together again and again, and end the hate and fear that is gripping our country.
I thank the Honorable Court. I thank my lawyer advocate Shobha, who has stood unflinchingly for my rights since 2003. I am deeply grateful for their hand of trust, in such untrusting times.
My journey has a history that I do not forget. The National Human Rights Commission, so many years ago, believed me. The CBI re-investigated my case with honesty and impartiality. Harish Salve was the first senior lawyer to take a stand for me. They are part of my journey, and I thank them for helping make this moment.
Finally, to my friends: They know who they are, for all they have done, to help reconstruct my life and restore my dignity as a citizen and a woman - you don’t need my thanks. To Yakub and me, and to our children - you are family. I am at peace.
***
In a separate statement, advocate Shobha, who represented Bilkis Bano in the Supreme Court, paraphrased portions of the Special Leave Petition seeking action against the convicted Gujarat Police officials, and listing “multiple ad horrific counts of violation of constitutional rights”, for which Bilkis sought exemplary compensation from the State of Gujarat:
  • For damages to her Constitutional right to life; right to bodily integrity; right to be protected by the State; and right to seek justice for wrongs suffered by her.
  • For damages to her Constitutional rights, not merely those inflicted by perpetrators of murder and gang-rape, but in the Constitutional scheme far worse, because these violations were willfully and criminally and with malafide intent with support of State actors who went to the criminal extent of orchestrating beheading of bodies and burying them in hidden graves to deny the petitioner means to seek justice.
  • For loss of her first-born three-and-a-half years old daughter whose body was never found and to whom the petitioner and her husband could never fulfil their duties as parents, and perform her last rites, and bury her in a grave with basic human dignity because of criminal action by State police officials.
  • or moral damages, include the physical suffering, mental anguish, loss, shock to the petitioners and society’s moral compass, more so because it was enabled by the State actors mandated to protect her, and the petitioners expectation as a citizen was to be protected by them.
  • For the physical damage to her body in suffering brutal aggravated gang-rape, and rape and murder of members of her family, for which State actors should have protected and helped her seek justice.
  • For mental trauma and a lifetime of depression, anxiety, loss, fear, to have to live with the unspeakable trauma of watching her first born child murdered in front of her eyes by her head being smashed on a rock, while the mother is helpless to protect, and is being gang-raped.
  • For financial loss, that she and her husband suffered, in their permanent internal displacement of fleeing their home, and losing all sources of income; and for 15 years of bravely seeking justice; for having to shift over 20 locations, and homes with all their children.
  • For loss of her fundamental and human right to love, affection and emotional support system - she lost 14 family members including all women members of her immediate family. Her children have grown up, denied all female nurturing and support from extended family.
  • For, this she seeks an exemplary compensation that signals restitution of her constitutional, familial, social rights as an equal citizen of this country who deserved and still deserves full protection of the state and of this Hon’ble Court.
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Click HERE for fact sheet on Bilkis Bano case

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