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Gujarat govt decision unjust, no one inquired about my safety, well-being: Bilkis Bano

By Our Representative 
Bilkis Bano, whose gangrape convicts were released by the Gujarat government on the Independence Day, has regretted that no one inquired about her safety and well-being before taking “such a big and unjust decision.” Appealing to the state government, to “undo this harm”, in a statement released through her advocate Shobha, she demanded, “Give me back my right to live without fear and in peace. Please ensure that my family and I are kept safe.” 
As many as 11 men, onvicted of gang-raping her and murdering 14 members of Bilkis Bano’s family during the 2002 Gujarat riots, have walked free despite a stringent remission policy for prisoners for August 15, 2022, January 26, 2023 and August 15, 2023, announced by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India on June 10, 2022. The 11 convicts were sentenced ofr life by a special CBI court in Mumbai on January 21, 2008 for gang rape and murder of seven members of Bilkis Bano's family.
The Paragraph 5(vi) on page 4 of the remission policy states that prisoners convicted of rape shall not be considered for special remission. Furthermore, 5(ii) also states that prisoners convicted with sentence of life imprisonment also shall not be considered.
Issued through her advocate Shobha, Bilkis Bano said, “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.”
Forwarded to Counterview by Gagan Sethi, director of the legal rights NGO which fought her case, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Bilkis Bano’s statement said, she is “bereft of words”, and is “numb”, underlining, “Today, I can say only this -- how can justice for any woman end like this?”
The release of these convicts has taken from me my peace and shaken my faith in justice
She continued, “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. My sorrow and my wavering faith is not for myself alone but for every woman who is struggling for justice in courts.”
She ended the statement by saying, “No one enquired about my safety and well-being, before taking such a big and unjust decision. I appeal to the Gujarat government, please undo this harm. Give me back my right to live without fear and in peace. Please ensure that my family and I are kept safe.”
Meanwhile, said a report, the state government relied on the 1992 remission policy following the direction of the Supreme Court on May 13, to release the gangrape convicts. The state government’s revised policy of 2014, which bars out-of-turn release of prisoners convicted for rape and murder, would have made the accused ineligible for remission.
The 1992 circular pertained to the early release of the life convicts who on and after December 18, 1978 have served out 14 clear years imprisonment, the report added.



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