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Is this Nari Shakti? 6,000 citizens ask Modi on release of 11 convicted of gang-rape, murder

Counterview Desk 
Expressing their "shock and horror" at the premature release of 11 men convicted of gang-rape and mass murder, about 6,000 ordinary citizens, grassroots workers, women’s and human rights groups and activists, eminent litterateurs and scholars* have said regretted that even as the Prime Minister in his Independence Day address spoke of women’s rights, dignity and nari shakti, Bilkis Bano, a woman who embodies ‘nari shakti’, learned that the perpetrators who killed her family, murdered her 3 year old daughter, gang-raped and left her to die, had walked free.
In a statement, they feared, "The remission of sentences for the 11 convicted of gang-rape and mass murder will have a chilling effect on every rape victim who is told to ‘trust the system’, ‘seek justice’, ‘have faith’," adding, the remission of these men "is not only immoral and unconscionable, it violates the State of Gujarat’s own existing remission policy” and “the guidelines issued by the Central government to states."

Text:

  • We stand in support and solidarity with Bilkis Bano’s 20 year struggle for justice.
  • We demand that the release of the 11 convicted of gang-rape and mass murder be immediately revoked.
  • It has a chilling effect on the fight for justice by all rape victims.
  • We call upon the supreme court of india to undo this grave miscarriage of justice.
  • We call upon all citizens to stand with all victims of rape, against this injustice.
On the morning of August 15, 2022, in his Independence Day address to the nation the Prime Minister of India spoke of women’s rights, dignity and Nari Shakti. That very afternoon Bilkis Bano, a woman who embodied that ‘Nari Shakti’ in her 17 year long struggle for justice, learnt that the perpetrators who killed her family, murdered her 3 year old daughter, gang-raped and left her to die, had walked free. No one asked for her views, or enquired about her safety. No one sent her a notice. No one asked how she, a gang-rape survivor, felt about the release of her rapists.
Bilkis has always said that her struggle for justice is a struggle for all women, and on August 15th the rights of each rape victim in India has received a blow.
It shames us that 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. The remission of sentences for the 11 convicted of gang-rape and mass murder will have a chilling effect on every rape victim who is told to ‘trust the system’, ‘seek justice’, ‘have faith’. The early release of these murderers/rapists only strengthens the impunity of all men who commit rape and other acts of violence against women. The remission must be revoked.
Bilkis was just 21 years old, and 5 months pregnant in 2002 when she was gang-raped, watched her 3 year old daughter Saleha’s head smashed on a rock, watched 14 members of her family murdered. Saw several female members of her family raped and murdered. It was the most heinous of crimes. As the sole adult survivor of this horrific massacre, Bilkis Bano then embarked upon on a brave and long battle to secure justice. She did what we tell all rape victims to do – she found inner strength, stood her ground, testified to her truth and trusted the criminal justice system. It was a long journey but justice came. All perpetrators were convicted by the Special CBI Court in Mumbai in 2008. The conviction was upheld by the Bombay High Court, and by the Honorable Supreme Court. As Bilkis herself said in 2017, when the Bombay High Court upheld life sentences for the convicts - “.. this verdict does not mean the end of hatred but it does mean that somewhere, somehow justice can prevail. This has been an long, seemingly never ending struggle for me, but when you are on the side of truth, you will be heard, and justice will be yours in the end.”
Today, that justice stands undone.
The remission of these sentences is not only immoral and unconscionable, it goes against the State of Gujarat’s own existing remission policy which expressly states such remission is “NOT” for those convicted of rape or gangrape.
Additionally, it violates the guidelines issued by the Central government to States on a prisoner release policy to coincide with Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav which also clearly states that among the categories of prisoners NOT to be granted Special Remission are “those convicted of rape”.
Most importantly, in a case investigated and prosecuted by the CBI, no remission can be granted by a State without concurrence by the Centre. That such a remission was even considered and then permitted reveals the hollowness of the public posturing about Nari Shakti, Beti Bachao, women's right and justice for victims.
To those who facilitated the release of 11 murderers and gang-rapists in contravention of the law of the land, we say this: You have let down every woman in the country. Made us more unsafe, more threatened and more at risk of violation. You have diluted our faith in the idea of justice for women of India.
We end with reaffirming our solidarity to Bilkis Bano and every other victim of sexual assault who has the courage to stand up for justice today. We express deep concern for her safety and that of her family. We are pained that this brave woman has to relive the trauma of the past 20 years.
We demand that women’s faith in justice be restored. We demand the remission of sentences for these 11 convicts be immediately revoked and they be sent back to prison to serve the remainder of their life terms.
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*Click here for important signatories

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