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Why society 'needs to undertake' a penance for what Bilkis Bano has had to suffer

By Sandeep Pandey* 

It is a matter of shame for us as a society that Bilkis Bano's rapists have been released by a District level committee of Gujarat Government. Some people in the Hindutva family are also justifying the act by claiming that a few of the rapists are Sanskari Brahmans.
If rapists and murderers will be called Sanskari, then we as a society have to rethink about the moral values and ethical standards necessary to be upheld for us to be called a civilised society. Besides Biliks Bano feeling cheated by the act of Gujarat government, what would be the feelings of women of family of convicts?
We're sure no woman would feel that men of their family are sanskari if they indulge in violating the modesty of other women, irrespective of which caste or religion they belong to. We take pride that India is known in the world over for its spirituality. India is identified by Mahatma Gandhi who himself is a symbol of values and virtues.
It is a shame that Gujarat which produced a global spiritual stalwart like Mahatma Gandhi today is silent on people who have committed heinous crimes. Are we as a humanity going to defend the victims of violence and hate or not? Are we going to silently suffer the injustice being done to innocent people? What kind of society do we aspire to build and live in?
All 11 rapists and murderers who have been released are associated with the Hindutva ideology. Godhra based Advocate Narendra Parmar asks why the committee in Panchmahal district, of which the District Magistrate is also a part, chose to release only these 11 and not any other convicts serving sentences in Godhra jail for crimes much less heinous than these men?
The proceedings of the meeting in which decision was taken to release the rapists and murderers is not being provided under the Right to Information Act, in spite of the one month stipulated time being over in response to an application filed by journalist Rajjak Mansuri.
It is interesting to note that only one out of the 11 convicts had asked for remission of sentence from the court but all 11 were released by the district committee in a rare gesture of goodwill on the Independence Day soon after the Prime Minister made an appeal from the Red Fort that we must change our attitude towards women and must treat them with respect.
By releasing them just before the Gujarat elections the Bhartiya Janta Party government intends to send out a message that all its cadres will be protected in spite of the graveness of crime committed by them so long as it serves the purpose of Hindutva ideology.
We are one step closer to the establishment of Hindu Rashtra of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh by this decision of Gujarat government. The BJP and RSS may gain politically from this decision but anybody can predict that they are setting a dangerous precedent but letting out the culprit convicts, putting the victim and witnesses in a precarious position.
A Sorry Bilkis padyatra from her village Randhikpur, Dahod district, to Ahmedabad will held from 26 September to 4 October
The devious design for the purpose of communal polarisation is distorting or numbing the conscience of people. We are not being able to decide on the basis of merit of the case but our view is being coloured by caste and communal considerations. Slowly, this process will render us incapable of having a sense of empathy and we’ll become human beings without any feelings.
This phenomenon has already started affecting families where relationships are getting soured between those who support this Hindutva narrative and those who don’t. The scenario is becoming further murkier because the strident Hindutva is being confused with assertive nationalism by a section of population including people in positions of influence in bureaucracy and judiciary.
Some people feel that supporting BJP or RSS is in the interest of the country without realising that the sectarian politics espoused by these organisations is taking the society apart, alienating people even among close circles of friends and relatives, condoning hatred and violence which they would have otherwise not done and ignoring the socio-economic reality of the country intoxicated by some obscure notion of Hindu rashtra.
They are so blinded by this narrative that they don’t even realise that they are being misled purely for the political gain of a virulent ideology. This process has to be arrested at some point otherwise our slide down the hill of moral values and ethical standards or merely even civilised behaviour will continue unabated. We have to say enough is enough somewhere.
Let us speak out so that humanity survives, so that moral values and ethical standards are respected, so that innocent people feel safe and criminals are discouraged. We have to decide whether we owe any responsibility towards making our society more humane?
Until then we can only say we're sorry Bilkis. We only hope that what has happened with you will not happen with any innocent human being. The society actually needs to undertake a penance for what she has had to suffer.
---
*Magsaysay award winning academic and social activist, general secretary of Socialist Party (India), is taking out a padyatra from Bilkis Bano’s village Randhikpur in Dahod district to Ahmedabad during 26 September to 4 October, 2022

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