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Release of rapist-murderers: 'Amit Shah must resign, rule of law severely compromised'

By Rosamma Thomas* 

Addressing a press conference in Ahmedabad, Amita Buch, president of the Socialist Party (India), Gujarat, has said Union Home Minister Amit Shah must resign. She said there was now evidence in the public domain that the Union Home Ministry approved the remission granted to the 11 convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the gang-rape of Bilkis Bano in the 2002 communal riots. The convicts were released to celebrations and garlanded as sweets were distributed. The remission was announced on India’s Independence Day. 
The Socialist Party (India) is led by well known Magsaysay award winning Gandhian scholar-activist Prof Sandeep Pandey.
“Does this government seek to empower rapists and murderers, even as it speaks of empowering women?” Buch asked. The fact that permission was granted by the Union Home Ministry despite dissent from judicial and administrative authorities shows that the Union Home Minister conducts the affairs of his ministry unrestrained by proper procedure. It is not settled in law that those sentenced to life imprisonment must be released after having served 14 years of their term, Socialist Party members explained. 
The convicts were out on parole for a period ranging from 998 to 1576 days, and so it was clear that they had not served even 14 years in jail. Mitesh Bhatt, one of the 11 released in this case, has an FIR registered against him for an attempt to rape in 2020, during a period when he was out on parole. Ramesh Chandana and Radheyshyam Shah, also released in this case, have offences registered against them during the sentence. Ramesh Chandana, Rajubhai Soni and Jawant Nai, three of the convicts who have been granted this special favour of remission, were late in returning to jail after parole by 122, 197 and 75 days. Despite this, it was stated that they were released given their “good behaviour”. 
The government owes the people of India an explanation of what it thinks is good behavior, Socialist Party members explained. A BJP member of the Gujarat legislative assembly, who was part of the committee offering remission to these convicts, had described them as “sanskari Brahmins”.
The rule of law has been severely compromised under the watch of Amit Shah as home minister, and it is time he stepped down, the Socialist party members said. Sandeep Pandey, vice-president of the party, was detained last month when he attempted to lead a march in Ahmedabad to express solidarity with Bilkis Bano, gang-raped in 2002 while aged 19 and pregnant with her second child. 
Seven members of her family were killed during the riots of 2002. Among those sentenced in the case were policemen and doctors who attempted to cover up the crime. In 2019, the Supreme Court ordered the Gujarat government to pay Bilkis Bano Rs 50 lakh in compensation, the highest compensation award to any survivor of rape in the country. Shobha Gupta, Bilkis Bano’s lawyer, had argued in an interview with Huffington Post India that the amount offered in compensation was inadequate.
Amita Buch wondered why there were no protests despite how blatantly the government appears to be supporting criminals. “We had thought initially that it was the Gujarat government that was responsible for the decision. Now we know that it is the Union government. There are no voices of protest – one explanation is fear."
She added, "While that is true, we wonder whether in Gujarat it is also because there is a general agreement with these lawless actions of the Union government. Such lawlessness will not stop at only Muslims. This fire will spread and consume us all in ever-expanding circles, if we do not act now and speak up; if we do not resist with all our might. This is no small mistake; this is a conspiracy against our nationhood. Amit Shah must go.”
---
*Freelance journalist

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