Skip to main content

BJP poll gimmick? Bilkis Bano rape case 'pardon' vs Rajiv assassins' release

By Sandeep Pandey* 

Supreme Court has released six convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. This was bound to happen as earlier AG Perarivalan was released in the same case, setting a precedent. Even though four of them are Sri Lankans but a popular Tamil sentiment favoured the release of these convicts which is why Tamil political parties supported this and resolutions were passed by different governments in Tamil Nadu to his effect. 
Rajiv Gandhi paid the price of sending Indian Peace Keeping Force to Sri Lanka where it got entangled with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and eventually the whole operation ended up is a fiasco. 
However, most importantly Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi and probably Rahul too do not have any objections to the release of these convicts. In fact, Sonia Gandhi played an important role in getting the death sentence of the only lady among the convicts Nalini commuted to life term through the Tamil Nadu Governor. Priyanka visited Nalini in Vellore Jail and cried. 
Nalini has described Priyanka as an angel and prayed for her well being. Quite obviously there is no acrimony between the convicts and victims, the Gandhi family. There have been few instances in recent history where family of murdered have pardoned the criminals. 
Galdys Staines pardoned the murderers of her husband Graham and two sons in Odisha and Ela Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter, pardoned the killers of her son in South Africa. It requires elevation of human consciousness to a high moral level to be able to take such a stand. 
It goes against the common feeling of revenge among the victims of any grave crime or their well wishers. Even though the Congress Party has expressed its opposition to the Supreme Court decision, it must be commended that Gandhi family has expressed no regret. 
In times when hate has become a prominent element in politics of religious nationalism in the country it comes as a fresh welcome relief that Gandhi family has demonstrated a large heart and has chosen to silently pardon the people involved in Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.
A few months back eleven convicts, in the case of gang rape of Bilkis Bano and murder of her 14 family members including a child in womb and another three years old daughter, were released by a Home Ministry order based on the recommendation of a Gujarat government committee which had on it two Bhartiya Janata Party Members of Legislative Assembly.
Whereas the decision in the case of Rajiv Gandhi assassination convicts was taken by judiciary, the decision to release convicts in Bilkis Bano case was a political one by the BJP government with the intention of taking advantage in the upcoming Gujarat elections. Whereas the convicts in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case had spent 31 years in jail, the convicts in Bilkis Bano case had spent only 14 years and each of them had been out on parole and furlough for more than roughly thousand days during this period.
Whereas decision of SC was backed by popular sentiment of Tamil people, even though of a sub-nationalism variety, the decision to release Convicts in Bilkis Bano case is supported only by the hardcore BJP-RSS cadre, common people are taken aback by it.
Whereas the victims of Rajiv Gandhi assassination are not threatened by the convicts, in fact, on the other hand have pardoned the assassins, the convicts in Bilkis Bano case actively threaten the witnesses and she has to live in hiding fearing for her security. This is an important distinction between the two cases. The Rajiv Gandhi assassination convicts have been released more or less with the concurrence of his family members whereas this is clearly not the case with Bilkis Bano matter convicts.
In a civilized society there should be no capital punishment and there should be an attempt to reform the convicts or rather help the convicts reform themselves. If possible there should be reconciliation between the convicts and the victims or their family members. 
The most famous example of this is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission when Nelson Mandela took charge in South Africa which popularized the concept of restorative justice in which perpetrators were allowed to seek amnesty after the victims narrated their harrowing experiences.
From this point of view, even though the perpetrators of crime in Rajiv Gandhi case have not sought apology but they have been pardoned by the Gandhi family and there is no rancor between them and there is no opposition to their release except for a meek one by the Congress Party, this is a ideal case for remission. On the other hand the release of Bilkis Bano case convicts has been vehemently opposed nation wide and has left the victims speechless and vulnerable. 
The perpetrators in this case not only don’t feel any remorse for the crime they committed but were feted with garlands and sweets when they came out of Godhra sub-jail. Criminals are being celebrated as heroes. One of the MLAs on the committee which took the decision to release the convicts, CK Raulji, who justified the decision by claiming that some of the convicts are virtuous Brahmins, is going to contest the upcoming Gujarat elections whereas senior BJP politicians like Vijay Rupani, Nitin Patel, Bhupendrasinh Chudasama have been made to withdraw from the contest. 
BJP is also fielding the young daughter of a convict Manoj Kulkarni in Naroda Patiya case as a candidate from Naroda. It appears that if there was no legal restriction BJP may not have had any qualms in fielding the arsonists, rapists and murderers of 2002 communal violence directly in the elections. The message being sent out is ominous. 
What kind of society do we wish to create where victims and their family would be forced to live with the perpetrators of crimes against them? Hence the release of convicts in Bilkis Bano case is a bad example of remission of sentence which must be undone.
And while the issue of remission of convicts is being debated we also need to ask why under-trails and accused without trail for a long time are in jail? When Bombay High Court recently released Sanjay Raut it commented that Enforcement Directorate had arrested him for no reason. 
Similarly a number of activists, journalists, lawyers, professors and students are in jail simply because they subscribe to ideologies which are critical of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and BJP. 
The Supreme Court needs to intervene and ensure that people are not put in jail in fabricated cases or on ambiguous and flimsy charges
*Magsaysay award winning social activist-acadmic; general secretary, Socialist Party (India)



Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Union budget 'mum' on relief to marginalised communities facing climate change impact

Counterview Desk  ActionAid, an international advocacy group which claims to work for a world without poverty, patriarchy and injustice, has wondered if the Union budget 2023-24, which is being acclaimed for providing succour to the middle classes, has anything to offer to the India's poor. In a statement, it said, while the budget may have "prioritised inclusive development", the financial outlay for ensuring it "does not show the zeal as hoped." Stating that the Finance Minister said Rs 35,000 crore revenue would have to be "forgone" due to a reduction in personal income taxes, "fiscal prudence is not enough to expand public employment, social security, welfare, education and health expenditures considerably." "The need of the hour is to raise revenues through the reduction of revenues forgone and innovative mechanisms such as wealth tax on super accumulation of wealth", it added. Text: The Union Budget 2023 has given significant

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Why no information with Assam state agency about female rhino poaching for a year?

By Nava Thakuria   According to official claims, incidents of poaching related to rhinoceros in various forest reserves of Assam in northeast India have decreased drastically. Brutal laws against the poachers, strengthening of ground staff inside the protected forest areas and increasing public awareness in the fringe localities of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the State are the reasons cited for positively impacting the mission to save the one-horned rhinos. Officials records suggest, only two rhinos were poached in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve since 1 January 2021 till date. The last incident took place probably in the last week of December 2021, as a decomposed carcass of a fully-grown (around 30 years old) female rhino was recovered inside the world-famous forest reserve next month. As the precious horn was missing, for which the gigantic animal was apparently hunted down, it could not be a natural death. Ironically, however, it was not confirmed when

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Lack of welfare schemes, BSF curbs force West Bengal farmers to migrate far away

Counteview Desk  In a representation to the National Human Rights Commission chairperson, a senior West Bengal based activist has complained that villagers living near the border with Bangladesh are forced to migrate to as far away as Mumbai and Kerala because of lack of government sensitivity towards their welfare in original villages. Giving specific instances, Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), said, if the Border Security Force (BSF) had not put any restriction on agricultural activities, and if villages had properly implemented welfare schemes, these people would never migrate to other States. Text: I want to attract your immediate attention to the inhumane condition of the migrated workers of Gobra village, Swarupnagar Block in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal to seek your urgent intervention to protect the rights of these people. Gobra is a village situated near the Indo-Bangladesh Border where the border fencing is about 500 meters i

Bangladesh 'rights violations': US softens stance, fears increased clout of China, India

By Tilottama Rani Charulata*  In December 2021, in addition to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the United States imposed sanctions on seven former and current officers of the force, alleging serious human rights violations. Benazir Ahmed and former RAB-7 commander Miftah Uddin Ahmed were banned from entering the US. RAB as an institution was also canceled the support it was getting from the US and its allies. At the same time, those under the ban have been notified of confiscation of assets held abroad. The anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police, RAB is the elite force consisting of members of the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Civil Service and Bangladesh Ansar, and has been criticized by rights groups for its use of extrajudicial killings and is accused of forced disappearances. The government of Bangladesh has been insisting about lifting the ban on RAB, but the US had till recen