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'In Oct 2022, Gujarat cops stopped us on way to Bilkis' village to express solidarity'

Tanushree Gangopadhyay with Sandeep Pandey, others
By Tanushree Gangopadhyay* 
Supreme Court's judgement on Bilkis Banu revives our faith in the Indian judiciary.
Justice Nagarathna' s firm stand on reversing the Gujarat government revoking the premature remission of the 11 convicts of gang raping five month pregnant Bilkis Banu and seven members of her family and murdering women, including her mother and three year old daughter.
Few of us, including Magsaysay Award winner Dr Sandeep Pandey, planned a padyatra to meet the brave Bilkis Banu in October 2022, soon after the 11 convicts were prematurely remissioned.
Not surprisingly, we were not allowed to reach Bilkis's village. Not only were we not allowed there , we were almost banished from Panchmahals district (where she belongs) and sent to the neighbouring Kheda district.
The Gujarat government refused to allow us to drive in our vehicles and bundled us in police jeeps which eventually took us back to Ahmedabad.
While we were in Sevaliya town of Kheda district, all men were compelled to spend the night at the mofussil police station, while I, the only woman member and senior citizen, was in the worst position.
I had the fortune of being given a room in a hotel with three plainclothes police women who ushered me around.One of them shared the Double bed. The other two class IV women shared a mattress on the floor. They parked themselves adjoining my bed.
Next morning when I looked for a newspaper, I wasn't allowed to go out to the market. They followed me to the shops when I looked for toiletries.
We were eventually driven in their jeeps to Odhav Police Station on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, almost 25 kms from any point in the city.
Fortunately, I shared a trip back with a friend miles away to his residence in Juhapura in Ahmedabad, where my vehicle was parked.
What an experience from the world's largest democracy!
---
*Senior journalist based in Ahmedabad

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