Gang rape case: In the dark, says Bilkis Bano's husband
The husband of Bilkis Bano, who was gang-raped and seven of her relatives massacred during the 2002 Gujarat riots, said on Tuesday that the state government freed the 11 life convicts without informing her family.
“We were surprised to learn (from media reports) that the convicts have been released,” Bilkis’s husband Yakub Rasul told the news agency PTI.
“We had no knowledge about when they (convicts) processed their application and which judgment the state government took into consideration (to grant them remission). We never received any kind of notice and were not told about this. There was no way we could have known about this in advance,” he added.
Asked about his reaction to the government’s decision, Rasul said he did not know what to say.
“We don’t intend to say anything on this. I can talk only after knowing the details. All we want to do is pray for the peace of the souls of our near and dear ones who lost their lives in the riots. Everyday we remember those who were killed in the incident, including our daughter,” he said.
The three-year-old daughter of Bilkis, then 21 and five months pregnant, was among those killed by rioters. Bilkis was gang-raped while she was fleeing the violence that broke out after the Sabarmati train burning in Godhra.
The 11 convicts, freed on Monday under the BJP-run Gujarat government’s remission policy, were welcomed with sweets and garlands outside Godhra sub-jail.
Rasul said the Gujarat government had paid the family a compensation of Rs 50 lakh on the orders of the Supreme Court, but was yet to provide a job or a house to the family, which too were part of the directive.
Rasul said he virtually lived in hiding with his wife and five sons, the eldest being 20 years old.
“We have no fixed address yet, we can’t yet talk about where we live, it is quite difficult for us to do so,” Rasul said.
The compensation money, he said, was being used for the education of his sons.
A special CBI court in Mumbai had in 2008 sentenced the 11 accused persons to life imprisonment on the charge of gang rape and murder of seven members of Bilkis’s family. Their conviction was later upheld by Bombay High Court.
The 11 convicts who were granted premature release are Jaswantbhai Nai, Govindbhai Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radheshyam Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt and Ramesh Chandana.
Radheshyam, the convict whose plea in the Supreme Court for premature release paved the way for all 11 to walk out of jail, said he was happy.
“The Gujarat government has released us in keeping with the orders of the Supreme Court. I feel glad to be out as I will be able to meet my family members and begin a new life,” he said.
“We were convicted and lodged in jail. When I was not released after completing 14 years in jail, I approached the Supreme Court for remission. The apex court directed the Gujarat government to take a decision, after which we were released,” he added.
On March 3, 2002, Bilkis’s family was attacked by a mob at Randhikpur village in Limkheda taluka of Dahod district during the post-Godhra riots. Bilkis was gang-raped and seven members of her family were killed.
The Supreme Court had in April 2019 directed the Gujarat government to give Rs 50 lakh compensation, a job and accommodation to Bilkis.