The US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has strongly objected to the premature release of 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case of Gujarat. Along with this, the commission has termed the premature release of the convicts as unfair. In fact, the Gujarat government released 11 accused this month. The government has described the release as part of its pardon policy.
“USCIRF strongly condemns the early and unjustified release of 11 men sentenced to life in prison for raping a pregnant Muslim woman and committing murder against Muslim victims during the 2002 Gujarat Riots”, commission vice chairman Abraham Cooper said in a statement. Describing the early release of the convicts as a “travesty of justice”, commissioner Stephen Schneck said, “The failure to hold accountable perpetrators of the 2002 Gujarat Riots who committed physical and sexual violence is a travesty of justice. It is part of a pattern of impunity in India for those engaged in violence against religious minorities.”
On March 3, 2002, during the post-Godhra riots, a hindutva mob attacked the family of Bilkis Bano in Randhikpur village of Limkheda taluka of Dahod district. Bilkis was five months pregnant at the time. She was gang-raped and seven members of her family were murdered. The accused in this case were arrested in 2004.
Bilkis Bano on Wednesday said the premature release of 11 convicts, who are serving life term in a case involving him and seven members of her family, has shattered her faith in justice. She said, “Before taking such a big and unjust decision, no one asked about my safety nor thought of my well being.” She asked the Gujarat government to change this and give her the right to live peacefully without fear.
According to a statement issued by her lawyer Shobha on behalf of Bilkis Bano, she said, “Two days back on August 15, 2022, when I heard that 11 people who have ruined my family and my life, snatched my three-year-old daughter from me.” The culprits have been freed, then 20 years old horrific past stood in front of me.”