India’s Daughter – Bilkis Bano’s 15 Years Struggle for Justice and Survival

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"For officers of the state, whose sworn duty it is to protect citizens and enable justice, this should be their great moral shame to bear forever."

The HC’s verdict marks a major legal and personal victory for Bilkis Bano, whose struggles and fight for justice captured the conscience of the nation.

“For officers of the state, whose sworn duty it is to protect citizens and enable justice, this should be their great moral shame to bear forever.”

In an heroic and brave legal battle fought by the barely lettered wife of a small Gujarati cattle trader has caught the imagination of many in the country.

what is Bilkis Bano case?

The tragic incident of 2002 Gujarat riots has once again scratched the unhealed wounds, Bilkis Yakub Rasool was just 19 years old and five-months-pregnant when she was brutally gangraped by the barbarians mob, adding to the heinous crimes, the mob killed her fourteen family members including her three and a half year old daughter. She is the only adult survivor and eyewitness to the horrific massacre. She lived in the village of Randhikpur, which was attacked by bloodthirsty mobs in the morning of 28 February. Consequently, the Muslims of Randhikpur fled the village in search of refuge elsewhere. While they were moving on the kachcha road, 35 people carrying weapons like swords, sickles and sticks came shouting “Aa rahya Musalmano, emane maaro, kaato” (these are the Muslims, kill them, cut them) in two white vehicles. The mob engaged in the acts of sexual assault, rape and killing of the people in the truck.

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Bilkis Bano was clutching her three-year-old daughter, Saleha, in her arms when one of the men snatched the little girl away and smashed her head on the ground, killing her instantly. Three men, all known to her and from her village, grabbed Bilkis Bano and tore her clothes away even as she pleaded that she was pregnant.

Bilkis Bano’s fight for justice

Despite being uneducated, poor and losing most of her family, Bilkis gathered the courage to approach the police and lodge a complaint.

But the injustice further increased when she approached to the local police station of Limkheda where her FIR was not registered, instead she was threatened by the police. Finding a assertive support from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) , who took her case and requests the senior counsel Harish Salve to represent Bilkis Bano in the Supreme Court. It was after numerous attempts, the supreme court directed CBI to investigate her case, but they were receiving constant threats to withdraw the case, but she never gave up, and requested the court to shift the case outside Gujarat, thereafter it was shifted to Maharashtra.

In the mayhem around her, the 14 members of her family were being raped, molested and hacked to death by others in the mob. Shamim, who had delivered a child the day before, and her infant child were also killed. When Bilkis Bano ultimately lost consciousness, the assailants took her for dead and after their pillaging, left the scene of the carnage.

Bilkis Bano has ensured that not just the men who raped her and brutally killed her daughter and family members but also the policemen and doctors who tried to protect these criminals and hide their crimes will spend many years behind prison walls, punished by the law of the land.

Bilkis said in her statement: “For officers of the state, whose sworn duty it is to protect citizens and enable justice, this should be their great moral shame to bear forever.” The bench of Justices V.K. Tahilramani and Mridula Bhatkar found Bilkis’s testimony “completely trustworthy” while concluding that the probe conducted by the Gujarat police was “flawed with a dishonest investigation”. After a gap of more than a decade the Bombay High Court finally upheld the life imprisonment of 11 men convicted including six Gujarat police officers, two doctors from government hospitals charged with suppressing and tampering with important evidence, CBI however asked for death penalty for Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai and Radhesham Shah who played as main role in planning and executing of whole incident.

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She was also a victim of policemen who refused to register her FIR. She was also a victim of authorities who threatened her for seeking justice. She was also a victim of people who fabricated false evidence so that the accused would not be convicted.

When she regained consciousness, she found herself naked, surrounded by the corpses of her family members. She covered her body in a petticoat lying nearby and ran up a hillock, and spent a night there in dread, foreboding and mourning.

Bilkis Bano’s statement to press that ” my rights, as a human being, as a citizen, as a mother and woman were violated in the most brutal manner but i have trusted in the democratic institutions of our country. Now my family and I feel we can begin to lead our lives again, free of fear. To fellow Indians, I appeal to all of you, at a time when we hear news everyday of people being attacked and killed because of their religion or community – please help affirm their faith in the secular values of our country and support their struggles for justice, equality, and dignity. For this verdict does not mean the end of hatred but it does mean that somewhere, somehow justice can prevail. This has been [a] long, seemingly never-ending struggle for me, but when you are on the side of truth, you will be heard, and justice will be yours in the end.”

There are very few women who will gather so much courage to fight against whole system which conspires to deprive them from receiving justice.

with PTI inputs

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