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Bilkis wants assurance of safety from Guj govt

Bilkis wants assurance of safety from Guj govt

Bilkis was also a witness to the murder and rape of members of her family.

New Delhi: Years after Bilkis Bano's traumatic ordeal when she was gang-raped in her village of Devgarh Barhi after the Godhra riots, she requested the Gujarat government to offer her and her family the assurance of security.

"I and my family members are still living in fear. It is the duty of the Gujarat government to assure us of safety," Bilkis said in a press conference in Delhi on Monday.

"These 6 years was the most terrible phase of my life. I was really scared. The Gujarat government did not help me at all. They didn't help me get justice," Bilkis told journalists at the Press Club, where the conference was held.

Twelve persons were convicted by a special court in Mumbai on Friday in the gang-rape case, of which 11 were sentenced to life on Monday. One policeman was also convicted for lodging false FIR and has to serve a three-year sentence in addition to the four he already has served. Seven other accused were acquitted by the court.

During the press conference, Bilkis expressed her thanks and gratitude to the CBI for taking up the cudgels in her defence so strongly and underscored her "resolve to fight the case till complete justice is delivered".

Although Bilkis felt that justice was delivered in the case, she was also convinced that seven persons acquitted should also have been punished.

"Those doctors and policemen who connived with the rioters should not go scot-free," she said.

"This judgment does not mean the end of hatred but it does mean that somewhere, somehow justice can prevail. I am ready to work closely with CBI in other cases too," Bilkis was quoted as saying, by IANS.

"We would wish the Gujarat government to take up the appeal to a higher court to ensure the seven officers are also punished," Indira Jaisingh, lawyer and human rights activist, said.

In a reply to a query, Bilkis said the frequent flip-flop of Zahira Sheikh had "hurt the fight of innocent victims of Gujarat riots and has brought a bad name to the community."

Bilkis, who was five-months pregnant, was gang-raped during the communal violence that erupted in Gujarat after a coach of Sabarmati Express carrying Ramsevaks from Ayodhya was set on fire on February 27, 2002.

Bilkis was also a prime witness to the murder and rape of members of her family and the Muslim community during the riots.

The trial was shifted from a court in Ahmedabad to Mumbai in August 2003 by the Supreme Court after the Central Bureau of Investigation and Bilkis expressed apprehensions that witnesses in the case could be harmed if the trial was conducted in Gujarat.

The accused allegedly attacked 17 members of the minority community in their village, which resulted in the death of eight while six were reported missing. Bilkis was one among three who survived.

Six police officers were charged with shielding the guilty while two doctors were accused of fabricating evidence.

With inputs from IANS

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first published:January 21, 2008, 16:32 IST