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My Case is About Shameful Failure of State in Protecting its People: Bilkis Bano

My Case is About Shameful Failure of State in Protecting its People: Bilkis Bano

The Supreme court on Tuesday directed the Gujarat government to give Rs 50 lakh compensation, a job and accommodation to Bano who was gang-raped while seven of her family members were killed.

New Delhi: Bilkis Bano, who was gang-raped during the 2002 Gujarat riots, on Wednesday said the Supreme Court's direction to the state government to provide her compensation will give hope to other victims, and called for ending the "hate and fear gripping the country".

She, however, lamented that her family did not get any support and protection from the state government during their 17-year-long battle for justice.

"My case is about the shameful failure of the state in protecting its people," Bano told a press conference and added that she faced much hardship in the years following the riots.

The Supreme court Tuesday directed the Gujarat government to give Rs 50 lakh compensation, a job and accommodation to Bano who was gang-raped while seven of her family members were killed.

The top court also directed the state government to pay her the compensation within two weeks.

Bano said the Supreme Court's direction to the Gujarat government has reaffirmed her faith in judiciary and the Constitution.

Expressing gratitude to the judiciary for "acknowledging her suffering and struggle," she said she will create a fund in the memory of her first child Saleha who was
brutally killed by a mob in front of her eyes during the riots.

She said her elder daughter (16), who was in her womb during the 2002 violence, wants to be a lawyer to fight for justice for others. She said it can help other women survivors of communal violence in their journeys for justice.

"The apex court understood my pain, my suffering and my struggle to regain the constitutional rights that were lost to me in the violence of 2002. No citizen should have to suffer at the hands of the state whose duty is to protect us," Bano said.

The 38-year-old said she could not even give a proper burial to her daughter Saleha, a feeling which has always haunted her and the "hateful and fearful" thoughts of communal violence have tormented her ever since.

"I pray today that the spirit of the victims like her, the courage of survivors, the struggles of ordinary citizens, and the democratic institutions of India will come together again and again to end the hate and fear that is gripping our country," she said.

"My daughter Saleha's body was lost in the tide of hatred that swept over Gujarat in 2002. There is no grave for Saleha that I could visit and weep upon. But her spirit has been with me. I know she is up there, somewhere, and through helping others, she will live on in the lives of other children," she said.

When asked if she was satisfied with the life sentence given to 11 convicted in her case, Bano said, "My battle was never for revenge, it was for justice."

Bano, who cast her vote in Devgadh Baria village on Tuesday, said the apex court's "exemplary" direction will give hope to other victims of rape and communal violence.

Answering a question on whether she will accept the government accommodation and job, she said she wants to live a stable life, a job for her husband Yakub, and education for her children.

According to the prosecution, on March 3, 2002 Bano's family was attacked by a mob at Randhikpur village near Ahmedabad in the aftermath of the Godhra riots.
Bilkis was five months pregnant when she was gang-raped. The trial in the case initially began in Ahmedabad. However, after Bano expressed apprehensions that the witnesses could be harmed and the CBI evidence tampered with, the apex court transferred the case to Mumbai in August 2004.

A special court on January 21, 2008 convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment 11 men for raping Bano and murdering seven of her family members, while acquitting seven persons including the policemen and doctors.

The high court, on May 4, 2017, convicted seven people -- five policemen and two doctors -- under sections 218 (not performing their duties) and section 201 (tampering of evidence) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The top court had on July 10, 2017 dismissed the appeals of two doctors and four policemen challenging their conviction by the high court saying there was "clear-cut evidence" against them. One of the officers did not appeal.

The convicts had later approached the Bombay High Court and sought quashing and setting aside of the trial court's conviction.

The CBI had also filed an appeal in the high court seeking harsher punishment of death for three of the convicted persons on the ground that they were the main perpetrators of the crime.

The convicts had challenged the order on three main grounds - that all evidence in the case was fabricated by CBI, that Bilkis gave birth to a child after the incident, proving that she could not have been gang-raped, and the failure to find the bodies of some of her family members which proved that they were not killed.
first published:April 24, 2019, 20:55 IST