On a day when Gujarat voted to elect 26 members to the Lok Sabha, the Supreme Court directed the state government to give Rs 50 lakh as compensation, a job and accommodation to Bilkis Bano, who was brutally gang-raped during the 2002 communal riots.
Now 36-years-old, Bilkis was gang-raped when she was five months pregnant. She was witness to 14 persons of her family, including her three-and-a-half-year-old daughter Saleha, mother and two sisters, being butchered. She and her family members were intercepted after they had left her father's home at Randhikpur.
Ever since the incident, the family has changed many homes in and around Devgadhbaria in Central Gujarat.
Bilkis told THE WEEK that she was happy with the judgment and felt that she got justice after so many years.
Yakub, her husband, who has stood by her in the fight for justice, also said that they were happy with the judgment.
Yakub does small jobs that fetch him about Rs 200-400 per day. “At times there are days when I do not earn anything,” he said.
“Finally!” said Gagan Sethi of Jan Vikas, an Ahmedabad-based organisation that helped Bilkis fight the legal battle. He said that the idea was to get an exemplary compensation. “In this case you are talking about multiple murders, sexual assault and a woman running away all the time,” he remarked saying that you can't say Rs 5 lakh.
Questioned if Bilkis finally got justice, Sethi said he thought that this was the best case in India till now, which has raised the bar of what is exemplary punishment. He, however, also said that nothing can compensate to the loss of the entire family.
Bilkis' daughter, who was born in 2002, will now be in Grade XII.
In May 2017, when the Mumbai High Court had convicted 19 persons, Bilkis had told THE WEEK: Ek din aisa nahi jaata jab hadsa yaad nahi aata. Mai kaam mai apne aap ko vyast rakhti hun (There is not a single day when I do not remember that ill-fated day. I try to keep myself busy in work).