Two days after all the 11 men, who had been convicted of gang-raping her and murdering seven of her family members, walked out of jail, Bilkis Bano on Wednesday issued a statement saying the move had shaken her faith in justice. She urged the Gujarat government to “undo this harm” and ensure the safety of her and her family.
“I appeal to the Gujarat government. Please undo this harm. Give me back my right to live without fear and in peace. Please ensure that my family and I are kept safe,” Bano said in the statement issued through her advocate Shobha.
Bano said as the 11 men were released from jail, the trauma of the past 20 years washed over her again. “When I heard that the 11 convicted men who devastated my family and my life, and took from me my 3-year-old daughter, had walked free, I was bereft of words. I am still numb,” she said.
“I trusted the highest courts in our land. I trusted the system, and I was learning slowly to live with my trauma,” Bano said, adding that the release of the convicts had taken away the peace from her and shaken her faith in justice.
“My sorrow and my wavering faith is not for myself alone but for every woman who is struggling for justice in courts,” she said.
Bano further lamented that nobody enquired about her safety and well-being before taking such a “big and unjust” decision.
The 11 convicts on Monday walked out of the Godhra sub-jail after the Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy. Those who were granted premature release are Jaswantbhai Nai, Govindbhai Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radheshyam Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt, and Ramesh Chandana.
On March 3, 2002, Bano's family was attacked by a mob at Randhikpur village in Limkheda taluka of Dahod district during the post-Godhra riots. Bano, who was five months pregnant at that time, was gang-raped and seven members of her family were killed.
A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Mumbai on January 21, 2008, sentenced the 11 accused to life imprisonment on the charge of gang-rape and murder of seven members of Bilkis Bano's family. Their conviction was later upheld by the Bombay High Court.