“Will Use the Compensation for Battles of Other Sisters”: Bilkis Bano

Written by Sabrang India | Published on: April 25, 2019
After an excruciating journey of almost two decades, Bilkis Bano, a rape-victim of the 2002 post-Godhra riots in Gujarat, finally got justice from the highest judicial authority that directed the Gujarat High Court (HC), on April 23,  to provide her with an exemplary compensation of Rs. 50 lakhs, a government job and an accomodation in a place of her choice. Content with the long-awaited judgement, Bano wishes to use a portion of the compensation to help other victims of rape and communal violence.

Bilkis bano

Bano said, “I want to give the money I have received from the Supreme Court to help in the battles of other sisters like me who have been victims and for the education of their children.” Adding further, she said that she will name the fund after Saleha, her three-year-old daughter who was killed by the mob which gangraped her and killed six other members of her family on March 3, 2002 in Randhikpur village.

While expressing grief about her lost daughter, Bano acknowledged the Supreme Court’s decision and said, “We never got back Saleha’s body, we couldn’t even bury her and perform her final rites, and for that I am filled with sorrow till this day. Her spirit is still wandering and I want for her to be at peace. Perhaps this judgment will help bring some kind of peace. The court has accepted the sadness that I have had to bear, and the suffering that I’ve gone through. That this has been recognised is a big thing for me… I have had a very long struggle of 17 years but I have always believed that I would get justice. I had belief in the Constitution and the legal system.”

Recollecting the agonizing incident when she was brutally raped while she was 5 months pregnant, Bano said that her now 15-year old daughter Hazra wishes to become a lawyer. “She had decided a few years back that she wants to be a lawyer. I want her to be educated and become a lawyer, so that she can help other women at the Supreme Court,” said Bano.  

Bilkis had earlier declined to accept the Rs 5-lakh compensation awarded by the state and had sought its enhancement. Later, a special leave petition was filed in the SC by Bano’s advocate Ms. Shobha Gupta seeking compensation for “damages to her Constitutional right to life; right to bodily integrity; right to be protected by the State; and right to seek justice for wrongs suffered by her.”

Bano’s struggle for justice started after the state police dismissed her case citing lack of evidence. In December 2003, the case was handed over to the CBI who then arrested all the accused named by Bano. In May 2017, the Bombay HC upheld the conviction and life imprisonment of 11 people, while setting aside the acquittal of seven people, including the policemen and doctors. In March, the SC directed the Gujarat government to initiate disciplinary action against police officials charged with investigating the case, whom the Bombay HC had found guilty of destroying evidence, overturning the special court order. The state then stopped the pension benefits of two officials, and demoted IPS officer RS Bhagora by two ranks.

Gujarat witnessed the worst form of communal violence in 2002 which killed thousands of Muslims and hundreds of Hindus after a coach of Sabarmati Express was burnt down, causing demise of 59 ‘karsevaks’ returning from Ayodhya.
Such judgements restore the faith in the judiciary!
 
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2.Supreme Court asks Gujarat government to take action against cops convicted in Bilkis Bano rape case
3.From Destruction of Wombs to Liberators of Muslim Women: Politics of Hindutva