Signature campaign demanding justice for Bilkis Bano on Mumbai’s trains

First person account of the experience of concerned citizens and rights activists as they talked to commuters on Mumbai's local trains on August 21, about the Bilkis Bano case, and gathered signatures against the remission of sentence granted to the convicts

Bilkis bano caseImage: Shome Basu

Today some eight or nine of us travelled in the women’s compartment of the local train from Churchgate to Borivali and back, talking to commuters there about the remission of sentence granted to the convicted rapists of Bilkis Bano and murderers of her family members. We may have travelled in eight or nine trains.

This was a face-to-face interaction using a leaflet and asking them to sign a simple demand of standing with Bilkis for justice and demanding that the remission be canceled. By the end of our three hour effort, we had about 400 considered signatures.

We have undertaken similar campaigns in the past for different issues. Today was very different though. First of all, the trains were not very crowded. We could actually talk to people. Many people who were hearing about this for the first time, were horrified at the nature of violence and appalled at the remission. Those who knew from before were already enraged.

There were a few who refused to engage and some who countered back with what about… There were some vociferous supporters of the party in power who refused to think as human beings. But these were very few people.

The majority were curious about who we were, what we would do with the signatures, what else was being done. Some took signature sheets and said they would send photos of signed sheets to us. So many wished that justice would get done for Bilkis.

And finally what was very new was the number of people who wished us well, thanked us for doing this, and blessed us in their own ways. The star of course was Zoya, a trans- woman, who got off at a station with us, blessed a stack of coins from her earnings and gave one to each one of us with her duas.

Bilkis, a lot of solidarity for your persistent and difficult struggle. You are not alone.

*The writer is an intersectional women’s rights activist. The above piece first appeared as a Facebook post on the writer’s profile and has been edited minimally for clarity.



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