The premature release of all the 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano gangrape and murder case attracted attention of the US religious freedom body with the latter issuing a strong condemnation calling it ‘travesty of justice’.
US Commission on International Religious Freedom Commissioner Stephen Schneck said it was part of a “pattern of impunity” for those involved in the violence against religious minorities in India.
Schneck added that the release was a “travesty of justice”, and only added to the “pattern of impunity” enjoyed by those accused of anti-minority violence in India.
“USCIRF strongly condemns the early and unjustified release of 11 men sentenced to life in prison for raping a pregnant Muslim woman and committing murder against Muslim victims during the 2002 Gujarat Riots,” USCIRF vice chair Abraham Cooper said in a statement.
The eleven men walked free on 15 August under the Gujarat government’s remission policy even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi made tall claims on women empowerment from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the Independence Day speech. While legal fraternity and opposition parties pointed holes in the remission policy, right wing elements greeted the rapists and the killers with garlands and offered them sweets besides holding a tilak ceremony.
Opposition parties as well as legal experts questioned the neutrality of the review panel that granted the remission saying two BJP MLAs were part of the panel. Five of the 10 members of the advisory committee of the Gujarat government which recommended the release have links with the BJP, NDTV reported.
Bilkis Bano, who was pregnant then, was gangraped and over a dozen members of her family were killed during the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat. Bano was in a group of 17 Muslims that included her daughter, her mother, a pregnant cousin, her younger siblings, nieces and nephews, and two adult men. Four other women, including Bano’s mother, were raped and brutally assaulted by the right wing zealots. One of the men snatched the girl from Bano’s arms and banged her head on a rock to death.
Over 6,000 people – including hundreds of women’s rights activists – held a protest on Thursday in New Delhi have urged the Supreme Court to revoke the decision to grant the convicts remission of their sentence.
-INDIA NEWS STREAM