Want justice not revenge: Bilkis Bano

Ahmedabad: Gang-rape victim Bilkis Bano amd her husband Yakub Rasool get emotional during a press conference in Ahmedabad, on May 11, 2017. ​ Bano was 19 years old and pregnant when she was subjected to the horror during the 2002 Gujarat riots.​ ​​(Photo: IANS)

Bilkulonline.com, New Delhi, Ahmedabad, May 10 & 11: Refusing to compare her case with the Nirbhaya gang-rape case where the apex court upheld death penalty for the convicts, Gujarat gang-rape survivor Bilkis Bano on Monday said she was content with the Bombay High Court rejecting the death penalty plea in her case.

In one of the most horrifying incidents during the 2002 Gujarat riots, Bano, then 19 and pregnant, was brutalised by a gang of men and many of her family members killed in front of her eyes.

While upholding a trial court sentence of life term to 11 convicts, the Bombay High Court on May 4 rejected a CBI plea which sought death sentence for three of the convicts.

Interacting with media persons in the national capital, Bano said she was happy with the court’s verdict in her case.

“I am very happy with the court’s verdict. The horrors I suffered deserve the maximum punishment, but at the same time I do not want any one else to die in my name. I want justice, not revenge,” said Bano.

She said the five policemen whose acquittal has been set aside by the high court, deserve harsher punishment.

Charged with tampering of evidence by fudging documents, the men had been acquitted by a trial court in 2008.

While setting aside their acquittal, the high court had observed: “The omissions on the part of the police accused are so grave and so obvious that their malafides and intentions are very apparent. The investigation is not only faulty but it is downright tainted.”

While welcoming the court’s verdict against the policemen, National Award-winning filmmaker Shonali Bose demanded punishment for the “masterminds of the cover up” in the Gujarat riots.

“These five policemen were mere foot soldiers in the cover up. Their indictment by the court is indeed a message but justice will be done when the masterminds of the cover up of the 2002 riots are brought to justice,” she said.

Speaking on the occasion, former bureaucrat N.C. Saxena said police have prejudices against the minority community in cases of communal violence.

“Police almost always functions with strong prejudices against minorities during riots,” he said, citing several administrative and judicial reports where policemen have been indicted for their role in communal violence.

On May 5, a Supreme Court bench upheld the death sentences of all four convicts in the Nirbhaya case in which a 23-year-old paramedical student was gang-raped inside a moving bus on December 16, 2012 in Delhi. The savage assault led to her death due to internal injuries 13 days later in a Singapore hospital.

Ensure no parole for convicts: Bilkis Bano

Gujarat gang-rape survivor Bilkis Bano on Monday said that after 15 years of indescribable struggle she is preparing for a new beginning after last week’s court ruling, and urged that the 11 men convicted by the court should not be granted parole.

She hailed the Bombay High Court verdict of upholding life terms to the 11 convicts, and also welcomed the court’s May 4 verdict rejecting the CBI plea for death penalty for three of the convicts, saying she wanted justice not revenge.

“I am very happy with the verdict. It has ensured that people can have faith in the country’s judicial system and expect justice,” Bano said, addressing media persons at the Press Club of India here.

Brutalised by a gang of men and her nearly entire family wiped out in front her eyes in during the 2002 Gujarat riots, Bano says after the court ruling, she is preparing for a new beginning.

Bano and her husband Yakub said that in order to live without any fear, it was necessary that the convicts are not granted parole.

“The verdict is an opportunity for us to make a new beginning. For the last 15 years we have been living in constant fear, changing places, not able to go back home. It is important that the convicts are not granted parole,” said Bano.

“After the trial court’s sentencing in 2008, several of the convicts came out of jail with parole. We used to live in constant fear of retribution, threats and fear of being killed. The High Court should ensure that the convicts are not given parole now,” said Yakub.

Their appeal was endorsed by rights activists Kavita Srivastava and National Award winning film director Shonali Bose.

“While it might be too little too late, nonetheless the verdict is historic in the sense that perhaps for the first time policemen have been convicted for covering heinous crimes,” said Bose, referring to the High Court setting aside the acquittal of five policemen.

The policemen – charged with tampering of evidence by fudging documents and compromising the inquest panchnama (diary) – had been acquitted by a trial court in January 2008.

“Bilkis and Yakub along with their daughters have spent a long time in fear and apprehension. We, therefore demand that no parole be granted to any of the convicts,” she said.

“The right of granting parole is with jail authorities and the home department. We would urge them to ensure that the convicts are never given parole,” said Srivastava , National Secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties.