The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed Gujarat’s BJP-led government to give Rs 50 lakh in compensation to Bilkis Bano, who was gang-raped during the 2002 anti-Muslim genocide under the Narendra Modi government. The Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna also ordered the state government to provide the victim a government job and accommodation at a place of her choice.
The court expressed its anguish over her plight saying that she had been living a life of a nomad since 2002, when a Hindu mob aided by the Gujarat Police had killed nearly 4,000 people, mostly Muslims. The official number of those killed in the genocide is only 1200. Narendra Modi was the then chief minister of the state.
The top court also told the lawyer representing the Gujarat government to consider itself lucky that it was not observing against it. “Feel lucky that we are not observing anything against your government in the order”, CJI Gogoi, according to the LiveLaw website, told Hemantika Wahi, standing counsel of Gujarat.
The Supreme Court had earlier asked the Gujarat government to take disciplinary action in two weeks against the erring police officials, including an IPS officer, convicted by the Bombay High Court in the case.
A special court, according to a report by news agency PTI, had on 21 January, 2008 convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment 11 men for raping Bilkis Bano and murdering seven of her family members in the aftermath of the Godhra riots, while acquitting seven persons including the policemen and doctors.
On Tuesday, the SC also directed the central government to consider the recommendation of the Gujarat government for a two post demotion against a serving IPS officer, who was one of the erring cops, within the next four weeks.
Bilkis was gangraped in 2002 during Gujarat’s anti-Muslim genocide. Her 2-year-old baby was brutally murdered along with 14 other family members. But, the High Court had astonishingly declared that this crime did not fall under the ‘rarest of the rare’ category.
Bilkis was trying to escape the wrath of Hindutva militants in a truck. With her, there were 17 others. Bilkis was five months pregnant.
Hindutva militants stopped the truck, raped her one by one before killing 14 members of her family right before her eyes. Among those killed were Bilkis’s daughter, her mother Halima and cousin Shamim.
The terrorists left Bilkis for dead, but she hadn’t died. She went through incredible pain for days to register a case against the members of the Hindutva mob. One can imagine the pain of a 19-year-old five month pregnant girl, who was just gangraped and who lost almost everybody in her family to a group of terrorists.
Far from succumbing to the unending trauma, Bilkis spent days without food and water to reach safety. She was reportedly assisted by a tribal family, who gave her shelter briefly.
Bilkis approached the cops, but they too refused to register her complaint. Instead, the cops, whose role during the genocide was widely condemned, dismissed her case and even threatened her with dire consequences if she went ahead with her case.
Doctors too reportedly refused to carry out a medical examination.
Determined to get her rapists and murderers to book, Bilkis then contacted the National Human Rights Commission of India and the Supreme Court. The apex court directed the CBI to probe the matter. But this led to a series of threats being issued to Bilkis and the remaining relatives.
Bilkis contacted the Supreme Court pleading that the case be transferred out of Gujarat as there was sufficient indication of the matter being manipulated by the state’s BJP government.
The Supreme Court found merit in her plea and decided to shift the case out of Gujarat. This was another indictment of just how compromised the constitutional institutions had become under the Modi government in Gujarat. A glimpse of what’s being witnessed at the national level under Modi as the prime minister.
Charges were filed in a trial court in Mumbai against 19 men including five police officers and two government doctors. The court sentenced the 11 accused to life imprisonment in January 2008, six years after the crime was committed. One convict has died since then.
All police officers and doctors were acquitted.
Bilkis appealed the verdict in the Bombay High Court while the CBI too asked the court to consider death penalty for Jaswantbai Nai, Govindbhai Nai and Radhesham Shah, who, according to the agency, had played a key role in the planning and execution of the crime.
The Bombay High Court on Thursday upheld the trial court’s order against 11 convicts. The court also reversed the trial court’s verdict giving a clean chit to the accused doctors and police officers for tampering with the evidence.
All seven were found convicted in May 2017. Anyone else would have succumbed to the stress and frustration and the system’s failure in protecting someone who’s been so brutally wronged. But, not Bilkis, who remained steadfast and explored every avenue to seek justice for herself, her two-year-old daughter, who was murdered by the Hindutva mob along with her mother and several other relatives.
The country must salute Bilkis Bano, for she is truly India’s daughter! Hopefully the Supreme Court verdict will now give a sense of closure to Bano’s traumatic 17 years.