Bilkis Bano: Give Me Back My Right To Live Without Fear And In Peace

It has always been hard to get justice in this country, but one must not have thought that even after being served, the justice would be snatched back.

Trigger warning: This deals with rape and violence against women, and may be triggering for survivors.

“How can justice for any woman end like this? I trusted the highest courts in our land. I trusted the system, and I was learning to live with my trauma…”Bilkis Bano.

On August 15, 2022, India celebrated its 75th Independence day. On the same day, the 11 convicts from the Bilkis Bano case were freed from jail in Gujarat’s Godhra town after the state government approved their application for remission of sentence. These men were serving life imprisonment for gang rape of Bilkis and murder of 8 of her family members, along with three-years-old daughter of Bilkis, during the 2002 Gujarat riots. Bilkis Bano was brutally raped during the communal violence of Gujarat 2002, she was 21 years old at the time and five months pregnant.

It’s not the first time that something like this has happened, it has always been arduous to get justice in this country. But one must not have thought that even after being served, the justice would be snatched back.

Rape is the fourth most common crime against women in India

According to the 2019 annual report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 32033 rape cases were registered across the country, or an average of 88 cases daily, slightly lower than 2018 when 91 cases were registered daily.

A horrific incident of rape happened on the outskirts of Hyderabad in which a 26-years-old veterinarian was gang raped and murdered on the November 27, 2019. Her charred body was found the next morning. And it was reported that she was raped and then murdered, later her dead body was set on fire.

Nirbhaya Rape Case 2012, in which a 23- years-old physiotherapy student was gang raped in a moving bus by 6 men, one of whom was a juvenile. BBC made a shaming documentary on this case named India’s Daughter, which was banned by the Parliament of India.

Women are the victims of a lot more crimes and abuses in India.

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In 2021 a man stabbed his wife multiple times, and keep doing it until she was dead, in public. On the day before India’s 75th independence, a man slits his wife’s throat at Karnataka court, soon after the order of reunite.
In another case, 3 sisters, married in the same family, died of suicide along with 2 children, as they were regularly being assaulted for dowry; two of these women were even pregnant.

Despite this regular crime against women and an abysmal rate of conviction, how can justice be taken away from a woman who was already given it?

Bilkis Bano – “it has shaken my faith in justice”

Despite all of these gruesome cases these rapists were released from the prison and the woman who they have tortured is shocked just as much as she is fearful. These convicts had spent 15 odd years in prison, and were not only released but also honoured by some politicians, as according to them these rapists are “Brahmins, have good Sanskar (sacraments)”, ruling party’s sitting MLA, CK Raulji, from Godhra has said.

Bilkis Bano, while talking to media, said that “the release of the 11 rapists has ‘shaken’ her faith in justice.” It has left her “numb” and “speechless” she said.

Talking further, she said, “Give me back my right to live without fear and in peace. Please ensure that I and my family are kept safe.”

She also said, “How can justice for any woman end like this? I trusted the highest courts in our land. I trusted the system and I was learning slowly to live with my trauma…”

While the release of the convicts has cause fury among public, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad Office greeted the convicts with garlands and sweets.
Bilkis Bano has appealed to the Gujarat Government to “undo this harm”.

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