Bilkis Bano, the survivor of a brutal crime during the 2002 Gujarat riots, expressed profound relief and gratitude after the Supreme Court of India ruled that 11 convicts, responsible for killing her family and subjecting her to gang rape, must return to jail. The convicts had been released last year for “good behavior,” a decision now deemed as “without application of mind” by the Supreme Court.
In a statement issued through her lawyer Shobha Gupta, Bilkis Bano shared her emotions on the significant verdict. She described today as “truly the New Year” for her, as the perpetrators of the heinous crimes would soon be back behind bars. The Supreme Court has mandated that the convicts surrender within two weeks, asserting that the Gujarat government’s decision to release them was beyond its jurisdiction.
“I have wept tears of relief. I have smiled for the first time in over a year and a half. It feels like a stone the size of a mountain has been lifted from my chest, and I can breathe again,” Bilkis Bano expressed.
She extended her gratitude to the honorable Supreme Court for providing her, her children, and women everywhere with vindication and hope in the promise of equal justice for all. Bilkis Bano also acknowledged the support she received during the challenging period when the convicts were released.
“A year and a half ago, on August 15, 2022, when those who had destroyed my family and terrorized my very existence were given an early release, I simply collapsed,” she recalled. She thanked those who stood with her during that period, emphasizing their solidarity and strength in giving her the will to struggle not only for herself but for every woman in India.
Shobha Gupta, Bilkis Bano’s legal counsel for decades, commented on the process, stating, “It was as if a decision was made first and process applied later, and if I dare say, unmindfully.” She questioned the basis of the “good behavior” cited for the convicts’ release, noting that nothing reflected such behavior.
The convicts were released on Independence Day last year through an obsolete law, sparking nationwide outrage. Bilkis Bano expressed her concern about not being informed of the release, emphasizing the risks it posed to her security.
Upon their release, the convicts received a hero’s welcome, with sweets and garlands. Some were even seen sharing the stage with a BJP MP and MLA. The initial petitioner for release, Radheshaym Shah, had reportedly started practicing law, as revealed during the court hearing.
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