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Saturday October 01, 2022

Bilkis Bano: Muslim woman who was raped by 11 Hindu men 'scared' after their release

Bilkis Bano was gang-raped and saw 14 family members murdered by a Hindu mob during the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat

By Web Desk
August 18, 2022
Bilkis Bano fought for justice for a very long time when even the authorities were not on her side. — BBC
Bilkis Bano fought for justice for a very long time when even the authorities were not on her side. — BBC

Bilkis Bano, a Muslim woman who was gang-raped by 11 men during the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in the state of Gujarat and saw 14 family members murdered by a Hindu mob, saw her rapists go free on India's independence day, reported local media.

The 11 convicts who were serving life sentences for their crimes were welcomed with respect. A viral video showed relatives presenting sweets and touching their feet.

Bano, pregnant with her second child when she was sexually assaulted, said that the men's release was "unjust" in a statement.

"I am still numb," she said.

She questioned the justice system saying she trusted the highest courts of India. Bano appealed to the Gujarat government to "undo the harm".

"No one asked me about my safety and well-being before taking such an unjust decision," NDTV quoted her statement.

Many have criticised   Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government which is in power in Gujarat and nationally as well., reported the BBC.

Several people have pointed out that rape and murder convicts cannot be given remission and that sentences have to be served until death.

The release has been extremely traumatising for Bano and her family as the attack on her was one of the most horrifying ones during the 2002 riots.

She told the BBC that she was cooking when her aunt told her to run as the homes were being set on fire.

She said that they did not even have time to wear slippers.

Along with 17 other Muslims, including her close family, Bano ran. The group journeyed from village to village seeking refuge.

In one of the villages which they thought would be safe, a group of men found them.

The Hindu group attacked the family with "swords and sticks". Unfortunately, the attackers were her own neighbours she had seen growing up. 

They were quick to attack the woman and tear off her clothes. Bano's cousin, who delivered a baby on the run was also raped and her newborn was murdered.

Bano survived because the attackers thought she was dead as she lost consciousness. 

She fought for justice for a very long time when even the authorities were not on her side.

Eventually, in 2004, the first arrests in the case were made. 

Her husband told India's local media outlet that his wife had been appalled since the news of the release.

He said that the battle they fought for years had been wasted.