‘Justice for Bilkis’: In Protests Across India, a Singular Demand

New Delhi: Over 24 organisations, civil society groups and students gathered in Delhi and across India on Saturday, August 27, to demand that remission given to the sentences of 11 gang-rape and murder convicts be revoked.

The convicts had been sentenced in 2008 for gang-raping a five-month-pregnant Bilkis Bano and killing 14 people, including her three-year-old daughter, during the Gujarat riots of 2002. In August this year, they were let go amidst celebrations.

Several, including Bano and her family, had expressed shock and fear at the decision. On Saturday, in addition to Delhi there were protests at Bengaluru’s Freedom Park and at sites at Nagpur, Kolkata and Chandigarh, among other locations.

“It nauseates me to think of what has happened with Bilkis. The law and the constitution protect the citizens of this country, isn’t Bilkis a citizen?” asked actor Shabana Azmi who joined the protest in Delhi.

CPIML Liberation leader Kavita Krishnan, speaking to The Wire, said, “We are standing here for Bilkis. Our direct question is to the central government. How did they let the rapists of Bilkis Bano and the murderers of her family walk free? The protests will go on until the remission is revoked.”

Since the announcement of remission, Muslim residents of Randhikpur village in Gujarat where Bilkis lived, have left the area stating that they will not return until they feel safe.

Speaking to The Wire, activist Anjali Bhardwaj said, “This is not how a society behaves, we are standing together on all forums in unison to demand justice for Bilkis and her family.”

The Supreme Court this week has sent notices to the Gujarat government, seeking its reply to the remission awarded to the convicts.
Public interest litigations against the remission had been filed by CPI(M) leader Subhashini Ali, TMC MP Mahua Moitra and filmmaker Revati Laul.

Featured image: A protest against the remission of convicts’ sentences in the Bilkis Bano case at Delhi. Photo: The Wire

This article was first published on The Wire.