Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was raped while fleeing the violence that broke out post the Sabarmati train incident.
A day after 11 convicts sentenced to life imprisonment for Bilkis Bano's gang rape and murder of seven of her family during the 2002 Gujarat riots walked out of jail, her husband said he came to know of their release from the media. "We were surprised to know that the convicts have been released," Bilkis Bano's husband Yakub Rasul told PTI.
"We don't know when the convicts processed their application and which ruling the state government took into consideration. We never received any kind of notice," Rasul said.
Rasul said the Gujarat government had paid the family a compensation of Rs 50 lakh as directed by the Supreme Court, but is yet to provide a job or a house as directed by the apex court. Rasul said he lives virtually in hiding with his wife and five sons, the eldest one 20 years old.
Meanwhile, the covicts, after their release from the Godhra jail on Monday, who were also charged with killing the pregnant Muslim woman's three-year-old daughter, were welcomed with sweets and garlands outside the jail.
The 11 convicts who were granted premature release are Jaswantbhai Nai, Govindbhai Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radheshyam Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt, and Ramesh Chandana.
Radheshyam Shah, the convict whose plea for premature release paved the way for all the 11 life sentence convicts to walk out of jail, said he feels happy to be released. "The Gujarat government has released us as per the order of the Supreme Court. I feel glad to be out as I will be able to meet my family members and begin a new life," he said.
"We were convicted and lodged in jail. When I was not released after completing 14 years in jail, I approached the Supreme Court for remission. The apex court directed the Gujarat government to take a decision, after which we were released," he said.
Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was raped while fleeing the violence that broke out post the Sabarmati train incident in Godhra.
The convicts were released on Monday under the Gujarat government's remission policy after they completed more than 15 years in jail. The Gujarat government's decision stands at odds with the Centre's guidelines on its special remission policy in which it has clearly stated that convicts in rape cases and those serving life imprisonment not to be released.
Lashing out at the BJP, the Congress out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spoken of women power in his Independence Day speech just hours before the state’s remission order came. Congress leader Pawan Khera asked at a press conference in Delhi whether the PM meant what he said.
Calling the Gujarat government order “unprecedented”, the Congress said: “You let off the convicts citing the 14 years spent by them of their sentence, that their conduct in jail was good, and the nature of the crime… If we just consider the nature of the crime, does rape not come in the category that the harshest punishment be given, that any sentence is not enough? And we saw today that those who were let off, they are being felicitated and honoured. Is this Amrit Mahotsav?”