Highlights

  • Bilkis Bano fled her village on February 2002
  • Bilkis, 6 other women were gangraped
  • Bilkis also lost her 3-year-old daughter

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Explained | Who is 2002 Gujarat riots survivor Bilkis Bano

Eleven convicts serving life imprisonment in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case connected to the 2002 Gujarat riots were freed from a Godhra jail on Monday after a state government panel approved their application under its remission policy. 

Bilkis Bano gangrape case : Eleven convicts serving life imprisonment in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case connected to the 2002 Gujarat riots were freed from a Godhra jail on Monday after a state government panel approved their application under its remission policy.

Post their release, the convicts were given a grand welcome by their family members outside the jail.

The Gujarat government's decision evoked sharp reactions from the public with many questioning the grounds for granting remission to men who were convicted for raping a then pregnant Bilkis Bano and murdering her family members.

While there were many victims of the riots, Bano's case stood out for the sheer brutality that was unleashed on her and her family.

Who is Bilkis Bano and what is her story?

Bilkis Bano, and her family, were among the many victims of the 2002 riots that broke out in Gujarat a day after the Sabarmati Express caught fire in Godhra.

On February 28, 2002, Bilkis, a resident of Radhikpur village in Dahod district, Gujarat, was five months pregnant and was fleeing her village with her three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Saleha, and 15 other family members to escape the violence that had erupted targeting Muslims.

Three days later, on March 3, 2002, the family reached Chapparwad village and took shelter in a field when about 20-30 people, including the 11 accused, armed with sickles, swords and sticks attacked Bilkis and her family, according to the chargesheet.

In the attack, five women including Bilkis and her mother were gangraped and thrashed. Of the 17 family members, eight died and six went missing. Only Bilkis, a man, and a three-year-old survived the attack.

Bilkis’ 3-year-old daughter was snatched by the attackers and was murdered when her head was smashed to the ground.

After regaining consciousness a few hours later, Bilkis borrowed clothes from an Adivasi woman as her clothes were torn by the mob.

She then met a home guard who took her to the Limkheda police station where she registered a complaint with head constable Somabhai Gori.

Gori was later charged by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for “suppressing material facts” and “writing a distorted and truncated version” of her complaint.

Also Watch| Video: sweets, tilak for convicts in Bilkis Bano rape case as they walk out of jail

Bilkis Bano was taken to the hospital for medical examination only after she took shelter in the Godhra relief camp.

Facing lack of cooperation from the local police, Bano approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and filed a plea in the Supreme Court in December 2003. The top court heard the case and ordered a CBI probe into the incident.

What were the findings of CBI?

After taking over the investigation, the CBI exhumed the bodies of the seven killed in the attack as it felt that the postmortem was shoddily done to protect the accused. The agency found no skulls on any of the bodies as the heads of the corpses had been severed after postmortem to evade identification.

During the trial, the case was shifted from Gujarat to Maharashtra after Bano said she received death threats. In Mumbai, charges were filed against 19 men, including six police officers and a government doctor.

While seven persons were acquitted by the court citing lack of evidence including the policemen and doctors, one died during the course of the trial.

In January 2008, 11 persons were found guilty by the trial court for conspiring to rape a pregnant woman, murder and unlawful assembly and under other sections of the Indian Penal Code.

The court held that Jaswantbai Nai, Govindbhai Nai, Naresh Kumar Mordhiya (deceased) raped Bilkis while Shailesh Bhatt killed her daughter, Saleha, by “smashing” her on the ground.

The others convicted are Radheshyam Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Vohania, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Nitesh Bhatt, Ramesh Chandana and head constable of Limkheda police station, Somabhai Gori.

All 11 convicts were sentenced to life imprisonment by the court.

The Bombay High Court in May 2017 upheld the conviction and life imprisonment of 11 people in the gangrape case, while setting aside the acquittal of seven people, including the policemen and doctors.

On May 15, 2022, one of these convicts went before the Supreme Court and pleaded for an early release after serving more than 15 years.

Also Watch| Released from jail: convicts in gangrape, murder case of Bilkis Bano, family get relief from Gujarat govt

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