By Muslim Mirror Staff
One of the convicts in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case during the 2002 Gujarat riots shared stage with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politicians in Gujarat’s Dahod ahead of the Supreme Court hearing on Monday of petitions against the grant of remission to him and ten others.
On March 25, a group water supply scheme event was held at Karmadi Village, Dahod district. Shailesh Chimanlal Bhatt was seen on stage alongside Dahod MP Jasvant Sinh Bhabhor and his brother, Limkheda MLA Sailesh Bhabhor, in videos and images taken on the scene. He was spotted posing for selfies with them and even participating in the event’s puja.
A Supreme Court panel of justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna will hear petitions challenging the Gujarat government’s decision to commute the sentences of 11 men condemned to life in prison for gang raping Bano and murdering her family members during the riots.
Bano was 21 and five months pregnant when she was gang-raped while escaping the rioting. Her three-year-old daughter was among those killed.
Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) MLC Kalvakuntla Kavitha and Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra took to Twitter to express their displeasure after one of the prisoners in the Bilkis Bano rape case shared a platform with a BJP MP and MLA at a government programme on Saturday.
Kavitha tweeted, “Bilkis Bano Rapist openly shares stage with BJP’s MPs and MLAs.
What have we become as a community that perpetrators of heinous crimes against women are being celebrated and given a platform while the victims plead for justice.
India is watching!”
Moitra wrote, “Bilkis Bano’s Rapist Shares Stage With Gujarat’s BJP MP, MLA. I want to see these monsters back in jail and the key thrown away. And I want this satanic government that applauds this travesty of justice voted out. I want India to reclaim her moral compass.”
Harsimrat Kaur Badal, a Shiromani Akali Dal MP and former Union minister, said giving the rapist a seat of honour and rehabilitating him is appalling for any political party, especially the ruling BJP.
“It signals to women that for this party politics is above women’s dignity & all talk of respect of women is nothing more than mere sloganeering,” she tweeted.
After walking out of jail on August 15, the convicts were garlanded and given chocolates. CK Raulji, a ruling BJP MP, justified their release, stating they are Brahmins with high moral standards.
Bhatt and 10 others were sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty by a special CBI court in Mumbai in 2008 of gang-raping and killing seven members of Bilkis Bano’s family. They were doing time at the Godhra sub-jail in Gujarat’s Panchmahal district.
On August 15, 2022, all 11 defendants found guilty of raping Bilkis Bano left the sub-jail after serving 15 years in prison as the Gujarat government authorised their early release as part of their remission policy, sparking outrage.
Their release was contested before the Supreme Court, which on March 22 ordered the issue be listed urgently and established a special bench to hear the group of arguments. On March 27, a hearing will be held about the issue.
The incident occurred in Gujarat in 2002 when 59 karsevaks perished in the burning of a Sabarmati Express train on February 27 of that year, which sparked communal violence in the state. Hindu mobs began blaming Muslims for the deaths of the pilgrims on February 28, which sparked a chain reaction of violence. The rioters attacked every Muslim they came across, raping, plundering, and killing them all. For more than two months, there was bloodshed. An estimated 1,000 people, predominantly Muslims, were slain in various ways. Around 20,000 Muslim houses were destroyed, and at least 150,000 individuals were displaced. Many of the victims were forced to seek refuge in camps when their homes were destroyed.
The 21-year-old Bilkis Bano, who was five months pregnant at the time, left her village with 15 other people and her little daughter. They sought refuge in a field on March 3 when a group of 20–30 individuals assaulted them with sickles, swords, and clubs. Seven members of Bilkis Bano’s family were murdered, and she was the victim of gang rape.