By Special Correspondent
New Delhi: The BJP-led Gujarat government’s decision to free the murderers and rapists convicted in the Bilkis Bano case has drawn criticism from within Gujarat as well. A group of artists and writers on Wednesday urged the Gujarat government and its institutions to “immediately take all such measures as are required to not only restore the citizens’ faith in democratic justice but in humanity, truth and civilisation”.
The Gujarat government’s decision to commute the sentences even as PM Modi in his Independence Day speech flaunting women dignity issue was criticised as an “outright act of ill faith”
More than 122 artists and writers, including several from Gujarat and Maharashtra, signed the petition. Among them are the poets and creatives Prabodh Parikh, Mehul Devkala, Atul Dodiya, Kamal Vora, Himanshi Shelat, Manoj Shah (theatre director and actor), Naushil Mehta, and Kanji Patel (poet and novelist).
The appeal has also been signed by the poets K. Satchidanandan, Rukhmini Bhaya Nayar, Jeet Thayil, and Ruchir Joshi, as well as other writers and filmmakers.
“If the visuals of public feting of the released convicts and litany of Brahminical sanskars by a member of the committee which recommended the remission are not gross enough, the silence of the state, administrative structures and public institutions which should swing into action for revoking and reviewing this decision certainly is,” the signatories said in the joint appeal.
A BJP lawmaker, C.K. Raulji, who had been on the government panel that recommended the convicts’ release, had been quoted as saying the 11 were “Brahmins and Brahmins are known to have good sanskar”. Later, he said that his remarks had been interpreted incorrectly and that “rapists had nothing to do with castes.”
The appeal emphasised the irony that Gujarat’s BJP government released the 11 convicts in accordance with the state’s policy of pardoning them on the same day that Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed the significance of preserving women’s rights and dignity in his Independence Day speech.
“In fact, it impresses the pitfalls of and problems in the discriminatory and arbitrary use of executive power on the popular psyche,” the letter said.
The letter emphasised that in response to the question of whether due procedure had been followed in freeing the convicts. It underlines that “forgiveness can be granted only by the victim of oppression and violence”.
It further stated that Bilkis Bano had been kept in the dark by the organisations and structures who were debating the idea of remission.
“The release of the convicts doesn’t appear to be an act of mercy or an opportunity accorded for reformation, but an outright act of bad faith,” it said.
“We also would like to state that in a context when the nature of crime committed by the convicts globally falls within the category of heinous crimes and crimes against humanity and when the Centre’s existing policy on the subject prohibits remission in such cases, the state government’s decision sounds arbitrary, unfair, unreasonable, sets an ugly precedent and sends a potentially dangerous signal of impunity.”