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2002 to 2022, Gujarat To India: A roadmap of the condition of Muslim women

Article – Noor Mahvis

The hate crimes and dehumanization of Muslim Women as a “Tool” to Project hate against the Muslim community and the fall of democracy.

11 convicts serving life imprisonment in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case from the 2002 Gujarat riots were released from the Godhra sub-jail on Monday after a state government panel approved their application for remission of sentence.

Who is Bilkis Bano?

Bilkis Bano is an Indian Muslim woman who was gang raped by Hindutva groups in the 2002 anti-Muslim Gujarat riots. She was 5 months pregnant at that time. Her children and 7 other family members were also killed during the carnage. The Rapist and attackers first raped Bilkish Bano’s mother and her two sisters, killed her 3-year-old daughter, and then assaulted and raped pregnant Bilkis Bano. In an hour’s time, swords inflicted blood on each and every member of her family, and what remained were mutilated heads and ripped bodies. One of the attackers disintegrated her three-year-old daughter, Saleha’s head on a rock and killed her on the spot. As Bilkis was witnessing the horrific situation, another group of fanatics ripped off Bilkis Bano’s clothes. Bilkis pleaded with them, kept repeating and requesting in Gujarati that she was five months pregnant, but that did not discourage the men who wanted to protect Hindu pride by violating Muslim women.

Assuming Bilkis Bano to be dead, the rioters left her. When Bilkis gained consciousness after hours, she covered her body with a petticoat and saw that her family members including her mother, daughter, and sisters are murdered by the Karsevaks and attackers. Bilkis covered herself, walked to the interiors of another village seeking help, and went to a tribal family.

At a press conference in 2004, Bilkis Bano said “Is it not the state’s responsibility to protect us, and should it not compensate us for the occurrence? Today, along with a sense of hope I am also filled with sadness because I know the manner in which sexual violence was systematically used against so many women of my community in the Gujarat anti-Muslim riots of 2002. I am not the only one.”

As Bilkis Bano intensified her battle against all odds, she kept receiving threats forcing her to change her residence as many as 20 times in two years. She later filed a plea in the Supreme Court for the transfer of the case outside Gujarat

After 6 years of struggle, The Bilkis Bano case turned into a new chapter. On January 21, 2008, a special court convicted 11 and sentenced to life imprisonment 11 men for the incident. Acquitted seven persons including the policemen and two doctors who were accused of tampering with evidence.

Does New India NOT belong to Bilkis Bano?

The Rapists of Bilkis Bano, the Murderers of her Kids, Mother, and sisters, are free on the 76th Independence Day of India. When the rest of the country was celebrating Azaadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, and celebrating the freedom to live with dignity, equality, and diversity, the rapists of Bilkis Bano were freed from Jail. After, release on Monday, the convicts were welcomed by being greeted with sweets outside the Godhra jail. In the video, a few women were also seen greeting these rapists & Rioters with Tilak and Arti. The Rapist and Murderers of the anti-Muslim Riot of Gujarat 2002, were also garlanded by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

The trauma of Bilkis Bano is beyond imagination, after the release of all 11 convicts Bilkis Bano retort that, “ I want to stay alone, Please I have prayed for my daughter’s soul `Saleha’ who was murdered in front of my eyes. In recent, Yakoob Rasool ( husband of Bilkis Bano) also respond to the release of these 11 convicts he added “the battle we have been fighting for years, the struggle the fight has been swaddle in just a moment of time, My wife Bilkis was assaulted, she witnessed the brutal murder of our daughter, she was sexually violated not only as women but as mother and a human also, their nothing worse than that, we are exhausted after remission and release of all 11 convicts.

The author of “Gujarat files” Journalist Ranna Ayyub writes about Bilkis Bano, “The story of Bilkis was the story of Gujarat, a story that would haunt the moral conscience of the country.”

“I first saw Bilkis at a press conference in Gujarat. She was surrounded by activists and her husband sat by her side. She was a young woman, barely 20, aged overnight by the trauma inflicted on her. I sat in the last row amid a group of journalists, activists and lawyers. At no point in my journalism career, despite attending most of her press meets, her informal meeting with journalists, have I been able to approach Bilkis with a question. Each time Bilkis would speak, a part of me would return to the horrors of 1992-93 when my sister and I were overnight sent to a hideout to escape rioters who had planned to attack our family and abduct the two of us.” Ranna Ayyub (Journalist and the author of Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up)

In the book Gujarat Files, Ranna Ayyub writes Page 162:

“Bilkis Knew many of these man, they had been her neighbours for years, the house of Bipin Chandra Joshi, for instance, had faced her own, Bilkis’s Father often visited Bipin’s father who ran a clinic, for treatment. Radhyasham Shah, an advocate, also owned a bangle shop in the village. The Bangles Bilkis wore on her wrist that morning were from his shop. Pradeep Modhiya ran a small hotel as did Naresh Modhiya; Raju Soni owned a shop these were all men who had known Bilkis’s family, had lived alongside them. Shailesh Bhatt, who lived close to a mosque in a Randhikpur, snatched Saleha from Bilkis, ‘don’t hurt my daughter’ Bilkis begged. Just a few weeks earlier, Shailesh Bhatt visited Bilkis house in the village for a cup of tea. On this day he killed a 3-and-a-half-year-old child by dashing her head against a rock. Some other middle-aged Hindu men including Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai and Naresh Modhiya ( who died during the trail) dragged Bilkis towards tree and tore at her clothes. Bilkis turned to Jaswant “Chacha I am five months pregnant” (Pg- 162, Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up)

Bilkis call, some of them “Bhai” (brother), Chacha (uncle), she offered tea to one of her assaulters just a few days before the riots, the trauma of watching your sister and mother being violated for being Muslim, watching a three-year-old daughter being murdered and being assaulted as women, begging that she was 5 months pregnant doesn’t stop the Hindutva protectors to violate her. Most of them were known to her.

It’s now been 20 years of injustice against Bilkis Bano and the entire Muslim community who have faced the trauma, harassment, and despoilment of lives and properties during the Gujarat anti-Muslim riots of 2002. The, then chief minister of Gujarat and now the serving Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi has repeatedly raised the slogan of “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao“. A daughter of India, Bilkis is waiting for justice since 20 years…… Not only Bilkis but thousands of Muslim women and families who are in camps, and thousands of those whose stories are still unheard and unreported Such as Kauser bi, Zakiya Jafri, and so on.. it has been 20 years of injustice and discrimination against Muslim minorities of India after Gujarat Riots. The indifference of the justice system and the administration continues to rub salt on the wounds of India’s Muslims.

(Noor Mahvish, Activist & student)

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