Opposition parties have hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the release of 11 people convicted for the gangrape of the then 21-year-old Bilkis Bano in 2002. The guilty were also part of the mob that killed seven of her family members.
Ironically, the release came within hours of his praise for “Nari Shakti” during the Independence Day speech from Red Fort. The Opposition said this is the “real face of New India under the BJP.”
Lashing out at Namo, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera questioned the Prime Minister if he himself believed in his words when he spoke about the safety, respect and empowerment of women.
He further pointed out that the convicts were booked under CrPC 435, which clearly states that “in matters relating to such cases, the state government must act after consultation with the Central government.”
“Modi has been complicit in the decision. The BJP government in Gujarat released 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case. This decision brings out the BJP government’s mindset,” he told reporters. He also referred to the Kathua and Unnao cases and said it is a blot on the entire political system of the country.
“Yesterday, from the ramparts of the Red Fort, the Prime Minister spoke big things about women’s safety, women’s power, women’s respect. A few hours later the Gujarat government released those behind the rape. We also saw that the convicts in the rape who were released are being honoured. Is this the Amrit Mahotsav,” Khera said.
In a tweet, the CPI(M) also strongly condemned the release of the convicts, saying “this is the real face of New India — convicted killers and rapists released” and activist Teesta Setalvad “who fought for justice was jailed”.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi also targeted Prime Minister Modi over their release. In his Independence Day speech, Modi had asked Indians to take a pledge not to do anything that lowers the dignity of women, Owaisi said.
“Gujarat BJP govt released criminals convicted of gangrape on the same day. The message is clear,” Owaisi tweeted.
A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Mumbai on January 21, 2008, had sentenced the 11 accused to life imprisonment on charges of gang rape and murder of seven members of Bilkis Bano’s family during the 2002 Gujarat riots. Their conviction was later upheld by the Bombay High Court.
Modi, who was at that time the chief minister of Gujarat, has been persistently attacked by the Opposition over the riots which had left 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus dead while 223 more people were reported missing and another 2,500 were injured.
The riots erupted after the Godhra train burning incident in which 59 karsevaks were killed.