Bilkis Bano’s hometown, Randhikpur, in Gujarat’s Dahod district is in news again. And not for the right reason.
The village hit headlines when, in 2002, Bano was gang-raped and members of her family killed in front of her. The area had seen a semblance of normality over the years with violence-affected people having returned to their homes to continue to live there.
But that semblance of calm was broken following a road accident involving an auto-rickshaw on the evening of Monday, March 6. The autorickshaw driver is said to have been a local Muslim man and injured a Hindu, who later died after being taken to the hospital.
Eyewitnesses say that angry relatives of the deceased gathered at the hospital and the scene looked set for a confrontation. Yuvan Farooq, a local at the spot said that the crowds appeared angry but a clash was averted as local Muslims all fled their homes and locked up the Masjid. Almost all Muslims are said to be taking shelter in neighbouring Devgath Baria village with their relatives.
At present, only one Muslim woman and her son are in Randhikpur, with the woman, having recently lost her husband, completing the ritual period of seclusion for 40 days after the death, and therefore reluctant to leave. Locals say Randhikpur has a lot of police posted there to prevent any “untoward incident.”
Bilkis Bano has been in the news recently after the Gujarat government granted remission of sentence to the 11 men convicted of her gang rape and the murder of several of her family members in August last year.