Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

US Govt Body Condemns Release Of Bilkis Rape Convicts

August 20, 2022

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has condemned the “premature and unjustified” release of 11 accused of the gang rape of Bilquis Bano and the murder of his family members during the 2002 riots in Gujarat.

USCIRF Vice President Abraham Cooper said, “USCIRF strongly condemns the early and unjustified release of 11 men sentenced to life in prison for raping a pregnant Muslim woman and committing murder against Muslim victims during the 2002 Gujarat Riots,”

The swift release of the accused was called a “travesty of justice” by USCIRF Commissioner Stephen Schneck, who said it was part of a “pattern of impunity” in India for those involved in violence against religious minorities.

“The failure to hold accountable perpetrators of the 2002 Gujarat Riots who committed physical and sexual violence is a travesty of justice. It is part of a pattern of impunity in India for those engaged in violence against religious minorities,” USCIRF tweeted quoting Schneck as saying.

This comes after 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano rape case were released under Gujarat’s immunity policy when they were sentenced in 2008.

The Gujarat government released the 11 convicts, who were sentenced to life imprisonment, on August 15.

Bano later issued a statement criticizing the decision. In a statement issued on his behalf by his lawyer Shobha, Bano said that nobody enquired about her safety and well-being before taking “such a big and unjust decision,” and appealed to the Gujarat government to “undo this harm” and give back her right to “live without fear and in peace.”

Family members of Bilkis Bano were attacked by a mob at Randhikpur village in Limkheda taluka of the Dahod district during the post-Godhra riots on March 3, 2002. Bilkis Bano, who was five months pregnant at that time, was gang-raped and seven members of her family were killed.

In a separate statement, the All India Democratic Women’s Association condemned the action, calling it “outrageous and shocking”. “On a day when the Prime Minister was highlighting the need to protect women against crimes, the BJP’s Gujarat government decided to release those convicted of brutal gang rape and murder. It sets a bad precedent that crimes against Muslims can be committed with virtual impunity and no accountability.”