Gujarat gang-rape survivor Bilkis Bano on Monday said that after 15 years of indescribable struggle she is preparing for a new beginning after last week’s court ruling, and urged that the 11 men convicted by the court should not be granted parole.
She hailed the Bombay High Court verdict of upholding life terms to the 11 convicts, and also welcomed the court’s May 4 verdict rejecting the CBI plea for death penalty for three of the convicts, saying she wanted justice not revenge.
“I am very happy with the verdict. It has ensured that people can have faith in the country’s judicial system and expect justice,” Bano said, addressing media persons at the Press Club of India here.
Brutalised by a gang of men and her nearly entire family wiped out in front of her eyes during the 2002 Gujarat riots, Bano says after the court ruling, she is preparing for a new beginning.
Bano and her husband Yakub said that in order to live without any fear, it was necessary that the convicts are not granted parole.
“The verdict is an opportunity for us to make a new beginning. For the last 15 years we have been living in constant fear, changing places, not able to go back home. It is important that the convicts are not granted parole,” said Bano.
“After the trial court’s sentencing in 2008, several of the convicts came out of jail with parole. We used to live in constant fear of retribution, threats and fear of being killed. The High Court should ensure that the convicts are not given parole now,” said Yakub.
Their appeal was endorsed by rights activists Kavita Srivastava and National Award winning film director Shonali Bose.
“While it might be too little too late, nonetheless the verdict is historic in the sense that perhaps for the first time policemen have been convicted for covering heinous crimes,” said Bose, referring to the High Court setting aside the acquittal of five policemen.
The policemen – charged with tampering of evidence by fudging documents and compromising the inquest panchnama (diary) – had been acquitted by a trial court in January 2008.
“Bilkis and Yakub along with their daughters have spent a long time in fear and apprehension. We, therefore demand that no parole be granted to any of the convicts,” she said.
“The right of granting parole is with jail authorities and the home department. We would urge them to ensure that the convicts are never given parole,” said Srivastava , National Secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties.