Video: Bilkis Bano Gangrape Convicts Greeted With Sweets Upon Release

Center Against Releasing Rapists Yet 11, Walk Free in Bilkis Bano

The governments at the Centre and Gujarat — both run by the BJP — seem to differ in how to treat rape convicts, evident in the release of 11 men, who were serving life imprisonment for the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of her family during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

In June this year, proposing a special release policy for convicted prisoners to mark ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ (75 years of Independence), the Centre issued guidelines to states. This policy doesn’t grant freedom to rape victims. 

Technically speaking, it is possible that the Centre’s guidelines do not apply in the Bilkis bano case. In freeing the 11 men —  convicted of conspiring to rape a pregnant woman, and murder — the Gujarat government followed its own policy as per the Supreme Court’s directions in May to consider a remission plea by one of the convicts.

However, Gujarat’s move seems to conflict with Centre’s principled opposition for rape prisoners being released. The Centre’s guidelines (page 4, paragraph 5(vi)), which are available online at the Home Ministry, expressly state this opposition. One point states that only those with a life sentence will be freed. This, in turn, would have disqualified 11 of the life-term Bilkis Bano convicts.  

Bilkis Bano was 21 years old — five months pregnant — when she was raped and her toddler daughter killed along with six others from the family on March 3, 2002. They were hiding in fields near Ahmedabad, hoping to escape the violence that erupted after the burning of a Sabarmati Express coach that killed 59 ‘kar sevaks’ just days earlier.