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'I am still numb': Bilkis Bano on release of convicts

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New Delhi, Aug 17: Bilkis Bano, a survivor of the 2002 post-Godhra riots in Gujarat, on Wednesday she was "bereft of words" and "numb" after 11 men who raped her were set free.

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Bilkis Bano

In a statement released by her lawyer, Bano said, "Two days ago, on August 15, 2022 the trauma of the past 20 years washed over me again. When I heard that the 11 convicted men who devastated my family and my life, and took from me my 3-year-old daughter, had walked free. I was bereft of words. I am still numb."

"Today, I can say only this - how can justice for any woman end like this? I trusted the highest courts in our land. I trusted the system, and I was learning slowly to live with my trauma," the statement said.

"The release of these convicts has taken from me my peace and shaken my faith in justice. My sorrow and my wavering faith is not for myself alone but for every woman who is struggling for justice in courts," it added.

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"No one enquired about my safety and well-being, before taking such a big and unjust decision. I appeal to the Gujarat Government, please undo this harm. Give me back my right to live without fear and in peace. Please ensure that my family and I are kept safe," the statement concludes.

A special CBI court in Mumbai had on January 21, 2008, sentenced to life imprisonment all the 11 accused in the case for murder and gang rape. Their conviction was later upheld by Bombay High Court. These convicts served more than 15 years in prison, after which one of them approached the Supreme Court with a plea for his premature release.

The apex court had directed the Gujarat government to look into the issue of remission of his sentence as per its 1992 policy on the basis of the date of his conviction. Thereafter, the government formed a committee and issued an order allowing premature release of all the convicts from jail.

On March 3, 2002, Bilkis Bano's family was attacked by a mob at Randhikpur village in Limkheda taluka of Dahod district. Bilkis Bano, who was five months pregnant at the time, was gang raped and seven members of her family were killed by rioters.

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