Such things are only to be expected as such heinous crimes are being committed with unfailing regularity and the culprits walking free with equally unfailing regularity. For this to change, it must be ensured that such criminals are not allowed to walk free to commit further crimes.
The Gujarat riots of 2002 haunts all sane people to this day. Twenty years after the riots, the three-day dance of death mostly targeted at one particular community still makes us wonder how people can be so inhuman. The initial mayhem was followed by more violence against the minority community in the state for about a year in places including Ahmedabad. The riots left more than one thousand dead, close to 800 of who were of the targeted community.
What has shocked the nation to the core is that justice has been elusive. This has been highlighted yet again recently with the rapists of Bilkis Bano walking free. The irony is that they were released even as India was celebrating 75 years of Independence, giving a very sinister twist to the meaning of independence. No matter what the circumstances, should these people walk out of jail. They caught a hapless woman and gangraped her as she fled her village fearing violence and also killed her three-and-a-half-year old daughter by smashing her head with a stone. Of the 17 people who were fleeing Radhikpur village in Dahod district of Gujarat, eight were killed, while Bilkis Bano and two others were alive. The other six were missing. The Independence that the nation celebrates is not meant to free those who have committed heinous crimes. Independence Day marks the country’s freedom from British rule and the beginning of a chapter where we, the citizens of India, come together to ensure a brighter future where all of us live as one. To quote a line from John Lennon’s Imagine, “Imagine all the people living life in peace…”
This is the reason that it is shocking that Bilkis Bano is still looking for justice while those accused of raping her, her mother and three other women, brutally killing her daughter, and killing several others not only walk free but are garlanded on their release in the manner of soldiers returning victorious from war.
Justice for Bilkis Bano and what remains of her family was doomed from the very beginning, though there was a ray of hope after some time. The then 21-year-old, who was unconscious for several hours after the attack, reached Limkheda police station in Dahod on regaining consciousness and filed a complaint with head constable Somabhai Gori. This is the first instance of the tragedy getting compounded. Gori, it was later found, distorted the complaint and suppressed crucial facts.
The second indicator that justice would be elusive was that the gangrape victim was taken for medical examination only after she reached the Godhra relief camp. Immense crucial time was lost in this manner and that would have impacted the investigation.
The other clincher that people were going all out to subvert justice was that the Central Bureau of Investigation, when it examined the case, found that none of the bodies of the people who were killed in the ghastly attack on the hapless group had skulls. It concluded that the post mortem and investigation had been conducted shoddily.
However, one person who was part of the Gujarat government panel that decided on the remission of the 11 men found guilty in the case takes the cake, indeed the whole bakery. This person, a member of the Legislative Assembly from the ruling party in the state has reportedly said that the panel had been told by the jailer that the behaviour of the 11 convicts was good. He is also reported to have said that these people are men with values as they belong to a particular community. These are the reasons that this MLA gives for the panel having decided on the remission of the sentences of these rapists and murderers.
If such reasoning is not offensive to people’s sensitivities, nothing would be. However, such things are only to be expected as such heinous crimes are being committed with unfailing regularity and the culprits walking free with equally unfailing regularity. For this to change, it must be ensured that such criminals are not allowed to walk free to commit further crimes. Only then can people live “life in peace”.
The author is a senior journalist who has chosen to write under the pen name Gypsy Scholar.
Image: This is a representative image.