One of the 11 men who gangraped Bilkis Bano during the 2002 Gujarat riots and were released prematurely, was seen sharing stage with a BJP MP at a government programme in Gujarat yesterday. The release of the men has been challenged in the Supreme Court and the case will be heard on Monday.
The group water supply scheme event took place on in Karmadi Village of Dahod district on March 25. Shailesh Chimanlal Bhatt was seen on stage with Dahod MP Jasvant Sinh Bhabhor and Limkheda MLA Sailesh Bhabhor and posing for photos at the event. The two leaders were not available for comment.
The 11 convicts were released on Independence Day last year, triggering a flood of outrage across the country. They were convicted in 2008 for gangraping Bilkis Bano — then five months’ pregnant — and killing seven members of her family. Her three-year-old daughter was among those killed. Seven other relatives, who she says were also killed, were declared “missing”.
The atrocities took place as violence swept Gujarat following the attack on Sabarmati Express, in which 59 ‘kar sevaks’ died.
Last month, a bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala assured Bilkis Bano that a new bench will be formed at the earliest to hear the petitions against their release.
A series of petitions have been filed against the release of the rapists in the Bilkis Bano case. The petitioners include Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, CPM Politburo member Subhashini Ali and others.
Bilkis Bano had filed two petitions — one of them asks the top court to review its May 2022 order, directing the Gujarat government to consider a convict’s release plea. That has been dismissed by the court.
In response to the court’s order and one convict’s release petition, the Gujarat government had released all the convicts on an outdated policy, consulting a panel that included men linked to the ruling BJP.
The panel members had justified their decision calling the men “sanskari” Brahmins who have already served 14 years in prison and displayed good behaviour.