Age: 41 Years
Husband: Yakub Rasool
Hometown: Deogarh Baria, Gujarat
Some Lesser Known Facts About Bilkis Bano
- Bilkis Bano is an Indian rape survivor who was brutally raped by some people during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
- On 27 February 2002, a coach of the Sabarmati Express was going from Ayodhya to Godhra, carrying mostly Hindu passengers. The train was allegedly stopped by a mob of Muslims. The mob attacked the passengers and set the train on fire, killing more than 59 Hindu devotees.
- The incident sparked outrage among the Hindus living in Gujarat and marked the beginning of the Gujarat riots. The day after the incident, mobs of Hindus started attacking Muslims in different parts of Gujarat.
- One such family of Muslims that was attacked by a Hindu mob was the family of Bilkis Bano, a Godhra resident. When Bilkis and his family got the news of the attack, they fled their house and hid at the village sarpanch’s residence. Bilkis, who was 5 months pregnant at that time, was accompanied by her daughter, mother, siblings and some other family members. In an interview, Bilkis recalled that time and said,
I was cooking lunch in the kitchen when my aunt and her children came running. They said their houses were being set on fire and we had to leave immediately. We went to the clothes we were wearing, we didn’t even have time to put on our slippers. ,
- Then they hide in a school in their village and then in a mosque. During the escape, one of her cousins, who was in the last month of her pregnancy, gave birth to a baby girl. Bilquis and his family members tried to escape for about 2-3 days, but were attacked on 3 March 2002 by a mob of 20-30 people armed with swords and sticks.
- Bilkis, his mother and other female members of their family were brutally raped by some men. A man in the crowd snatched Bilquis’ daughter from him and stoned her daughter. Of the 17 members of Bilkis’ family, eight were found dead (including his daughter) and others went missing. She survived because she had fainted and the crowd thought she was dead.
- According to media sources, he regained consciousness after about three hours. She found herself naked, then she covered her body with a petticoat and ran to a nearby hill. The day after the incident, as she was in search of water, she reached a handpump, where a tribal woman gave her some clothes to cover her body.
- Bilkis then saw a police officer nearby and approached him for help. Police officers took him to Limkheda police station. On reaching the police station, he gave his statement to the police head constable Somabhai Ghori.
- Bilkis was the sole witness to the incident and knew the names of the accused as most of the men were from her village. The head constable did not register her complaint and sent her to a relief camp, where she reunited with her husband. Speaking to reporters later, Bilkis’s husband spoke about the incident, saying,
I put everything aside – the riots, the family we lost. I spoke to him lovingly, I tried to take him out of the pain he had gone through. Since then, I have heard Bilkis testify millions of times to NGO activists, lawyers, journalists, but I have never asked him – what happened to you? Who did what? You have heard the words too, but every time I have felt them in my heart. ,
- After arriving at the relief camp, Bilkis underwent a medical examination, and his case was taken up by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The Supreme Court transferred his case to the CBI. Initially, the CBI tried to trace the dead members of his family, but most of those killed were beheaded. Hence, it became difficult to identify his family members.
- Later, Bilkis approached the Supreme Court to move her case outside Gujarat, as she was receiving death threats, and she moved to 20 different apartments fearing the threats. In August 2004, the Supreme Court transferred his case from Gujarat to Mumbai. A case was registered against 19 people, including six police officers and a government doctor, in connection with the rape of Bilkis in a special court in Mumbai. Later, Indian lawyer Shobha Gupta took the case of Bilkis.
- On 21 January 2008, 13 men were convicted of rape, 11 of whom were sentenced to life imprisonment. According to the special court, Jaswantbhai Nai, Govindbhai Nai and Naresh Kumar Mordhia (deceased) had raped Bilkis and Shailesh Bhatt had killed their daughter. The other convicts in the case were Radheshyam Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Vohania, Bakabhai Vohaniya, Rajubhai Soni, Nitesh Bhatt, Ramesh Chandana and head constable Sombhai Ghori.
- In May 2017, the Bombay High Court upheld the decision of the Mumbai Special Court.
- In 2019, the Supreme Court of India directed the Gujarat government to pay a compensation of Rs 50 lakh to Bilkis, however, Bilkis refused to take the compensation.
- The convicts in the Bilkis Bano case were released from the Godhra sub-jail on 15 August 2022. Earlier, a panel was constituted by the Gujarat government, which approved the application for relaxation of life imprisonment to the convicts. On the release of the convicts, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Raj Kumar said,
The exemption application was considered because the convicts had completed 14 years in prison, and factors such as “age, nature of the offence, behavior in prison, etc”.
- In an interview, Bilkis, speaking to reporters, said she was stunned when she heard that her convicts had been released. He said,
The decision to free the men was “unjust”. It has “shaken” my faith in justice. When I heard that the criminals who destroyed my family and life were set free, I had no words. I’m still numb. How can justice for any woman end like this? I had faith in the highest courts of my country. I trusted the system, and I was slowly learning to live with my trauma. The release of these convicts has taken away my peace and shaken my faith in justice.” I appeal to the Gujarat government to “undo this loss” and “give me back my right to live in peace and without fear.” “
When reporters asked Bilkis’s husband about this, he said,
We are numb, stunned and shaken. The battle we fought for so many years has been reduced to an instant. The life sentence given by the court has been cut like this… We had never even heard the word ‘remission’. We didn’t even know such a process existed.”
- When the convicts were released, they were welcomed by their family members and relatives with sweets and garlands. Some media houses shared photographs in which the RSS organized a welcome party for the convicts where they were being felicitated. The videos and pictures went viral on social media and received criticism from netizens.
- Later talking to reporters, one of the convicts Shailesh Bhatt said,
We were victims of politics. Singrauli is a small village. All the culprits are from this village. We were all victims of politics. I was a farmer and also an office-bearer of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) district unit, while my brother worked as a clerk in the Panchmahal dairy when we were arrested. We were arrested in 2004 and we were in jail for more than 18 years. It is nice to be at home with my family members. Everyone is glad we are back. My son was eight or nine then, now he is an adult and works in Panchmahal Dairy. I am happy for him.”