The convicts should be hanged or kept in jail for life: Bilkis Bano case eyewitness

The eyewitness was seven when a mob attacked his cousin Bilkis Bano and others during the 2002 Gujarat riots

On 8 January, SC overturned Gujarat's August 2022 decision to release 11 convicts serving life terms for the gang rape and murder of Bilkis Bano and 14 others. (photo: National Herald archives)
On 8 January, SC overturned Gujarat's August 2022 decision to release 11 convicts serving life terms for the gang rape and murder of Bilkis Bano and 14 others. (photo: National Herald archives)
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PTI

The only eyewitness in the Bilkis Bano case has said that the individuals convicted for the gruesome crime must be hanged or jailed for the remainder of their lives and only then would justice be served.

The eyewitness was seven when a mob attacked his cousin Bilkis Bano and others in Limkheda taluka of Gujarat’s Dahod district and killed 14 of them during riots that erupted in 2002 after the Godhra train burning incident.

He is now 28 years old and lives in Ahmedabad with his wife and 5-year-old son.

“I had endured the trauma of watching my loved ones being killed in front of my eyes. I still wake up in the night and scream as those moments haunt me even after all these years,” he said.

On 8 January 2023, the Supreme Court quashed the Gujarat government's decision, taken in August 2022, to prematurely release 11 convicts facing life term for the gang rape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of 14 persons.

“I felt very hurt when they were set free. I am somewhat relieved now because they will be sent behind bars once again. My mother and my elder sister were among the 14 who were killed that day in front of my eyes," he said.

“All the convicts must be either hanged for or they must be kept behind bars for the remainder of their lives. Only then justice will be served. These men must never be set free again,” he asserted.

After the Godhra train burning incident on 27 February, 2002, riots broke out in different parts of the state.

To save themselves, a group of 17 persons, mostly women and children, left Randhikpur village in Limkheda taluka of Dahod district and headed towards Devgadh Baria town via a forest, said a social activist who gave shelter to that boy.

“Bilkis Bano along with this boy (eyewitness) and his mother and elder sister were also in that group, which was attacked by a mob on 3 March. Of those 17, the mob killed 14, including an infant, and then gang-raped Bilkis. They also tried to kill Bilkis and this boy but they survived. A 4-year-old boy also survived the attack after the mob left thinking everyone was dead,” said the activist seeking anonymity.

The boy spent some time in a relief camp in Godhra after the incident and was then shifted by him to a residential school in Kutch, said the activist who became his guardian and brought him up.

“Since he was the only eyewitness, he testified before a special CBI court in 2005 in Mumbai. His testimony proved crucial because it matched the sequence of events narrated by complainant Bilkis Bano. He also identified four of the 11 accused during the hearing,” the activist said.

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Published: 12 Jan 2024, 10:10 AM
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