MPs, ministers, bureaucrats, movie stars condemn release of rapist-murderers
There has been an outpouring of condemnation across India of the Gujarat government’s decision to release 11 men convicted of the rape of Bilkis Bano, a Muslim woman, and the murder of 14 of her family members, including her mother and daughter.
Members of Parliament, state ministers, top bureaucrats, movie stars, jurists and activists joined the unreserved condemnation on Thursday, repulsed by a video showing the 11 now-middle-aged men emerging from prison in Gujarat on August 15, which happened to be India’s Independence Day, and being garlanded and fed sweets by supporters. Gujarat is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“Pregnant mother’s child snatched from her belly & other child killed in front of her,” tweeted Member of Parliament Mohua Moitra of the Trinamool Congress, which rules West Bengal state. “These rapists & murderers feted after being let out in shortest possible time. And we are lectured on how to respect women?”
Asaduddin Owaisi, India’s best-known Member of Parliament, tweeted: “This is PM [Narendra Modi’s] Modi’s “Nari shakti” [women empowerment] agenda. Gang-rape & child murder are “good sanskaar” [values].” Referring to Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he further wrote: “ It is BJP’s policy to stand by rapists.”
Information Technology Minister of Telangana state, K. T. Rama Rao, demanded that Modi revoke the release of the 11 Hindu men. “If you had really meant what you spoke about respecting women, I urge you to intervene and rescind the Gujarat government’s order,’’ he tweeted, referring to Modi’s Independence Day speech on August 15. Rao, who has 3.5 million followers on Twitter, courts must not free rapists on bail.
Movie star Prakash Raj, wrote to his 2.7 million followers on Twitter: “Speak up India… we as citizens cannot afford to be silent spectators to this regressive ecosystem.”
Telangana legislator K. Kavitha tweeted in Hindi, “The welcome to the rapists and murderers released from jail by people who follow a certain ideology is a slap on the face of a just society.” Her clear reference was to Hindu nationalism, the BJP’s ideology.
Asking the Supreme Court to intervene, she wrote, “This shameful decision must be withdrawn immediately so that citizens do not lose their faith in law and… and no lady has to go through what Bilkis Bano suffered.”
Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Smita Sabharwal who is secretary to Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao, tweeted: “As a woman and a civil servant, I sit in disbelief on reading the news on the Bilkis Bano case. We cannot snuff out her right to breathe free without fear again and call ourselves a free nation.” The federal government’s guidelines prohibited pardon for rapists and those serving life sentences, she wrote.
Some 6,000 eminent citizens and civil society groups released an open letter condemning the convicts’ release and demanded they be sent back to prison. The letter from activists, writers, historians, scholars, filmmakers, journalists and former bureaucrats wrote, “It shames us that the day we should celebrate our freedoms and be proud of our independence, the women of India instead saw gang-rapists and mass murderers freed as an act of State largesse. The [release] will have a chilling effect on every rape victim who is told to ‘trust the system’, ‘seek justice, [and] ‘have faith’.”
Dalit woman burnt alive by relatives for demanding the return of loan
Just days after a Dalit schoolboy was killed in Rajasthan state for drinking water from an earthen pot reserved only for upper castes, a 35-year-old Dalit woman was burnt alive in the same time, for demanding that they return her money she had loaned them.
The victim, identified as Anita by the police, died Tuesday. She was set on fire on August 10 by her relatives at her native village, 50 miles from Jaipur.
The victim’s family alleged the timely police intervention could have saved her life.
Kerala judge slammed for saying accused could not have ‘touched’ a low-caste woman
A lower court judge in Kerala state is being criticized for allowing bail to a writer-activist, theorizing that since the accused is an upper caste Hindu he could not have “touched” the complainant, a writer who belongs to the lower Dalit caste.
The judge in Kozhikode city granted anticipatory bail to the discredited writer-activist Civic Chandran, saying the accused had produced photographs showing the complainant in “sexually provocative” dresses.
“[it is] highly unbelievable that he will touch the body of the victim fully knowing that she is a member of the Scheduled Caste,” the judge said delivering the order on August 12.
The National Commission for Women (NCW) said it will move the High Court against the judge’s observations. NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma tweeted that the court’s observations were “unfortunate” and “overlooked [its] far-reaching consequences.”