Supreme Court questions release of Bilkis Bano’s rapists - IAMC
Supreme Court

Supreme Court questions release of Bilkis Bano’s rapists

The Supreme Court has questioned the Gujarat government’s release of eleven Hindu supremacist men who were convicted of gang-raping a pregnant Muslim woman, Bilkis Bano, and murdering most of her family members during the 2002 Gujarat violence. 

The rapist-murderers were released after a commission formed by the Gujarat government unanimously decided in favor of remission

“A pregnant woman was gang-raped and several people were killed,” said Justices K. M. Joseph and B. V. Nagarathna. “You cannot compare [the] victim’s case with standard [murder] cases. Like you cannot compare apples with oranges, similarly massacre cannot be compared with single murder.”

The comments were made after the federal and Gujarat state government told the Supreme Court that they may file a plea seeking a review of its order asking the state to be ready with original files on the grant of remission to the murderers and rapists.

“The question is whether the government applied its mind and what material formed the basis of its decision to grant remission,” the bench added. “Today it is Bilkis, but tomorrow it can be anyone. It may be you or me. If you do not show your reasons for grant of remission, then we will draw our own conclusions.”

When she was 21 years old, Bano was attacked by a Hindu mob along with 16 other family members while fleeing Hindu extremist mob violence in her Gujarat village. Bano, who was five months pregnant, was gang-raped and brutally assaulted, along with her mother and other women in her family. Bano’s three-year-old daughter was killed when a Hindu extremist smashed her on the ground. Only three members of the family survived the attack, including Bano. 

Gujarat Muslims recount horrors during Ram Navami attacks

Muslims in Gujarat state are still reeling from violent Hindu supremacist attacks carried out ahead of the Hindu festival Ram Navami, with several victims coming forward to recount the violence they witnessed at the hands of Hindu mobs and police alike.

One Muslim woman, Madinabibi, reported that minutes before her family prepared to break their Ramadan fast, police broke into their home and dragged away several of her family members, baselessly accusing them of pelting stones at a Hindu procession.

“They dragged my sons, my daughters-in-law, and my daughter out of our house. They emptied my home during iftar. I shouted, I begged and shrieked only to be met by their deafness,” said Madinabibi. 

Mufti Anas, an imam, recounts that a Hindu mob vandalized his mosque, broke inside, and began beating worshippers during prayer time.

“We were praying when stones were being pelted at the mosque, when we were offering [prayer], we could hear our windows cracking. Later, vandals also trespassed into the mosque, beat many [worshippers] and caused damage to the inside area as well,” Anas told The Wire, an Indian publication. 

He says that the Hindu supremacists have begun deliberately directing their processions through Muslim areas. 

“In my tenure, or even before that as a local, we have never seen the [Ram Navami procession] pass by the mosque… It is not the route they follow. And even if they decided to follow it, was there a need to vandalize our religious spaces to celebrate their religious festival?” asked Anas.

“It is just becoming an everyday act of provocation now; they will deliberately enter Muslim areas for their festivals,” said Kherunisa, a Muslim resident whose locale was attacked by a Hindu mob. “Around 1:30 pm, they put on loud music and the Hanuman Chalisa (Hindu religious song) right outside the mosque, and when they reached the dargah, they could be seen throwing stones inside the dargah premises.”

Despite these accounts, police have overwhelmingly arrested Muslims after Ram Navami violence, allowing Hindu supremacists to walk free. 

Civil rights group slams Karnataka laws that “harass” Muslims, Dalits

A civil rights group, Bahutva Karnataka, has slammed the Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Karnataka state government for passing laws that lead to attacks on minorities, including Muslims and Dalits, without due consultation.

One of these laws is the Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Act, 2021, which makes it illegal to buy, sell, transport, and slaughter all types of cattle. 

“It is evident that the law was passed to harass a section of Dalits and Muslims who are dependent on cattle for their livelihood,” Bahutva Karnataka said in a report. “This will have a negative impact not only for the nutrition and health of Dalits and Muslims but also on the entire farming community of the state.”

The majority of cattle traders in India are Muslim. Hindu supremacist cow vigilantes weaponize such laws in order to justify violent attacks and mob lynchings of Muslim men who are part of the cattle trade. 

Earlier this month, cow vigilantes in Karnataka lynched a Muslim cattle trader, Idrees Pasha, despite the fact that he showed them documents proving he was legally allowed to transport cattle.