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My case reflects State’s shameful failure in protecting its people: Bilkis Bano

Battle was never for revenge, but for justice, Bilkis Bano says on the life sentence given to the 11 persons convicted in her case

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

A gang-rape survivor of the 2002 Gujarat carnage, Bilkis Bano, on Wednesday hailed the Supreme Court’s order directing the Gujarat government to give Rs 50 lakh compensation, a job and accommodation to her.

She said the top court’s “exemplary” direction to the Gujarat government had reaffirmed her faith in judiciary and would give hope to other victims of communal violence and rape, even as she called for ending the “hate and fear gripping the country”.

Bano expressed her anguish that her family did not get any support from the Gujarat government during their 17-year-long struggle and fight for justice.
“My case is about the shameful failure of the State in protecting its people,” Bano told a press conference at the Press Club of India here this afternoon.

Seven members of her family were killed and Bano, who was then five-month pregnant, was gang-raped during a mob attack on them on 3 March 2002 at Randhikpur village near Ahmedabad in the course of the post-Godhra, anti-Muslim riots.

“The Supreme Court’s direction to Gujarat government has reaffirmed my faith in judiciary and the Constitution,” she said.

Bano said she would use part of her compensation to help other women survivors of communal hate and violence. She will create a fund in the memory of her first child Saleha so that it could help other women survivors of communal violence in their struggle for justice. Saleha was brutally killed by a mob during the riots.

“I want to help educate their children, in whose lives the spirit of my daughter Saleha will live on,” said an emotional Bilkis, who was accompanied by her husband Yakub and her minor daughter.

“No citizen should have to suffer at the hands of the State whose duty it is to protect the citizen,” Bano said. They must pay for their enormous lapse of all morality in those hate-filled days and nights, she added.

Speaking about her 17-year-long struggle for justice, she said, “It has been a journey of a million steps, first seeking criminal conviction of those who destroyed my life, my child, my entire family.”

READ | SC directs Gujarat govt to pay solatium of Rs 50 lakh to 2002 riots victim Bilkis Bano

“The Supreme Court’s order to me is not about the money. It is about the signal it has sent to the State and to each citizen of this country. We have rights that no State can be allowed to violate,” said Bano, who has virtually been leading a nomadic life due to safety concerns for many years.

She said she could not even give a proper burial to her daughter Saleha ~ something which she said had always haunted her.

“My daughter Saleha’s body was lost in the tide of hatred that swept over Gujarat in 2002. There is no grave for Saleha that I could visit and weep upon. But her spirit has been with me. I know she is up there, somewhere, and through helping others, she will live on in the lives of other children,” she said.

Bano said her 16-year-old elder daughter, who was in her womb during the 2002 carnage, wanted to be a lawyer to fight for justice for others. On being asked if she was satisfied with the life sentence given to the 11 convicted in her case, Bano said her “battle was never for revenge, but for justice”.