Bilkis Bano case convicts greeted with sweets; Owaisi questions PM Modi

Bilkis Bano case convicts greeted with sweets; Owaisi questions PM Modi

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi on Tuesday slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the release of 11 convicts sentenced to life imprisonment for Bilkis Bano’s gang-rape and murder of seven of her family during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Owaisi said in his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Modi had asked Indians to take a pledge not to do anything that lowers the dignity of women.

“He said something about supporting ‘Nari Shakti’. The Gujarat BJP government released criminals convicted of gang rape on the same day. The message is clear,” he tweeted.

At a press conference, he said, “We condemn this. The country is watching how the BJP gives only lip service to women’s empowerment and respect for women. But when it comes to Muslim women, they forget them.”

The AIMIM chief also sought to know from Modi whether the release of the convicts is an example of women’s empowerment, alleging the BJP takes decisions that “benefit one community”.

“If that is the case, then release those who are in jail for Godhra, Rubina Memon who has been in jail for 17 years, despite the vehicle not being in her name. Those who are in jail for the Vadodra serial blasts. But you (BJP) are biased toward only one community. This is the reality of the BJP,” he charged.

Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was raped while fleeing the violence that broke out post the Sabarmati train incident in Godhra.

On Monday, the day after the convicts walked out of jail, they were welcomed with sweets and garlands outside the jail.

Bilkis Bano’s husband said he came to know of their release from the media. “We were surprised to know that the convicts have been released,” Yakub Rasul told news agency PTI.

“We don’t know when the convicts processed their application and which ruling the state government took into consideration. We never received any kind of notice,” Rasul said.

Rasul said the Gujarat government had paid the family a compensation of 50 lakh as directed by the Supreme Court but is yet to provide a job or a house as directed by the apex court.

Rasul said he lives virtually in hiding with his wife and five sons, the eldest one 20 years old.

The 11 convicts who were granted premature release are Jaswantbhai Nai, Govindbhai Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radheshyam Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt, and Ramesh Chandana. Radheshyam Shah, the convict whose plea for premature release paved the way for all the 11 life sentence convicts to walk out of jail, said he feels happy to be released.

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