Four days had passed since the outbreak of Godhra violence which claimed lives of thousands of people. Bilkis Bano, a 5 month old pregnant lady along with 14 members of her family was trying to escape riot hit area where their house was located in. They were fleeing from the area in a truck that was loaded with around 30 people. The truck did not go far away before it encountered a ‘mob of devils’ who would later kill her entire family including her two year old daughter, her aged mother and others in her family. Bilkis Bano who was 5 months old pregnant at that time was gangraped by these people and left her for death. But fate had something else in store. Three hours later, Bilkis Bano regains her consciousness to realize that she has been brutally raped . Finding herself completely naked she goes behind the hills to cover herself up with whatever she had and with the help of tribals in the region gets back to life.
What makes this lady remarkable is the legal fight she embarked on post the untold miseries she had to undergo. She went to the nearest police station to file a complaint. Not only did the police officials refuse to register a case against the criminals, they even threatened her that she would have to face dire consequences should she plan to proceed further with the case. But these threats did not stop her from fighting further, little did the police officials know that threats were meaningless to a person who was brutally raped and who had the unfortunate fate to witness the murder of her family members .
She later approached the National Human Rights council and filed a case against the murderers and rapists who killed 14 members of her family and brutally raped her in broad daylight. The case was later handled by CBI who investigated the case and chargesheeted 17 of them. The High Court finally awarded life imprisonment to three members who were responsible for planning and executing the whole event and acquitted the remaining 14. In a later review demanding hanging till death to three convicts, the court convicted the remaining fourteen of them too. The police official who tampered the evidence was punished for three years. The Bilkis Bano case also becomes the first case after independence where criminals who were involved in rape during riots were punished in the court of law.
But Bilkis Bano is not ready to stop her fight. She is demanding that the three main convicts be sent to the gallows and be awarded death sentence. She is continuing her fight. The fight she has begun is not her fight alone, it’s the fight for her to regain her dignity. If she loses this fight, its the judiciary that is failing. The last and final hope of billions of people in this country goes for a toss if Bilkis Bano loses. At a time when the Nirbhaya rapists are awarded death sentence, the people of this country need to come in large numbers and pour onto the streets demanding justice for Bilkis Bano for her fight is for womanhood, its for humanity , its to re-ascertain the faith in humanity.
Women and children are often at the receiving end of any violence, be it large or small. Rapes and violence do not begin or end with Nirbhaya. It continues everyday. There are thousands of Nirbhayas in Kashmir, the tribal Chattisgarh and in other remote parts of the country.
If its the humanity within us that made us come out of our houses demanding justice for Nirbhaya in December 2013 , then that same humanity should not make us comfortable inside our homes when violence is meted out against Adivasis and other women in different conflict zones in the country. We should be loud enough to demand justice and ask questions irrespective of who the criminal is. Be the criminal a saint, a politician, a police official , an army men or any one for that matter . We should be bold enough to demand justice for those great women of Kunan Poshpora who had to suffer violence from the men in uniform. We should demand justice for tribal women in Chattisgarh, Odhisha and other parts of the country against whom rape is used as a political and supremacist tool by the unholy nexus of Corporates and government. We should demand justice for thousands of Dalit women against whom cruelty of the highest degree are meted out just because of the ‘sperm club’ in which they belonged to ( I use the term Dalit women here because like the previous case of Adivasis , even here Rape is used as a political tool because of their identity). And millions of other women, known and unknown, who are celebrated by media or ignored, should have access to justice. Otherwise, this selective outrage only in a few cases, conveniently ignoring the thousands of other violence would be nothing short of hypocrisy.