‘Let us end hate and fear in the country’, urges Gujarat pogrom survivor,Bilkis Bano

Speaking about her 17 year long struggle for justice and seeking accountability from the State, 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.

By Abdul Bari Masoud
New Delhi: “It’s not about the money, it is about the message that “no citizen of India should have to suffer violations by the State and let us end this hate and fear.” This is what the Gujarat pogrom’s gang-rape victim Bilkis Rasul Bano said at a crowded Press Conference at the Press Club of India here after the Supreme Court ordered the Gujarat government to compensate her with Rs 50 lakh and a government job with accommodation.
While thanking the apex court for this historic verdict which has a new precedent and would discourage the State from taking side in communal violence, BilkisBano said with wet eyes that it has been a very painful period of 17 years for herwho had sought exemplary compensation from the state government, refusing to accept its offer of Rs 5 lakh.
“I kept my faith in the Constitution and in my rights as a citizen, and the Supreme Court has stood with me. For that I am truly grateful to the honorable Judges.”
After the Gujarat riots were engineered allegedly by the ruling party, while fleeing from the violence on March 3, 2002, Bilkis Bano was sexually assaulted in Randhikapur village near Ahmedabad. She was then 21 years old and five month pregnant. She was gang-raped and 14 members of her family, including her 3 and half year old daughter, murdered. Several female members of her family were raped and murdered. Bilkis is the only adult survivor and eyewitness to the horrific massacre, who stood like a solid rock to fight her case despite all odds and continued intimidations to withdraw the case.
Speaking about her 17 year long struggle for justice and seeking accountability from the State, 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.
When asked what she planned to do with the money, BiklisBano said she wanted to finally give her children a stable life. Perhaps see her eldest daughter grow up into a lawyer who can defend others.“I also want to use part of the money to help other women survivors of hate and communal violence seek justice. I want to help educate their children, in whose lives the spirit of my daughter Saleha will live on,” said an emotional Bilkis, with her husband Yakub solidly by her side.
Flanked by her husband and her advocate Shobha and other activists, BilkisBano said it is historic day for women’s rights and state accountability as it is for the first time in India, compensation of this magnitude has been awarded to a survivor of gang-rape and mass murder during communal and targeted violence.

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