New Delhi, Aug 16 (EFE).- The release of 11 prisoners convicted of raping a Muslim woman during religious riots in India, despite them being sentenced to life terms, on Tuesday trigger outrage in the country, with politicians and activists condemning the lenience shown towards these crimes.
The 11, convicted for the gang-rape of Bilkis Bano and for killing seven members of her family in 2002 during the inter-religious violence in the western state of Gujarat, were released after 14 years in prison thanks to a “remission” policy of the regional government.
Bano was pregnant when she was raped and her daughter was killed along with seven family members in early March 2002, when they were trying to hide from a wave of religious violence that left thousands dead.
“They killed 7 of her family members, Then they snatched her 3-year-old from her arms and smashed her to the ground killing the child. And then the 7 men (…) took turn raping her- a very pregnant woman,” tweeted Lavanya Ballal, a spokesperson of the opposition party Indian National Congress.
Gujarat is governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was the chief minister of this state in 2002 and has been repeatedly accused of deliberately not acting to prevent the massacres and violence against Muslims.
The riots that lasted for several days erupted after a train caught fire on Feb.27, 2002, resulting in the death of 59 Hindu pilgrim travelers in the village of Godhra in Gujarat.
It led to the indiscriminate killing, mostly of Muslims, the community blamed for the train fire.
Radical Hindu mobs attacked Muslim neighborhoods, leaving hundreds dead and wounded, while women were gang-raped and mosques and Muslim houses were destroyed.
Shamshad Pathan, a lawyer for the victims of the violence, told reporters that many people convicted for lesser crimes remained in prison but the rapists had been released.
Bano’s husband Yakum Rasul said that he came to know of the release through media, and that not a day went when the family did not think of the members they lost in the incident, including the daughter.
Activist Yogita Bhyana, the founder of People Against Rape in India, expressed her outrage over the release at a time when India was celebrating the 75th anniversary of independence.
“It is sad to see this, today the soul shivers by this. What immorality has this country descended to,” she tweeted.
Asaduddin Owaisi, the president of Muslim-dominated party AIMIM, also criticized Modi and Gujarat BJP over the policy that led to the convicts’ release, alleging that the government was indifferent to crime against women when the victims were Muslim.
Feminist activist Kavita Krishnan also took to social media to address Modi, who had issued an appeal to respect women in his independence day address on Monday.
“Shri @PMOIndia @narendramodi when you said ‘respect women’ y’day, did you mean, give congratulatory laddoos (sweets) to rapists and killers who have been freed by your party’s govt in Gujarat? Are these rapist ‘uncles’ and ‘brothers’ getting laddoos coz they raped Bilkis Bano, a Muslim?” she tweeted.
India witnessed a series of unprecedented protests against violence against women in 2012, after a university student was gang-raped onboard a bus in New Delhi and subsequently died of her serious injuries.
The case marked a turning point on the issue in the country and laws against sexual assault were made harsher, including the provision of the death penalty, although critics have said that the measures are insufficient and that justice is not the same for all victims, as evident in Bano’s case. EFE