Remission To Bilkis Rapist

‘Remission to Rapists Shouldn’t Have Been Granted in the First Place’

Remission To Bilkis Rapist

Swati Goswami, an Ahmedabad-based writer and human rights activist, says the Bilkis Bano case is a glaring example of how the BJP operates to skirt the law. Her views

Rape is an act of vengeance and violence against an individual’s refusal, or, against the identity of a community. Remission of rapists without the consent of the victim/survivor is a fraud. Just like a rapist misuses physical power, the State misused its power brazenly to remit the rapists and murderers of Bilkis Bano and her family.

Was Bilkis consulted before remitting her 11 rapists? Did the convicts apologise and plead forgiveness for their heinous crimes? The answer is an emphatic NO. With the power to remit comes the responsibility to involve the survivor for reformative justice. Remission has to be reasonable, which in this case is far from reality. What if the convicts had tried to harm the family again? Who would have been responsible? If a misleading writ petition can result in a two-judge bench changing the decision, how can we trust the judicial system?

I am extremely happy for Bilkis, her dogged resilience, her strength of character, and her undeservingly long and protracted struggle for justice. However, I won’t congratulate the Supreme Court for revoking the remission order because the remission should never have been permitted in the first instance! How could the remission plea be heard with such ignorance by the highest court of the land for such a horrific crime? How could they not know that the crime was a part of the widespread and vicious communal violence of 2002 in Gujarat, which has not only been a barbaric event in itself, but which has also resulted in what the country is paying for since 2014? The resulting social and communal polarization in Gujarat literally propelled Narendra Modi as the next chief minister yet again, and, eventually, as the prime minister of India.

The very reason this case was moved out of Gujarat was because a free and fair trial wouldn’t have been possible here. Then, how could the court take the government at face-value?

I won’t actually blame the Gujarat government because that is how the BJP operates. That is why the case was moved to Maharashtra. The Gujarat riots and its modus-operandi, targeting one community, are well documented — that is why Bilkis was raped and her family killed.

We expect no sensitivity and justice from them. However, the judges, as the final custodians of justice, what were they thinking? This is about a gang-rape survivor, her little child who was smashed to death, her murdered family and her entire community! Where is the seriousness of the law? 

Are we to believe that a pregnant gang-rape survivor will not get justice unless five other women file separate petitions? Bilkis moved the court against the remission after one of the convict’s challenged the other petitions by “complete strangers”. Why should she fight alone? It was not a personal crime. It was a social crime with the BJP brass as its naked back-dancers — performing in front of the whole country.

The story of Bilkis is not a women’s issue, even though only women came forward to undo the injustice. It is about the ugly binaries of this country, especially in the contemporary era. 

ALSO READ: ‘Bilkis Banop’s Rapists Were Lionized’

Bilkis won, not once but twice, against the highest level of political, communal and patriarchal violence. What she managed to achieve is incredible, especially as a Muslim woman in India, especially in such bleak and difficult times. I cannot even begin to imagine her rage at the sight of her rapists being felicitated or called ‘Sanskari’. Bilkis stood firm against the entire might of the political system and fought each time it tried to violate her.

And we must not forget her husband, Yakub, who stood by her throughout the unimaginable trauma. In a society, where men rarely stand against their own families for their wives, Yakub is a role model as he stood against a mighty government. For a Muslim man in India to show such courage against decades-long State-backed injustice is laudable.

Some of us had met him after the rapists were released. He mentioned how intimidating their Whatsapp status and indirect but intentional conversations were. He feared for the safety of Bilkis and his family. Some Muslim families had started moving out in fear of another round of violence following the remission. Such is the nature of this crime! It was both traumatic and enraging to see Yakub in tears. 

Finally, they won. Justice BV Nagarathna and Justice Ujjal Bhuyan have proved that the Supreme Court can choose dignified commitment to justice. The apex court cannot bring back her family and undo her trauma, but Bilkis Bano can finally move on. It should never have taken this long to rebuild her life. Indeed. I wish every woman in India the — ‘Bilkis strength’ — but never her trauma! 

The narrator has focused on gender violence and human rights violations in Kashmir and other ‘occupied’ zones.

As told to Amit Sengupta

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