In sync with the widespread outrage in different parts of the country, Mumbaikars too are coming out in solidarity with Bilkis Bano. As the Supreme Court will soon hear the plea challenging the convicts’ early release, we asked people whether the court will undo the injustice
People assembled at the Carter Road promenade on August 28. Image credit: Pradeep Dhivar
On August 28, Mumbaikars observed a silent protest at Bandra’s Carter Road promenade demanding the revocation of release of the convicts in the Bilkis Bano gang-rape case of the 2002 Gujarat riots. The gathering was organised by various rights-based groups and not-for-profit networks and was joined by people like well-known poet Aamir Aziz, actress Sayani Gupta and a number of social activists, students across the city.
The premature release of 11 prisoners convicted for the gang rape of Bano and murder of at least seven of her family members, including her three-year-old child, while she was fleeing the Gujarat riots in 2002 has triggered protests across the country. The convicts were remitted by the Gujarat government on August 15, when the country observed its 75th Independence Day.
A petition challenging the remission of the convicts was filed in the Supreme Court (SC) by CPI (M) MP Subhashini Ali, journalist Revati Laul and academician Roop Rekha Verma and currently, the apex court has listed the matter after two weeks.
In the face of police intervention, even before people could gather in considerable numbers at Carter Road, those leading the peaceful protest had to restrict fellow supporters from sloganeering or raising placards. Moreover, the protesters had to call off the meet merely after an hour. Despite a subdued gathering, over 50 people, who marked their presence, did not fail to condemn the release and the following videographed glorification of the criminals after their release from the Godhra jail.
“Hope is all we have and the demand is similar across all stakes. They are criminals. Send them back to jail. That’s all,” says Trisha Shetty, a social activist, when asked about their thoughts on the upcoming SC hearing.
Sadiya Shaikh, another protestor, says, “Our prime minister talks of women empowerment on one hand, and on the other, people who have gang-raped a woman are release on August 15, the country’s independence day. What message are you trying to convey to the citizens?”
A signature campaign, predominantly run in the local trains of Mumbai, by All India Democratic Women’s Association and Forum against Oppression of Women among others is another method through which the activists aim to “build pressure” as stated by one of the members, who identified as Kabi.
“We are trying to bring forth the voices of people who are outside the online community. People want to do something, they were enraged about the issue and we wanted to send the signatures of these people, the junta,” they added.
After collecting signatures from commuters in the Borivali to Churchgate train, the group of nine people running the signature campaign will also be travelling to and fro Thane and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus station.
“We will continue doing this. Since the case is moved two weeks ahead, we will collect more signatures, online and offline,” says Kabi.
Watch the video to listen to people’s voices on the issue: