The Freedom Park in Bengaluru on Saturday, 27 August, resonated with slogans of “Bilkis Hum Tumhare Saath Hain (We are with you Bilkis)”, “We want justice for Bilkis”, “Karnataka is with Bilkis”.
The event was a solidarity-cum-protest organised by various outfits against the recent release of 11 people convicted in the Bilkis Bano gang-rape case.
Anger, anguish, and pain were reflected in the slogans and body language of students, women, social activists, academic persons, legal experts, and transgender persons participating in the protest.
Public protests were also organised in 15 other districts of the state.
Protesters demanded immediate withdrawal of the remission of the 11 convicts by the Gujarat government. They had been sentenced to life imprisonment for gang-rape during the 2002 communal violence.
Transgender persons stand in support of Bilkis Bano
Approximately 300 people gathered in support of Bilkis Bano at the Freedom Park in Bengaluru. One among them was Chandni, a transgender activist and member of Payana — an organisation that helps transgender persons.
Chandni told South First, “Justice cannot be different for different groups of people. At least 50 participants from the transgender community are here in solidarity with Bilkis Bano and seek justice for her.”
Anger against Gujarat government
The protestors were angry with the BJP-led Gujarat government that paved the path for the release of the convicts.
Slamming the remission, trade unionist and lawyer Maitreyi Krishnan told South First, “The entire country was shocked to see convicts in the Bilkis Bano rape case being released on 15 August. They all should be sent back to jail. Act of remission is an assault on the basic principle of equality.”
“Rape was a cruel act against Bilkis. We can feel her pain. The rapists were released by the government. What kind of justice is this?” she said.
“Felicitation of criminals by the VHP shows the rotten character of our society. We are demanding that remission should get cancelled on an immediate basis,” Maitreyi added.
Another legal expert BT Venkatesh came down heavily on the Gujarat government.
He said, “Inhuman criminals being welcomed in the name of good morals is despicable. The remission is a Gujarat government-sponsored injustice and it must be challenged at any cost.”
‘BJP’s definition of freedom’
Dr Sabyasachi Chatterjee, a retired professor from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, said, “The remission of murderers happened on Independence Day.”
“Granting freedom to rapists and murderers on Independence Day is the BJP’s definition of freedom,” he added.
National Women’s Front general secretary Lubna Siraj was one of the vocal protestors at Freedom Park. Expressing her anguish, she said, “The BJP has made tall claims of Beti Bachao but this is the condition of one of the betis (daughters) of India.”
“Such a tragic culmination of justice is unacceptable to us. We urge the Supreme Court to repeal the remission of the 11 convicts so that the perpetrators cannot go scot-free so brazenly,” Siraj added.