Protests in India against release of 11 men convicted of gang-raping Muslim woman

Protests in India against release of 11 men convicted of gang-raping Muslim woman
Hundreds of people flocked to the streets across India to challenge a decision to release 11 men who were sentenced to life imprisonment for gang-raping a Muslim woman in 2002.
3 min read
29 August, 2022
Indians are protesting the release of 11 men convicted of gang-rape and murder [Getty]

Hundreds of people are holding protests in different parts of India over a decision to release 11 men who had been sentenced to life imprisonment for gang-raping a pregnant Muslim woman and murdering her family during ‘religious riots’ in the state of Gujarat in 2002. 

The men, who were released on 15 August - India’s Independence Day - were convicted in 2008 of rape, murder and unlawful assembly. Protestors in New Delhi urged the Gujarat government to rescind its decision, and chanted slogans and sang songs in support of the victim, Bilkis Bano. 

India's Supreme Court will hear a petition challenging their release, according to reports

The so-called Gujarat riots began when a train carrying Hindu workers was allegedly burned by a group of Muslims, spurring an anti-Muslim pogrom which saw roving bands of Hindu extremists hunting down Muslims in their cars, businesses and homes across Gujarat. At least 1,000 people were killed in the violence. 

Bilkis Bano was a pregnant 21-year-old in 2002 when she was gang-raped by the 11 men and saw 14 members of her family killed, according to a statement released by her lawyer on Bano’s behalf. Now 41, she said she was “bereft of words” and “still numb” from the government’s decision to release the men. 

“Today I can say only this - how can justice for any woman end like this? I trusted the highest courts in our land. I trusted the system and I was learning slowly to live with my trauma. The release of these convicts has taken from me my peace and shaken my faith in justice. My sorrow and my wavering faith is not for myself alone but for every woman who is struggling for justice in courts,” read the statement. 

Bano urged the government to “undo this harm” and to “give me back my right to live without fear and in peace.”

Officials in Gujarat, which is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said the convicts’ application for release was granted because they had completed fourteen years in prison and were therefore eligible under a 1992 remission policy applicable at the time they were convicted. 

They were released on the same day that Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged Indians to respect the dignity of women

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat at the time of the riots, and has long been accused of having allowed or even encouraging the bloodshed. He was banned from visiting the United States from 2005 till he was elected Prime Minister in 2014 for his failure to stop the riots against Muslims in Gujarat.