The Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government has come under severe criticism following the release of 11 convicts in the case of Bilkis Bano’s gangrape and the murder of her three-year-old daughter, and others, during the Godhra riots in 2002. Slamming the BJP, the Congress pointed out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had just spoken of women’s power in his Independence Day speech which ended barely hours before the state’s remission order came for the 11 convicts,
Addressing a press conference in Delhi, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said that the order by the Gujarat government was “unprecedented” and wondered if the PM actually meant what he said.
“You let off the convicts citing the 14 years spent by them of their sentence, that their conduct in jail was good, and the nature of the crime… If we just consider the nature of the crime, does rape not come in the category that the harshest punishment be given, that any sentence is not enough? And we saw today that those who were let off, they are being felicitated and honoured. Is this Amrit Mahotsav?” Khera asked.
The Congress leader also invoked former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee — today is his death anniversary — said he wanted to remind the Prime Minister of the ‘Raj Dharma’ that Vajpayee had spoken of during his visit to Gujarat after the 2002 riots.
“Has the PM’s own party, its governments stopped listening to him?… Or does he say one thing to the country and another to his own party’s government?” Khera asked, referring to the PM’s statements on women empowerment during his I-Day speech. “Either the Gujarat government should take back its order, or PM Modi should take back his words,” Khera said.
The remission order has drawn criticism from several Opposition parties including the RJD, AIMIM and CPI(M). “PM Modi today made tall statements on Nari Samman and said one should not insult women… but hours later, the Gujarat government allowed convicts of the Bilkis Bano gangrape case to go scot-free,” said Rashtriya Janata Dal spokesperson Ejaz Ahmad.
AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi asked on Twitter if this was the BJP’s version of “Azaadi ka Amrit”. “People who are GUILTY of a heinous crime have been given freedom. BJP’s bias for a religion is such that even brutal rape & hate crimes are forgivable.”
CPM too condemned the Gujarat government order and said: “This is the real face of New India — convicted killers and rapists released. Activist Teesta who fought for justice was jailed.”