India: Release of Hindu gang-rapists of Muslim woman sparks fury
A Muslim woman who was gang-raped while pregnant during India’s religious riots of 2002 says she is “numb” after her attackers were released early from prison.
According to media reports, in a statement released by her lawyer, Bilkis Bano, now in her 40s, appealed to the government to rescind its decision to free the 11 Hindu men who had been jailed for life for committing the crime. The victim said the decision by the government has shaken her faith in justice.
“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,” she said.
“Please undo this harm. Give me back my right to live without fear and in peace.”
Bano was gang-raped in the western state of Gujarat, which saw over 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, hacked, beaten, shot or burned to death. Seven members of her family, including her 3-year-old daughter, were also killed in the violence.
The attack took place when current Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat state.
Eleven Hindu men were later sentenced to life in prison. But they were freed on August 15. Videos went viral on social media showing the men being welcomed with sweets and garlands after their release from prison. The footage triggered outrage from rights activists and opposition politicians.
Opposition lawmaker Rahul Gandhi took aim at Modi on Twitter, “The entire country is seeing the difference between your words and deeds.”
Vrinda Grover, a lawyer, called the decision a "travesty and grave miscarriage of justice."
"BJP's bias for a religion is such that even brutal rape & hate crimes are forgivable," prominent Muslim politician Asaduddin Owaisi said, referring to Modi's ruling far-right Bharatiya Janata Party.
On Thursday, dozens of women protested against the release of the men in the capital New Delhi.
There has been increasing violence against India’s Muslims carried out by extreme Hindu groups supported by the ruling party who have been emboldened by Modi’s silence on such attacks since he came to power in 2014.