|Full name||Bilkis Yakub Rasool The Wire|
|Known For||Being gangraped during the 2002 Godhra riots in Gujarat|
|Physical Stats & More|
|Date of Birth||Year, 1981|
|Age (as of 2022)||41 Years|
|Birthplace||Village Radhikpur, District Dahod, Gujarat|
|Hometown||Devgadh Baria, Gujarat|
|Religion||Islam The Indian Express|
|Relationships & More|
|Children||Out of her three daughters, her eldest daughter named Saleha was killed in Gujarat Riots, 2002. She kept her youngest daughter's name Saleha in the memory of her first daughter.|
|Parents||Father- Abdul Ghachi (milk selling business)
Mother- Name Not Known (killed in the Gujarat Riots 2002)
|Siblings||Her younger sisters were killed in the Gujarat Riots 2002.|
Some Lesser Known Facts About Bilkis Bano
- Bilkis Bano is an Indian rape survivor, who was brutally raped by a few men during the Gujarat Riots in 2002.
- On 27 February 2002, a coach of the Sabarmati Express was heading towards Godhara from Ayodhya, carrying most of the Hindu passengers. The train was reportedly stopped by a mob of Muslims. The mob attacked the passengers and ignited the train in which more than 59 Hindu devotees were killed.
- This incident brought a rage among the Hindus residing in Gujarat, and this marked the beginning of the Gujarat riots. The next day of the incident, the mobs of Hindus started attacking the Muslims in various parts of Gujarat.
- One such family of Muslims who were attacked by the Hindu mobs was the family of Bilkis Bano, a residence of Godhara. When Bilkis and her family got the news of the attacks, they escaped their home and hide at the residence of the village sarpanch. Bilkis who was 5 months pregnant at that time was accompanied by her daughter, mother, siblings, and few other family members. In an interview, while remembering that time, Bilkis said,
I was in the kitchen making lunch, when my aunt and her children came running. They said their homes were being set on fire and we had to leave immediately. We left with just the clothes we were wearing, we didn’t even have the time to put on our slippers.”
- They then hide in a school in their village, and then in a mosque. During the exodus, one of her cousins who was in the last month of her pregnancy delivered a baby girl. Bilkis and his family members tried to escape for almost 2-3 days, but on 3 March 2002, they were attacked by a mob of 20-30 people armed with swords and sticks.
- Bilkis, her mother, and other female members of their family were brutally raped by a few men. A man from the mob snatched Bilkis’ daughter from her and smashed her daughter on the stone. Out of the 17 family members of Bilkis, eight were found dead (including her daughter) and others went missing. She survived because she was left unconscious and the mob thought she was dead.
- According to the media sources, after almost three hours, she regained consciousness. She found herself naked, she then covered her body with a petticoat and escaped to a nearby hillock. The next day of the incident, while she was looking for water, she reached a hand pump where an Adivasi woman gave her some clothes to cover her body.
- Bilkis then spotted a police officer nearby and approached him for help. The police officer took her to the Limkheda Police Station. On reaching the police station, she gave her statement to the Police Head Constable, Somabhai Gori.
- Bilkis was the single witness to the incident, and she knew the names of the accused as most of the men were from her village. The head constable did not register her complaint and sent her to a relief camp, where she reunited with her husband. Later, while talking to the reporters, Bilkis’ husband talked about the incident, he said,
I put everything aside—the riots, the family we had lost. I spoke to her with love, I tried to bring her out of the pain she had endured.’ Since then, I have heard Bilkis testify a million times, to NGO workers, to lawyers, to journalists, but I have never asked her—what happened to you? Who did what? You have heard the words too, but every time, I have felt them in my heart.”
- After reaching the relief camp, Bilkis had a medical examination, and her case was taken by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The Supreme Court transferred her case to the CBI. Initially, the CBI tried to search for the dead members of her family, but most of the killed people were beheaded. So, it became difficult to identify her family members.
- Later, Bilkis pleaded to the Supreme Court to transfer her case outside Gujarat, as she was receiving death threats, and she shifted to 20 different apartments in fear of threats. In August 2004, the Supreme Court shifted her case from Gujarat to Mumbai. In a special court in Mumbai, a case was filed against 19 men including six police officers and a government doctor in Bilkis’ rape case. Later, the Indian lawyer Shobha Gupta took Bilkis’ case.
- On 21 January 2008, 13 men were convicted of rape charges, out of which 11 were sentenced to life imprisonment. According to the special court, Jaswantbhai Nai, Govindbhai Nai, and Naresh Kumar Mordhiya (deceased) had raped Bilkis, and Shailesh Bhatt had killed her daughter. Other convicts in the case were Radheshyam Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Vohania, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Nitesh Bhatt, Ramesh Chandana, and Head Constable Somabhai Gori.
- In May 2017, the Bombay High Court upheld the decision of the Mumbai special court.
- In 2019, the Supreme Court of India directed the Gujarat government to give Bilkis a compensation of Rs 50 lakhs, however, Bilkis refused to take the compensation.
- On 15 August 2022, the convicts of the Bilkis Bano case were released from the Godhara sub-jail. Earlier, a panel was set up by the Gujarat government, which approved the application of remission of life imprisonment to the convicts. On releasing the convicts, the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Raj Kumar said,
The remission application was considered because the convicts had completed 14 years in jail, and factors such as “age, nature of the crime, behaviour in prison and so on.”
- In an interview, while talking to the reporters, Bilkis said that she was stunned when she heard that her convicts were released. She said,
The decision to free the men was “unjust.” It has “shaken” my faith in justice. When I heard that the convicts who had devastated my family and life had walked free, I was bereft of words. I am still numb. 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.” I appeal to the Gujarat government to “undo this harm” and “give me back my right to live without fear and in peace.”
When the reporters, asked Bilkis’ husband about the same, he said,
We have been left numb, shocked and shaken. The battle we fought for so many years has been wrapped up in one moment. A sentence of life imprisonment given by the court has been curtailed in such a manner… We had never even heard of the word ‘remission’. We didn’t even know that such a process exists.”
- On the release of the convicts, they were welcomed with sweets and garlands by their family members and relatives. A few media houses shared photos in which RSS organised a welcome party for the convicts where they were being felicitated. The video and photos went viral on social media and received criticism from the netizens.
- Later, while talking to the reporters, one of the convicts Shailesh Bhatt said,
We were victims of politics. Singor is a small village. All the convicts belong to this village. We were all victims of politics. I was a farmer and also an office-bearer of the district unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) while my brother worked as a clerk at Panchmahals Dairy when we were arrested. We were arrested in 2004 and remained in jail for more than 18 years. It feels good to be home with my family members. Everybody is happy that we are back. My son was eight or nine years old then, now he is an adult and works with Panchmahal Dairy. I am happy for him.”
- Soon after the release of the victims, a plea was filed in the Supreme Court by CPI(M) Politburo member Subhashini Ali, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, and women’s rights activists to look into the case of Bilkis Bano. On 25 August 2022, The Supreme Court agreed to hear the petition filed against the release of Bilkis’ convicts. The Chief Justice of India N V Ramana issued a notice to the Gujarat government to give its response in the case.