It turns out that the Home Ministry actually gave permission for remission of sentence of 11 rape and murder convicts in the case of Bilkis Bano in Gujarat. It flies in the face of the argument that the convicts had completed 14 years of sentence, even though it is not settled in law that in every case of life term a 14 years in prison would be considered enough.
The Home Ministry order clearly says that it is for ‘premature’ release. Moreover, it has also been revealed that each of the convicts was out for a period ranging between 998 to 1576 days on parole and furlough which means that even 14 years have not been completed. Also, any remission of sentence is based on good behavior of convicts. But three of the convicts Mitesh Bhatt, Ramesh Chandana and Radheshyam Shah have offences registered against them during their sentence. Shockingly, Mitesh Bhatt was involved in another criminal assault on a woman with intention to outrage her modesty in 2020. Ramesh Chandana, Rajubhai Soni, Jasawnt Nai when released on parole or furlough came back to prison by 122, 197 and 75 days late, respectively, if it can be considered any mark of ‘good behavior.’
It is quite clear from the images after their release from Godhra sub-jail on Independence Day when they were garlanded and offered ladoos that none of them has any remorse for their misdeeds. It has also been learnt that these convicts have been threatening the witnesses when out of jail. So, what is the basis for their release, except that they are favourites of the ruling party which wishes to further use them to achieve its political ends of communal polarization before the impending Gujarat Assembly elections?
In Ankita Bhandari’s murder case the forensic report has ruled out rape. The accused include Pulkit Arya, son of a former Bhartiya Janata Party leader from Uttarakhand. A Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh office bearer was also booked for posting objectionable material against a relative of Ankita after her murder.
Meanwhile, the state Home Minister Ajay Mishra Teni continues to be in his position even one year after an incident when he provoked his son to drive vehicle over protesting farmers in Lakhimpur Khiri of Uttar Pradesh killing 4 farmers and a journalist.
RSS claims to be a cultural organization upholding India values. BJP claims to be a party with a difference and runs campaigns against criminals and corrupt. Just before the release of 11 convicts in Godhra, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the countrymen to change their attitude towards women.
Then, what is this mindset within BJP which appears to be protecting criminals associated with it?
Amit Shah was an accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh, Kauser Bi and Tulsiram Prajapati fake encounter case. In 2010 Central Bureau of Investigation chargesheeted and arrested Amit Shah and in 2012 Supreme Court transferred the trial from Gujarat to Bombay High Court. In 2014, after Narendra Modi government came to power, a judge J.T. Utpat, who wanted Amit Shah to appear in court, left the case unexpectedly, another judge B.H. Loya, who too wanted Amit Shah to appear in court, died under mysterious circumstances and then a judge M.B. Gosavi acquitted Amit Shah for lack of evidence.
Narendra Modi was held responsible, among others, for the killing of former Member of Parliament Ehsan Jafri by his wife Zakia. This claim was rejected by a Special Investigation Team appointed by SC and a review petition was also rejected by SC.
When Yogi Adityanath became the Chief Minister of U.P. there were several cases against him, including one that of muder, all of which were withdrawn subsequently.
Ajay Mishra Teni was booked in a murder case of one Prabhat Gupta but was acquitted in 2004. The victim’s family has filed an appeal against this in Allahabad HC. In 1996 Teni was also named as a history sheeter by Tikonia police station but the sheet was later closed.
Given this background of leading politicians of BJP holding high posts, it is probably natural that people committing serious crimes will be let off or protected to make it appear as if their own acquittal were not anything abnormal.
However, with the ghastliest of crimes committed against Bilkis Bano we seem to have reached the nadir of a process of normalization of crimes where some of the criminals have been described by a local BJP Member of Legislative Assembly, who was also a member of the committee which remitted the sentence, as sanskari Brahmins.
In the land of Mahatma Gandhi, who is universally known for upholding virtues of Truth and Non-violence, it is Untruth and Violence which the BJP wants to make normal.
In a recent incident in Kheda Muslim youth have been publicly flogged by police for pelting stones on a Garba event. Nobody seems to question why did the pelting take place? The Garba organizers who used to organize their event traditionally at a place wanted to organize it at another place this time which was not agreeable to the Muslims. This is another example where truth and non-violence became a casualty.
As it is the senior leaders of BJP who seem to have created an atmosphere where rule of law has been compromised, the Home Minister must resign for the most outrageous act of allowing remission of sentence of the 11 convicts in Bilkis Bano’s case. Only then we have some hope of sanity surviving.
Sandeep Pandey is General Secretary of Socialist Party (India). His attempts to take out a padyatra from Bilkis Bano’s village to Ahmedabad and then sit on a fast in Ahmedabad in September were thwarted by the state government. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org