In a shocking decision, the BJP government in Gujarat has released 11 men who were serving life imprisonment for the gang rape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of her family during the 2002 Gujarat riots. This comes just days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while speaking during the Independence Day programme, gave a powerful message to the people, asking them to take a pledge to stop disrespecting women. The prime minister also asked people to promote gender equality to achieve unity in the country. The Gujarat government has acted in just the opposite manner of what the PM is propagating.
The governments at the Centre and Gujarat – both run by the BJP – seem to differ on how to treat rape convicts, evident in the release of these 11 convict rapists. Also, in June this year, proposing a special release policy for convicted prisoners to mark the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav (75 years of independence), the Centre issued guidelines to states. Rape convicts are listed among those who are not to be granted release under this policy. Gujarat’s decision appears to be in conflict with the Centre’s principled opposition to releasing rape convicts. Shockingly, the 11 convicts who were released on Monday were properly welcome when they came out of jail. These 11 people not only raped a pregnant woman but also murdered people during the Gujarat riots. By releasing them, the BJP is trying to woo its traditional right-wing supporters ahead of the Gujarat assembly election. But it sends a distressing message to the minorities that justice will never be served to them.