There have been protests all over India in opposition to the government’s decision to release 11 men who were serving life sentences for the gang rape of Bilkis Bano, a Muslim lady. The 2002 religious riots in Gujarat state also resulted in the deaths of 14 members of her family. After serving a total of 15 years in prison, the men were freed.
Men and women chanted messages pleading with the government to change its mind about releasing the rapists.
Shabana Azmi, an Indian actress and activist for women’s rights, told the AFP news agency in Delhi: “What happened with Bilkis Bano, what happened to her family, we cannot stand and watch this happen to our country. That is why we will all come together and raise our voices.” In a separate letter to India’s top justice, more than 100 retired civil workers warned that the release of the rapists would jeopardize the safety of all women.
The Gujarat government announced its decision to release the prisoners on August 15 as India commemorated its 75th anniversary of freedom. The inmates were pictured lined up outside the Godhra jail as family offered them treats and patted their feet in respect in a video that has since gone viral.
The men’s release was deemed “unjust” by Ms. Bano, who also said that it had “shaken” her faith in the legal system.
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