The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | 28-07-2022 | 03:50 am
After at least 42 people died in a hooch tragedy in Botad district and adjoining areas, BJP leader Alpesh Thakor Wednesday said that politicians who win elections by distributing liquor cannot stop the liquor menace in the state and that the latter will have to stop distributing liquor during elections. Thakor also demanded compensation for kin of the victims.Thakor said this while interacting with media persons after meeting the families affected by the hooch tragedy in Rojid village of Botad district Wednesday.Thakor, who is known for his campaigns promoting de-addiction under the banner of Gujarat Kshatriya Thakor Sena (GKTS), was elected an MLA as a Congress MLA in 2017 Assembly elections. However, later he had resigned from the party and as its MLA to join BJP. Later, he contested a by-election from Radhanpur constituency as BJP candidate, but lost.After visiting the victims of the hooch tragedy, Thakor said, “Politicians are also responsible (for such tragedies). Because politicians too should inform the system and come forward if such an activity (illegal sale of liquor) is on in their area. Corrupt officials and corrupt (political) leaders are involved in such activities.”Thakor sought strict implementation of prohibition law in the state.He said, “Those who win elections by distributing liquor cannot get the liquor prohibition implemented. (Political) Leaders too will have to learn that they need to stop distributing liquor during elections. It does not matter if one loses elections because of that…I too have lost election, but I have never distributed liquor and will never do that…This I am talking about very limited people.”“If we talk about honest officials, then along with that (political) leaders too will have to remain honest. It is also a reality that when some honest official tries to stop this (illegal sale of liquor), then (at times) political people having influence do make recommendations,” Thakor added.When asked about Thakor’s statement, spokesperson of Gujarat government and senior minister Jitu Vaghani said that he was not aware of it and cannot comment without knowing the context in which it was made.
FOR SEVERAL MINUTES late on Monday evening, Bilkis Bano could not believe that the 11 convicts had walked free — she first broke into tears and then went silent, her husband Yakub Rasool told The Indian Express.A day later, when contacted by The Indian Express, Bilkis said: “Please leave me alone… I have offered duas (prayers) for the soul of my daughter Saleha”.“We have been left numb, shocked and shaken,” said Rasool after a Gujarat panel granted remission of sentence to the 11 convicts who were jailed for life in 2008 for gangraping Bilkis and killing 14 of her family members, including her three-year-old daughter, during the 2002 riots.“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,” Rasool told The Indian Express over phone from their home at Devgadh Baria in Dahod.After the convicts were welcomed with garlands and sweets following their release, Rasool said that Bilkis, now 41, was “distressed and melancholic”, unable to talk to anyone.“We have not even had the time to process this news and we know that they (the convicts) have already reached their homes…It is not that they never took parole; they did several times. But we did not expect that they would be released in such a manner,” he said.“What happened (in 2002) was so horrific that one can imagine what must be going through her mind… She was brutalised but witnessed the murder of her own daughter… She was violated not just as a woman but also as a mother and a human being — what can be worse than that?” Rasool said.“Now we only want to be left alone, and settle down for our five children. We do fear for our safety but we have not had the time to contemplate the next move,” he said.Sujal Mayatra, District Magistrate and Collector of Panchmahal, who chaired the Jail Advisory Committee (JAC) that recommended the remission, told The Indian Express that “it was a unanimous decision”.“The convicts had completed over 14 years of their life sentence. Their application had come about three months ago… Like in the case of any application for remission or premature release, this case was also considered on the basis of the behaviour of the convicts in prison as well as the tenure and other merits of the case. The recommendation was sent to the state government, and yesterday (Monday), we received the orders for their release,” Mayatra said.According to norms, the JAC has eight members including the District Magistrate (or Chief Metropolitan Magistrate) as chairman, jail superintendent, member secretary, District Sessions Judge, Superintendent of Police (or City Commissioner), District Social Welfare officer, and two local (elected) members.In this case, the elected members were Godhra BJP MLA C K Raulji and Kalol BJP MLA Suman Chauhan. Both were not available for comment tuesday.Another committee member, who did not wish to be identified, said the remission applications also cited medical grounds. “The oldest of the convicts was 70 years old and had health issues. Another convict, nearing 60 years of age, had also cited medical conditions as well as a medical emergency at home as his wife is battling a critical illness,” the member said.Gujarat Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Raj Kumar told The Indian Express that a total of 26 prisoners were released across the state on Monday.Bilkis was gangraped and 14 members of her family, including Saleha, were killed by a mob on March 3, 2002, in Limkheda taluka of Dahod district — the bodies of six were never found. The Supreme Court had ordered a CBI investigation in the case after Bilkis approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).In 2004, the Supreme Court directed the trial to be transferred from Gujarat to Maharashtra after Bilkis alleged death threats from the accused. And on January 21, 2008, a CBI special court in Mumbai convicted 13 accused, sentencing 11 to life imprisonment on charges of gangrape and murder. Three years later, the conviction was upheld by the Bombay High Court.In 2019, the Supreme Court awarded compensation of Rs 50 lakh to Bilkis, and asked the Gujarat government to provide her with a government job and accommodation.According to Rasool, the state government awarded the compensation and offered Bilkis the post of a peon in Devgadh Baria but she turned down the offer and sought employment for her husband instead. “The government is yet to consider the application. We are also yet to hear from the administration about the accommodation,” he said.Newsletter | Click to get the day’s best explainers in your inboxAccording to Rasool, the compensation amount of Rs 50 lakh has been placed in a fixed deposit and will be used for the higher education of their children. “Our eldest daughter is 19 and pursuing a B.Com degree. Bilkis wanted her to be a lawyer and help other people seek justice but due to Covid we could not enroll her in the law college as it is outside Devgadh Baria. We have decided that she will graduate in Commerce and pursue LL.B,” he said.The second daughter, aged 16, is also attending college while their 15-year-old son is a Class 10 student in a private school.In the Lok Sabha polls of 2019, Bilkis had stepped out for the first time to cast her vote. “She was beginning to live her life again because justice had lessened our pain but this (remission) has come as a bolt from the blue… we are exhausted,” Rasool said.
"We were surprised to know that the convicts have been released," Bilkis Bano's husband Yakub Rasul said.Ahmedabad/New Delhi: The ruling BJP on Tuesday faced the Opposition fire over the release of 11 people convicted for rape and murder in the Bilkis Bano case of the 2002 post-Godhra riots, while its government in Gujarat defended the move citing a 1992 remission policy and denied any violation of rules in the matter.While the convicts, sentenced to life imprisonment, walked out of the Godhra sub-jail on August 15 after the Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy, and spoke about starting a new life, Bilkis Bano's husband Yakub Rasul expressed surprise over the relief granted to them.Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gang raped while fleeing the violence that broke out post the Sabarmati train burning incident in Godhra. Seven members of her family were killed during the 2002 post-Godhra riots.After their release on completion of more than 15 years in jail, the convicts, who were also charged with killing the pregnant woman's three-year-old daughter, were welcomed with sweets and garlands outside the prison."We were surprised to know that the convicts have been released," Bilkis Bano's husband Yakub Rasul told PTI."We don't know when the convicts processed their application and which ruling the state government took into consideration. We never received any kind of notice," Mr Rasul said.Mr Rasul said the Gujarat government had paid the family a compensation of Rs 50 lakh as directed by the Supreme Court, but is yet to provide a job or a house as directed by the top court.Mr Rasul said he lives virtually in hiding with his wife and five sons, the eldest one 20 years old.A special CBI court in Mumbai in 2008 sentenced the 11 accused to life imprisonment on the charge of gang rape and murder of seven members of Bilkis Bano's family. Their conviction was later upheld by the Bombay High Court.Radheshyam Shah, the convict whose plea for premature release paved the way for all the 11 life sentence convicts to walk out of jail, said he feels happy to be released."The Gujarat government has released us as per the order of the Supreme Court. I feel glad to be out as I will be able to meet my family members and begin a new life," he said.In New Delhi, Opposition parties hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the release of the convicts within hours of his praise for "Nari Shakti" in the Independence Day speech and alleged this is the "real face" of 'New India" under the BJP.They said the remission for the convicts, serving life imprisonment for the gang rape of a pregnant Bilkis Bano and murder of seven of her family members, was a violation of the Centre's guidelines and demanded the withdrawal of the order.Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said Prime Minister Modi should tell the country if he himself believed in his words when he spoke about the safety, respect and empowerment of women."The BJP government in Gujarat released 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case. This decision brings out the BJP government's mindset," he told reporters in the national capital."Yesterday, from the ramparts of the Red Fort, the prime minister spoke big things about women's safety, women's power, women's respect. A few hours later the Gujarat government released those behind the rape. We also saw that the convicts in the rape who were released are being honoured. Is this the Amrit Mahotsav," Mr Khera said.In a tweet, the CPI(M) condemned the release of the convicts, saying "This is the real face of New India -- convicted killers and rapists released" and activist Teesta Setalvad "who fought for justice was jailed".Trinamool Congress spokesperson Saket Gokhale said Bilkis Bano was "raped in the 2002 Gujarat pogrom and her entire family was murdered and buried in a mass grave"."Gujarat govt has now released all 11 monsters who were convicted of this heinous crime. Where's the outrage by people & the Noida media? Not even a whimper," he tweeted.All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi also targeted Prime Minister Modi over their release.In his Independence Day speech, Modi had asked Indians to take a pledge not to do anything that lowers the dignity of women, Owaisi said."He said something about supporting 'Nari Shakti'. Gujarat BJP govt released criminals convicted of gang rape on the same day. The message is clear," Mr Owaisi tweeted.Bahujan Samaj Party MP Danish Ali also referred to the prime minister's remarks and said the release of the 11 convicts has exposed the huge gap between words and the spirit of justice.However, the Gujarat government defended the move, saying the convicts were released as per the remission policy prevalent in the state at the time of their conviction in 2008 and rejected claims of contravention of the Centre's guidelines in the matter."These 11 persons were convicted by a special court in Mumbai in 2008. At the time of conviction, Gujarat was following a remission policy which came into effect in 1992. When the matter reached the Supreme Court, it directed us to decide about the release under the 1992 policy, because that was prevalent when conviction came in 2008," Additional Chief Secretary, Home, Raj Kumar, told PTI in Ahmedabad.Gujarat adopted a new and revised remission policy for prisoners in 2014. In that policy, which is currently in effect, there are detailed guidelines about categories of convicts who can or can not be given relief, said the senior bureaucrat."Since the conviction took place in 2008, the SC directed us to consider this case under the 1992 policy, which was in effect in 2008. That policy did not have any specific clarity as to who can be given remission and who can not. That policy was not that detailed in comparison to the 2014 policy," said the IAS officer.Lawyers also said the SC order directing the Gujarat government to consider the remission of the sentence as per the July 1992 policy paved the way for the premature release of the convicts.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comAs per the current policy, a person convicted for both gang rape and murder can not be released prematurely, but the 1992 policy had no such bar, a lawyer said.(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
As the 11 convicted for life in the gangrape of Bilkis Bano, and the murder of seven members of her family, during the 2002 Gujarat riots, walked out of jail on Tuesday, the Congress lashed out at the BJP government, calling the state government order “unprecedented”. With Tuesday marking the death anniversary of A B Vajpayee, Congress leader Pawan Khera said he wanted to remind Prime Minister Narendra Modi again of the Raj Dharma that the former PM had talked about during his visit to Gujarat after the 2002 riots. In May this year, the Supreme Court had asked the Gujarat government to decide, within two months, an application filed by one of the men found guilty in the Bilkis case. The convict had sought “premature” release from prison, where he had spent more than 15 years following conviction in January 2008. A look at what happened to Bilkis in 2002, what the CBI found in its investigation, and how the trial in the case proceeded.In Bihar, 31 ministers, including Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Prasad Yadav’s brother Tej Pratap Yadav, took oath as Chief Minister Nitish Kumar expanded his Cabinet today. The swearing-in of the 31 ministers reflects the RJD’s attempt at implementing its “MY (Muslim-Yadav)-plus” strategy while the Janata Dal (United) has stuck to its reliable OBC-EBC-Dalit-Upper caste combination.A controversy has erupted in Karnataka following the emergence of an audio recording linked to Law Minister J C Madhuswamy, who allegedly said the government in the state is not functioning and that the BJP is just managing things until the 2023 Assembly polls. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, however, sought to downplay the minister’s remarks by claiming that the said comments were made in a specific context to the cooperative sector and that everything else was all right in the government. Last year, Madhuswamy’s name was in contention to replace Yediyurappa as CM. Yet, the very qualities that made Madhuswamy a top choice in the books of some in the BJP were also held against him by others in the party — he was too independent, abrasive, outspoken and, crucially, lacked roots in the Sangh Parivar.In the world of Tech: Google executives reportedly warned employees of possible layoffs if the end quarter results don’t look good. A screenshot viewed by Insider reveals that Google Cloud sales leadership threatened its employees, saying there will be an “overall examination of sales productivity and productivity in general” and that if next quarter’s results “don’t look up, there will be blood on the streets.” Meanwhile, Apple laid off many of its contract-based recruiters in the past week, part of a push to rein in the tech giant’s hiring and spending. The recruiters were responsible for hiring new employees for Apple, and the cuts underscore that a slowdown is underway at the company.Political PulseIn the political silence in India over the attack on author Salman Rushdie, leaving him critically injured, the most deafening is of the ruling BJP. While the BJP would have been expected to react to the attack on Rushdie, party leaders – who did not want to come on record – said the circumstances had changed. A conscious decision has been taken by the party now to refrain from commenting on any incident involving international ramifications. The situation has been further complicated by the recent fiasco surrounding statements by its spokesperson Nupur Sharma (since suspended), as well as its mixed feelings about the writer himself who has been critical of the Narendra Modi government. Liz Mathew reports. More From Political PulseOnce burnt, twice shy: What the BJP silence on Rushdie attack tells usJakhars of Abohar: In Warring's crosshairs, Congress MLA and Sunil Jakhar's nephew Sandeep dares party to expel himBihar Cabinet decoded: RJD’s ‘MY-plus’ push, JD(U) sticks to tried-and-tested 11Click here for more From the Urdu Press: As India celebrates the 75th anniversary of Independence, a tidal wave of patriotism swept through the Urdu press, that sought to map the arc of the country’s remarkable journey, its accomplishments and failings, since 1947. The leading Urdu dailies also expressed concerns over widening faultlines in the country, fearing for the future of democracy and constitutionalism — and the fate of minorities — amid a growing atmosphere of division and hate. The horrifying attack on Salman Rushdie in New York, however, met with silence in their editorial pages, although they ran news reports on the stab assault and follow-up stories.Express ExplainedA day after a made-in-India howitzer gun, the ATAGS, was used for the first time in the ceremonial 21-gun salute during the Independence Day celebrations, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh Tuesday handed over several new defence systems, including the F-INSAS, the Nipun mines, the Landing Craft Assault (LCA), to the Army. What is the F-INSAS system, and what are Nipun mines? Read here. 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Asaduddin Owaisi said it is more unfortunate as the PM spoke of more power to women from Red Fort.New Delhi: The release of 11 men serving life term for the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of her family during the 2002 Gujarat riots, is "appeasement politics" ahead of the state elections in Gujarat, Asaduddin Owaisi, the chief of AIMIM, told NDTV today. "It is more unfortunate as the Prime Minister talked about more power to women from Red Fort on the Independence Day. It is sending a wrong message to the Muslim community and sets a wrong precedent," he added during an exclusive interview."This is again a crime committed against Bilkis Bano. Fresh wounds are given to Bilkis Bano. I hope good sense would prevail in the BJP," Mr Owaisi said.Elections are due in Gujarat by the end of this year, in which the BJP is hoping for another term in power in the state.In June the Centre had said that rape convicts cannot be released under a special release policy for convicted prisoners as part of the "Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav" celebrations. But those guidelines may not be applicable in this case.The Gujarat government had released the men following its own policy under the Supreme Court's directions in May to consider a remission plea by one of the convicts."The BJP is completely biased to people practicing a certain religion. Why are people in jail for Godhra? They don't care about rule of law. They are committing a crime again. They have no remorse," he added.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comBilkis Bano, 21, was five months' pregnant when she was raped on March 3, 2002. Her toddler daughter was among the seven family members murdered the same day. The family was hiding in fields near Ahmedabad as violence erupted in the aftermath of the burning of a Sabarmati Express coach that killed 59 'kar sevaks'.In 2008, a special court in Mumbai sentenced the 11 men to life term – a sentence that was upheld by the Bombay High Court.
A day after he and ten others were released from jail in the case related to the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and murder of her family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots, convict Shailesh Bhatt claimed that they were “victims of politics.” Bhatt, 63, who said he was a local functionary of the ruling BJP when he was arrested, and others including his brother and co-convict Mitesh left for their village Singor in Gujarat’s Dahod district after walking out of the Godhra jail.Sentenced to life imprisonment, they were released on Monday under the Gujarat government’s remission policy after completing more than 15 years in jail.Bilkis Bano case: 11 lifers convicted for Gujarat riots gangrape, murder set free in Godhra; Congress calls BJP govt order ‘unprecedented’ pic.twitter.com/b6bY503sC3— The Indian Express (@IndianExpress) August 16, 2022 Their reception at the village on Tuesday was muted and there was no visible celebration.“Singor is a small village. All the convicts belong to this village. We were all victims of politics,” said Shailesh Bhatt, speaking to reporters.He was a farmer and also an office-bearer of the district unit of the BJP while his brother worked as a clerk at Panchmahals Dairy when they were arrested, he said.“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,” Bhatt added.His mother died when he was in jail in 2007.The court had granted him interim bail to perform her last rites, he said.Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was raped while fleeing the violence that broke out in the aftermath of the Sabarmati Express train burning incident at Godhra in 2002.Seven members of her family were murdered.Radheshyam Shah, another convict, had asserted after his release on Monday that they were all innocent.“We were framed up because of our belief in certain ideology,” he had claimed before the media.One of them died during the trial while a couple of others lost their wives during their incarceration, he said.