The husband of Bilkis Bano, a 2002 Gujarat riots victim, on Thursday demanded compensation from the state government.
The Bombay High Court last week upheld conviction of 12 persons in the case related to the gangrape of Bilkis and murder of her family members while quashing acquittal of seven others.
“We will wait for the government to pay us compensation before approaching the court,” her husband Yakub told reporters in Ahmedabad at an event organised by the civil society members to felicitate the special public prosecutor in the case, RK Shah.
Bilkis said she and her family faced much hardship during their 15-year-long fight for justice, but received no support from the government despite repeated appeals.
“We have faced many difficulties during these fifteen years. We frequently changed houses, while also being worried about the education of our children. The Gujarat government has not given us any support, nor have we received support from any government official,” Bilkis said, while thanking advocate Shah and others who supported her.
“I am thankful to all those who supported us. I am happy about the High Court verdict. I have full faith in our country’s judicial system. Policemen and other officials were also sentenced, and I am very happy about that,” she said.
When asked if they are thinking of going back to their village in Dahod district, Yakub said they would like to return, but would face hostility there.
“The convicts and their relatives live there. Our family is destroyed....I do not want to go back in this situation,” he said.
He wants their five children to get education so that they can become lawyers and help victims like them, he said.
Advocate Shah said the case was unusual, and Bilkis’s deposition before the court was a crucial piece of evidence.
“This was an unusual, complex case where police filed a report saying the accused could not be traced. Only because the CBI investigated it, we could have them prosecuted,” he said.
“The incident took place at a deserted place with no eye-witnesses. Bilkis saw her relatives getting murdered. Her account before the court was vital. She was cross-examined for 22 days by three learned lawyers. We examined 73 witnesses, but Bilkis’s deposition was the most important. No other witness’ account was valued (as much).”
“Whoever the victim is, she should get justice. For a successful court case, we need a skilled prosecutor and a sensitive judge,” Shah added.
Gagan Sethi of NGO Janvikas, which helped Bilkis in her legal fight, said they never doubted the judicial system but there should be better prosecutors, lawyers and judges at the district-level courts.
“Police may be wrong at times, but they are not a state unto themselves. Our district-level courts still do not have good prosecutors, lawyers or judges,” he said.
On March 3, 2002, as the post-Godhra violence raged in Gujarat, Bilkis’s family was attacked at Randhikpur village in Dahod district as they were trying to escape rioters.
Bilkis, who was five months pregnant, was gang-raped, while seven members of her family were killed.