Among the prominent cases of the 2002 Gujarat riots, the instance of Bilkis Bano is one of the few in which the victims have got justice. Bilkis, then 19, was raped and left for dead by the miscreants, who had killed 14 of her family members.
Bilkis now lives with her father and husband in their village in central Gujarat.
On March 3, 2002, when violence had engulfed most of the central part of the state, a truck carrying 17 persons struggling to find a refuge near Randhikpur village in Dahod district was attacked by a mob of around 35 armed people.
The attackers descended on the truck in which Bilkis, who was pregnant, and her relatives were travelling. In next one hour, 14 were murdered. One even smashed the head of two-year-old Saleha, a daughter of Bilkis.
In the midst of killing, three persons — Govind Nai, Jaswant Nai and Naresh Kumar — assaulted and raped Bilkis. She was left for dead and when she regained her consciousness after two hours, she found herself lying naked among the dead.
In her deposition during the trial, she narrated her plight: “I found my petticoat and covered my body and proceeded in the interiors of the hills nearby.”
When the case was handed over to the central agency, the CBI, after exhuming the bodies, discovered packets of salt in the mass grave in Dahod. During the course of the investigation, it transpired the accused had used salt to ensure an early decomposition of the bodies, which they themselves buried that night.
However, due to high moisture content in the land, salt ended up preserving the bodies.