Bilkis Bano: Time to hang our heads in shame

The hapless rape victim and her husband, children and relatives are living in fear and moving from  place to place, whereas the convicted rapists-murderers  are getting  garlanded!

I’m focusing on Bilkis Bano. And as details are fast emerging of fear gripping her entire  clan, after the  release of  her  rapists, a strange  irony hits:  This hapless rape victim and her husband and children and relatives are  living in fear and moving from  place to place, whereas  the convicted rapists – murderers  are getting  garlanded by hard core outfits as though they have  indulged  in some  heroic deed! Couldn’t be a bigger irony hitting us!

Isn’t rape and killings and murders, heinous crimes? The core fact is Bilkis Bano has been terrorized by her tormentors –  she was  gang raped, her 3 year old daughter Sahela, who was then with her, was brutally killed by the rioters, seven of her relatives were also killed. To top it all, she and her family have been surviving in fear. In fact, her tormentors ought to be booked under any of the terror acts, because she has been terrorized all through, all these twenty years!

Expand and broaden the very definition of terrorism and the very basic fact that emerges is that Bilkis Bano went through severe terrorizing onslaughts on her body, psyche and soul. She was gang-raped by these very men who have been set free, she also saw her little daughter getting brutally killed, and also the killings of her relatives.

It’s time to hang our heads in shame, for here is this woman who has suffered all these years and even now she and family are getting hounded, moving  from one locale to the next, for safety, security, safe refuge and sheer survival! If the political who’s who of the country are provided with security so why not this hapless citizen – Bilkis  Bano and  the surviving members of her family and clan.

A connected reality

Isn’t it time to document details to hundreds of women and their families who have been targeted and assaulted and threatened and attacked?  Even today, the very word ‘Gujarat’ drags along images and details of the affected, either during the 2002 pogrom or even years after …an ongoing trauma for the survivors. Many living in isolation, cut off and bruised to the extent that they have lost all hope. Their lives completely ruined and destroyed and their emotions trampled upon.

In fact, the hapless women victims are too scared and petrified to even lodge complaints/ FIRs against the Hindutva culprits as they are worried about the severe aftermath; of the political mafia taking revenge, making life hell for them! I have been hearing this dark reality from the women victims of the various communal carnages and onslaughts.

During my visit to Ahmedabad in 2006, as I got interacting with the affected families, it got more than apparent that they was surviving amidst fear. And there seemed to be no respite for times to come. Many of the pogrom survivors were too terrified to return to their homes. Mothers spoke of their ‘lost’ children, not just in pogroms or encounters but in the aftermath. Muslim families put their children in far off hostels, or sent them to distant relatives, so that their children somehow survive…Women spoke of the nothingness spread around them – they had lost just about everything!

I’m reminded  of what a well-known dancer-activist  wrote in the backdrop of the then Gujarat situation: “ In  Gujarat, people are so terrified that they are silent. They are to be made voiceless. How does it matter how rich you are if you are voiceless!”

To this day, there’s been no closure to the maddening communal killings and rapes and anarchy of 2002! How can there be, if survivor-victims sit all too marginalised?

The fact that these eleven rapists and killers have been set free speaks volumes of our decaying system, of the breakdown of the basic norms and values, of the hollowness of the political speeches of the rulers of the day.

Yet we, the mute spectators, sit all too quiet!  Why?


Another connected reality

Read these latest officially released figures related to rape and crime against women in the country. And after one has gone through these facts and figures, can one stop oneself from raising question after  question on the release of the rapists of  Bilkis Bano!

To quote from news reports: India registered 31,677 cases of rape in 2021. That is, an average of 86 daily, while nearly 49 cases of crime against women were lodged every single hour, according to the latest government report on crimes in the country.

Among states, Rajasthan (6,337) was on top of the list followed by Madhya Pradesh (2,947), Maharashtra (2,496) and Uttar Pradesh (2,845), while Delhi recorded 1,250 rape cases in 2021.

The rate of crime (per lakh population) for rape was highest in Rajasthan (16.4) followed by Chandigarh (13.3), Delhi (12.9), Haryana (12.3) and Arunachal Pradesh (11.1). The all-India average rate stood at 4.8, according to the NCRB.

Overall, 4,28,278 cases of  ‘crimes against women’ were lodged across the country in 2021, with a rate of crime (per one lakh population) at 64.5. The charge-sheeting rate in such offences was 77.1, the official data showed.

In 2021, the maximum cases of crimes against women were lodged in Uttar Pradesh (56,083) followed by Rajasthan (40,738), Maharashtra (39,526), West Bengal (35,884) and Odisha 31,352, the NCRB showed.

However, in terms of rate of crime against women, Assam (168.3) was on the top of the list for 2021, followed by Delhi (147), Odisha (137), Haryana (119.7) and Telangana (111.2).


Gujarat pogrom had brought along intense verse …Bureaucrat-poet J. P. Das wrote in 2002 — After Gujarat:

‘After Gujarat

will there be  poetry?

Could poets write

after Alexandria  was  razed ?

After Auschwitz

Hiroshima and Vietnam

after the Emergency

after Babri Masjid

9/11 and Iraq?…Poetry cannot be banished

It returns at will

to Plato’s Republic

to Stalin’s Siberia

to Pokhran and Kalahandi

following in the footprints

of violence

as it chronicles

the descent of man

As with history, to poetry

there is no end …

Poetry will be written

despite fatwas and bans

Poetry will defy the Gulag

it will ignore the censor’s blue pencil

and the fundamentalist ‘s frown

poetry will be written

even as books

are being burnt  …After  Gujarat

poetry will be written

About Gujarat itself

beginning with

the shame of Ayodhya

and following the bloody trail

to Godhra, to Gujarat

and on to Mumbai   …When  Babri  rises

poetry will affirm

that temples are made

not with blood-scribed bricks

or stones carved in hate

that they, like poetry

are founded on

imagination and faith

in the hearts of  men.’