Bilkis Bano reacts to court verdict: 'Now my family can live free of fear again'
Of the many horrific atrocities committed in Gujarat in 2002, the tragedy of Bilkis Bano that occurred in Radhikpur village during the post-Godhra riots was among the most terrifying stories to emerge.
Now on 4 May, 15 years later, in a major relief to the gangrape victim, the Bombay High Court dismissed an appeal filed by 11 convicts in the case of Bilkis Bano gang rape and murder of 14 members of her family in 2002 and upheld their life imprisonment.
Bilkis herself has reacted to this. Here is the full press statement released by her lawyers.
Through all of you, friends in the media, I wish to say to all my fellow Indian citizens, my fellow Gujaratis, my fellow Muslims, and to women everywhere – I am grateful that this verdict delivered by the Honorable Judges, has, yet again, vindicated my truth, and upheld my faith in the judiciary.
My rights, as a human being, as a citizen, woman, and mother were violated in the most brutal manner, but I have trusted in the democratic institutions of our country. Now, my family and I feel we can begin to lead our lives again, free of fear.
I am happy that the State and its officials who emboldened, encouraged, and protected the criminals who destroyed the life of an entire community, are no longer unblemished, but today stand charged with tampering of evidence. For officers of the state, whose sworn duty it is to protect citizens and enable justice, this should be their great moral shame, to bear forever.
To fellow Indians, I appeal to all of you, at a time when we hear news everyday of people being attacked and killed because of their religion or community - please help affirm their faith in the secular values of our country and support their struggles for justice, equality, and dignity. For this verdict does not mean the end of hatred but it does mean that somewhere, somehow justice can prevail. This has been an long, seemingly never ending struggle for me, but when you are on the side of truth, you will be heard, and justice will be yours in the end.
The close friends, who have stood with me through it all, know how much me, my husband Yakub and my family owe to them for their instinting support and love throughout this battle. For journeys like mine cannot be made alone. I am deeply grateful both to the CBI and to my lawyer who represented me during this appeal process in the Honorable Bombay High Court.