Bilkis Bano’s 17 years of struggle finally came to rest when the Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered Gujarat government to pay Rs. 50 lakh to her as exemplary compensation. This is the largest compensation ever given to a survivor of sexual and communal violence in the history of the country. In a press conference held in the capital on Wednesday, Bilkis Bano thanked the judiciary for acknowledging her struggle and stated that she will use part of the money to help other women survivors of hate and communal violence seek justice.

“This judgment reminds me of my daughter who I couldn’t even bury and I hope that this will bring me some peace. I would like to start a fund in her name to aid the women survivors so more people can join in the effort.”

‘DAUGHTER WANTS TO BE LAWYER’

“I want to help and educate their children, in whose lives the spirit of my daughter Saleha will live on,” said Bilkis with a lump in her throat. She added, “It is a big thing for me that the Supreme Court accepted my grief and trauma and then delivered justice. I knew that it was going to be a long and tiring struggle but I kept my faith in the Constitution and my rights.”

Bano also recounted that her 16-year-old daughter Hazra decided a few years ago that she wants to grow up to be a lawyer. Hazra was in Bano’s womb when the atrocities happened with her during the Gujarat riots of 2002. She survived the brutal gang rape along with her mother Bano. To this, Bano’s advocate Shobha who has represented her since 2003 said that she would “love to work with her.”

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Bilkis Bano addressing the crowd

She also remembered her late daughter Saleha who was three years old when she was murdered along with 13 other members of her family when the attack happened and said, “This judgment reminds me of my daughter who I couldn’t even bury and I hope that this will bring me some peace. I would like to start a fund in her name to aid the women survivors so more people can join in the effort.”

PROLONGED FIGHT FOR JUSTICE

Advocate Shobha also addressed the media and said that this has been a really painful case. “We asked for more money in term of compensation not for the sake of monetary help but the fact she has been wronged in all possible manner not just by the perpetrators but also at the hands of the state machinery which was supposed to protect her. This family was running helter-skelter just to ensure that they are alive while Bilkis was pregnant. She could live through the savagery only because she couldn’t bear the brutality and became unconscious. Her incapacity to bear the brutality was what saved her life.”

She praised Bano’s husband for standing by her side and supporting her through the years. In addition, she paraphrased portions of the Special Leave Petition seeking action against the convicted Gujarat Police officials and listing multiple horrific counts of violation of constitutional rights for which Bano sought exemplary compensation from Gujarat government. It included damages to her constitutional right to life, right to bodily integrity, right to be protected by the state and right to seek justice for wrongs suffered by her.

ALSO READ: Pay Rs 50 Lakh As Compensation To Bilkis Bano: SC Directs Gujarat Govt

Along with the exemplary compensation, the apex court has also directed the state government to provide a government job and accommodation to Bano. “I am urging Bilkis to take up the job as that would be the true example of woman empowerment after all the brutality and trauma she suffered. Just to ensure that justice is served and the accused are convicted, she had to undergo a lot of mental torture without any rehabilitation from the state. Bilkis told Justice A.S. Anand when he visited her in the refugee camp that ‘I have not been raped once but I am being raped again and again every time somebody asks me about it’,” said advocate Shobha.

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Bilkis Bano with her husband Yakub Rasool on her left and Advocate Shobha on her right

CONVICTIONS AND DISMISSAL

She also delved upon the conviction of the guilty officials and stated the 11 convicts arrested in the case are undergoing life sentence under penal provisions. Bombay High Court upheld the life sentence given by a trial court to 11 convicted in the case. It also reserved the acquittal of others accused in the case, including the Gujarat police officers and doctors from a government hospital held guilty of tampering with the evidence.

An IPS officer, R.S Bhaguda, who is currently working as DCP Traffic in Ahmedabad despite the judgment came out by the Bombay High Court in 2017. Now the disciplinary action against him has been concluded and we are told that he will now be awarded a penalty of two rank demotions.

“Three of the officials who retired before the judgment came out by the Bombay High Court, action has been taken against them and we were told in the court yesterday that their complete pensionary benefits will be revoked. The fourth and the senior most officer, R.S Bhaguda, IPS, who is currently working as DCP Traffic in Ahmedabad despite the judgment came out by the Bombay High Court in 2017. Now the disciplinary action against him has been concluded and we are told that he will now be awarded a penalty of two rank demotions,” said Shobha.

Bano’s husband Yakub Rasool spoke up on standing by her through her struggle and said, “What happened with Bilkis was an atrocious incident and for Muslim society and everyone else in the world to support her after that is a good thing and I hope there are more husbands and men who support women in cases of sexual violence.”

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