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`My faith in justice shaken`: Bilkis Bano on release of 11 gangrape convicts

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`My faith in justice shaken`: Bilkis Bano on release of 11 gangrape convicts
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New Delhi: 'The trauma of the past 20 years washed over me again,' these were the words of Bilkis Bano after the 11 convicts who gang-raped her and killed her children during the Godhra riots in 2002 were released under the Gujarat government's remission policy on August 15.

Her first statement since the release two days ago hinted at a sense of deep hurt and betrayal. It has left her "numb" and "bereft of words", she said.

"How can justice for any woman end like this? I trusted the highest courts in our land. I trusted the system, and I was learning slowly to live with my trauma... My sorrow and my wavering faith is not for myself alone but for every woman who is struggling for justice in courts," said the woman, whose fight for justice went on for 18 long years.

The short statement also hinted at shock at the Gujarat government's move to release the convicts without any consultation with her. "No one enquired about my safety and well-being, before taking such a big and unjust decision," she said.

There was also a request for the Gujarat government. "Give me back my right to live without fear and in peace. Please ensure that my family and I are kept safe," the statement read.

Safety has been a big concern for the woman since the rapists were released, her lawyer Shobha Gupta had told NDTV.

Bilkis Bano was 21 when she saw seven members of her family murdered. Among them was her daughter, who was just three years old. Seven other relatives, who she says were also killed, were declared "missing". The woman, five months pregnant, was then gang-raped.

A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Mumbai on January 21, 2008, sentenced the 11 to life imprisonment on charges of gang rape and murder of seven members of Bilkis Bano's family during the 2002 Gujarat riots. Their conviction was later upheld by the Bombay High Court.

The rapists walked free as the nation celebrated 75 years of Independence on Monday and were greeted with sweets, hugs, and garlands by groups linked to the ruling BJP.

The Gujarat government has defended its decision to release the 11 men, saying it considered the release plea as per a 1992 policy, as directed by the Supreme Court because that was in effect at the time of the conviction in 2008.

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