A Muslim woman who was gang-raped while pregnant by a Hindu mob, who also murdered her three-year-old daughter and 13 other members of her family, has called on officials to rescind her release. for 11 men jailed for this crime.
Bilkis Bano was 19 years old and five months pregnant when she and her family were attacked during the 2002 Gujarat riots, which saw more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, killed in the riots.
Eleven men jailed for life in 2008 for rape, murder and unlawful assembly were released from prison in Panchmahals in the western Indian state on Monday.
Media footage shows convicts being offered sweets outside the prison.
An official told Reuters news agency that the district prison advisory committee had recommended their release after considering their time in prison and their good behavior.
Sujal Jayantibhai Mayatra said: “The reality is that they have spent almost 15 years in prison and are eligible for parole.
Indian law allows convicts to be pardoned after 14 years in prison.
The decision to release the men was made by the government of Gujarat, which is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Mr. Modi was the chief minister of the state during the 2002 riots and is accused of tolerating the violence at the time, as well as government and police officials.
Ms. Bano, now in her 40s, and her husband were not informed that the men would be released.
In a statement through her lawyer later, she said the news left her “disappointed” and “paralysed” and “shaken” her faith in justice.
“No one questioned my safety and well-being before making such a big and unfair decision,” she said.
“The wounds of the past 20 years come back to me.”
She has now appealed to the Gujarat government to “remove this harm”.
“Give me back my right to live fearlessly and peacefully. Make sure my family and I are kept safe,” she said.
The decision sparked outrage with protests held in the capital New Delhi on Thursday.
Activists hold placards that read: “Protect rapists and punish victims.”
Opposition politicians and lawyers say the release contradicts the government’s stated policy of uplifting women in a country known for violence against them.
Senior lawyer Anand Yagnik said: “It is morally and ethically inappropriate to expunge those convicted of such a heinous crime as gang rape and murder.
“What’s the signal we’re trying to send out?”