I Want Justice, Not Revenge: Bilkis Bano

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New Delhi: It is with a certain stoicism that Bilkis Bano repeatedly stresses, “I want justice, not revenge”, days after the Bombay high court upheld life imprisonment of 11 persons convicted of gangraping her and killing her family in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

She does want more stringent punishment for the seven police officers and doctors who were found complicit in trying to cover up the case even as she described the HC verdict as a vindication.

Speaking at a press conference, Bano, accompanied by her husband Yakub and two-year-old daughter, said she has faith in the judiciary. “The HC judgment was very good… I am all the more happy as the policemen and doctors involved in covering up the incident have also been convicted,” she said.

Bano and Yakub said they would take their legal fight further if the convicts appealed in a higher court. “It has been a harrowing (fight), I want to be able to educate my daughters.

My eldest says she wants to become a lawyer,” Yakub said as he recounted how they had to shift houses 25 times to escape threats from convicts “frequently” out on parole.

Yakub has a new worry though. He said the government’s new “cow-protection laws and vigilante groups” threatened his family cattle business. Bano was five months pregnant when she was gang-raped.

Her three-year-old daughter was killed along with seven of her family members. “In all these years, I have not received any support from the government in my struggle,” she said even as Vijay Hiremath, who represented her in the HC, said this was despite a 2015 rule which entitles victims of sexual assault to compensation from the state. The only compensation, he said, was the penalty announced on the accused by the HC, which is to be given to Bano.