Are 11 rapists released in the Bilkis Bano case gone missing?

BILKIS CASE

Syed Ali Mujtaba

The 11 men who were released in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case on August 15 are believed to have gone missing. The Supreme Court is likely to take up this case for hearing on Friday 9th September after public outrage and pressure from social media.

A video report on the news portal ‘Mojo’ has gone viral that says all the 11 convicts freed, are either missing or have gone underground. According to the video the reporters of the news portal have visited the homes of the released persons and have found no sign of them in their given addresses. Their family members and neighbors too feign ignorance and do not provide any answer about their whereabouts.

This report comes a day before the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear two pleas challenging the release of 11 men in the Bilkins Bano rape case. There are fears that by the time the Apex Court gives its ruling on this issue, these men might be untraceable.

However, Rishi Malhotra, the lawyer representing the 11 convicts’ told the media that “First of all these men are not released on bail. They are freed after facing 14 years of a life sentence for their alleged crime. They are very much at their homes and there is no need for them to go underground.”

The lawyer objected to the media portrayal of these men as “missing” and said, “they just don’t want to face the media.” He assured that if they [are required to present at the court, they may be available.”

The 11 men were serving life terms for the gang-rape of Ms. Bano and the murder of seven of her family members. They were released on 15 August 2022; the same day India observed its 75th Independence Day.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on that day spoke from the Red Fort that this day is celebrated as a national holiday by calling for an end to crimes against women. Yet on the same day, the 11 convicted gang rapists were freed and were welcomed home with garlands and sweets by their relatives and friends.

There was disappointment and anguish over the decision to release the 11 rapists and nearly 50 women’s rights groups and more than 80 activists and scholars have issued a joint statement last in this regard.

“It shames us that the day we should celebrate our freedoms and be proud of our independence, the women of India instead saw gang-rapists and mass murderers freed, as an act of state largesse,” they had said.

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