Justice at Last by FAISAL HASHMI (JANUARY 25, 2008)
Finally, a high-visibility victim of Gujarat 2000, Bilkis Bano, has got a semblance of justice as a CBI court in Mumbai has awarded life-term to 11 of the accused of murdering 13 of her relatives in a gruesome event at the height of the pogrom.
This could be possible only because of the intervention of the Supreme Court, which in view of state ineptitude and complicity in the crime, had the case transferred to Maharashtra.
It was an important step as Ms Bano and witnesses were continuously being threatened by men of BJP, RSS, VHP and other allied organisations which were behind the massacres. At a press conference Ms Bano expressed satisfaction.
However, she regretted that seven accused were let off by the court because of insufficient evidence. Three of the convicted persons, accused of raping her, were among the eleven who got life imprisonment. The judge rejected the special prosecutor's plea for death sentence to the three rapists.
A composed and articulate Ms Bano told media persons: "This judgment does not mean the end of hatred, but it does mean that somewhere, somehow justice can prevail." Finely said, but the question still remains as to how many victims of Hindutva violence have the perseverance to fight it out amid so much of disarray, under such threat.
Also, how many cases of such heinous crimes can be transferred to other states? Why it is that a chief minister and the government machinery that facilitate such crimes against humanity cannot be brought to justice, and justice can be obtained only outside their domain? Why is that government above the law of the land?
These are quite a few unanswered questions, but first let us celebrate the small victory that justice has got.