Magsaysay awardee activist Sandeep Pandey and three others were detained by Gujarat Police ahead of a foot march planned on Monday to express solidarity with Bilkis Bano, who was gang-raped and had seven of her family members murdered during the 2002 Gujarat riots
Pandey and other activists were scheduled to participate in the foot march, titled 'Apologising to Bilkis Bano', planned to be taken out from her native village Randhikpur in neighbouring Dahod district under the banner of 'Hindu-Muslim Ekta Samiti'. The march was to conclude in Ahmedabad on October 4.
"Sandeep Pandey and three others were detained from Godhra (in Panchmahal district) at around 10.30 pm on Sunday. They are still in detention," police said. The Hindu-Muslim Ekta Samiti in a statement condemned the police action.
It said the foot march was organised to apologise to Bilkis Bano, after the Gujarat government on August 15 this year released 11 convicts in her case under its remission policy. The convicts were serving life sentence in the Godhra sub-jail on charges of gang-rape of Bilkis Bano and murder of seven members of her family in a post-Godhra riot case.
"We only wish to apologise to Bilkis for whatever has happened to her and wish such heinous acts do not happen in an otherwise peaceful state of Gujarat," the organisation said in the statement.
Recently, one of the convicts Radhey Shyam submitted an affidavit to the SC questioning the locus standi of the petitioners who have challenged the remission. Terming the petitioner as political activists or ‘third party stranger’, the convict said that if such pleas are entertained by the top court, it would establish a wrong precedence and anybody from the public would jump in any criminal case.
Citing SC verdicts in ‘Janata Dal versus HS Chowdhary’ of 1992 and ‘Subramanian Swamy versus Raju’ of 2013, where the top court held that the third party with no connection to the specific case can have no locus standi, Shyam requested the court to not entertain the plea of the petitioners.
CPI (M) leader and Vice President of All India Democratic Women’s Association Shubhashini Ali along with Journalist Revati Laul and former Vice Chancellor of Lucknow University Room Rekha Verma submitted a petition to the SC challenging the remission of the 11 convicts in Bilkis Bano case.
On March 3, 2002, Bilkis Bano's family was attacked by a mob at Randhikpur village in Limkheda taluka of Dahod. Bilkis, who was five months pregnant at the time, was gang-raped and seven members of her family were killed.
A special CBI court in Mumbai had on January 21, 2008 sentenced to life imprisonment 11 accused in the case for murder and gang-rape. Their conviction was later upheld by the Bombay High Court.
These convicts served more than 15 years in prison, after which one of them approached the Supreme Court with a plea for his premature release. The Gujarat government later issued an order to release all the 11 convicts, as per its remission policy, following which they walked out of the jail on August 15.
(WIth PTI Inputs)