My rights as a woman were violated in most brutal manner, but I trusted our democratic institutions

bilkisBilkis Yakub Rasool’s statement after Bombay High Court rejected appeals of the 11 convicted-accused, upholding life imprisonment, setting aside acquittals of seven Gujarat cops and doctors, convicting them of evidence tampering:

Through all of you, friends in the media, I wish to say to all my fellow Indian citizens, my fellow Gujaratis, my fellow Muslims, and to women everywhere – I am grateful that this verdict delivered by the Honorable Judges, has, yet again, vindicated my truth, and upheld my faith in the judiciary.

My rights, as a human being, as a citizen, woman, and mother were violated in the most brutal manner,  but I have trusted in the democratic institutions of our country. Now, my family and I feel we can begin to lead our lives again, free of fear.

I am happy that the State and its officials who emboldened, encouraged, and protected the criminals who destroyed the life of an entire community, are no longer unblemished, but today stand charged with tampering of evidence. For officers of the state, whose sworn duty it is to protect citizens and enable justice, this should be their great moral shame, to bear forever.

To fellow Indians, I appeal to all of you, at a time when we hear news everyday of people being attacked and killed because of their religion or community – please help affirm their faith in the secular values of our country and support their struggles for justice, equality, and dignity. For this verdict does not mean the end of hatred but it does mean that somewhere, somehow justice can prevail. This has been an long, seemingly never ending struggle for me, but when you are on the side of truth, you will be heard, and justice will be yours in the end.

The close friends, who have stood with me through it all, know how much me, my husband Yakub and my family owe to them for their instinting support and love throughout this battle. For journeys like mine cannot be made alone. I am deeply grateful both to the CBI and to my lawyer who represented me during this appeal process in the Honorable Bombay High Court.

Bilkis Yakub Rasool case fact sheet

March 3, 2002 : Bilkis Rasool was gang-raped. 14 members of her family, including her 3 and half year old daughter, murdered. Several female members of her family also raped and murdered. Bilkis the only adult survivor and eyewitness to the horrific massacre.

March 4, 2002: Bilkis files first FIR in Limkheda police station. Names rapists but not included in FIR.

March 25, 2003: One year after incident “Summary A” report filed and accepted by Limkheda Judicial Magistrate effectively closing case. Inconsistencies cited as reason.

April 2003: Bilkis approaches National Human Rights Commission. NHRC agrees to support Bilkis case. NHRC requests senior counsel Harish Salve to represent Bilkis and to argue her case in Supreme Court.

April 2003: Bilkis becomes a petitioner in Supreme Court. Her main prayers are: quashing of Summary A order of Limkheda Magistrate; CBI enquiry and action against erring Gujarat police officers; compensation.

September 25, 2003: Supreme Court asks Gujarat Government to stop State CID investigation. State CID had started harassing Bilkis and members of extended family.

December 18, 2003: Supreme Court asks CBI to undertake investigation.

January 22, 2004: CBI arrests 12 accused.

February 11, 2004: CBI files interim report where several gross violations and complicity of Gujarat police highlighted.

March 2004: CBI arrests 2 police officers.

April 19, 2004: CBI files charge sheet against 20 (including 6 police officers and two government doctors).

May 12, 2004: CBI files final report disclosing gross violation and complicity of the Gujarat State. Mentions grounds for transfer.

May 2004: Witnesses given CISF protection by the Supreme Court as Bilkis and witnesses face threats

July 2004: Bilkis files additional petition requesting transfer of case outside Gujarat.

August 6, 2004: Supreme Court orders Bilkis case to be transferred to suitable court in Mumbai; appointment of Public Prosecutor to be done by the Central Govt.

September 2004: Special Court of Judge U.D. Salvi appointed to hear the matter.

January 13, 2005: Charges framed against 19 of the 20 accused. (Trial of one Dr. Sangeeta Prasad separated as she is declared medically/mentally unfit for trial.)

February 22, 2005: Bilkis’s examination-in-chief by Spl. Public Prosecutor, R.K. Shah continues. She identifies in court the 12 accused who raped her, killed her daughter, and raped and killed members of her family.

May 15, 2005: Bilkis was cross examined for 20 days. The cross examination concluded in May 2005.

August 2006: Bilkis called again for cross examination.

March 2007: 73 Witnesses of prosecution examined by the court.

April 2007: Examination of defence witnesses started

June 2007: Examination of defence witnesses concluded.

August 2007: Arguments started.

December 2007: Arguments concluded.

January 18,2008: Verdict declared by Sessions Court Mumbai-twelve held guilty under several Sections including Section 302, 376, 143 to 148. (1 person died during trial period due to health reasons) One policeman also convicted for lodging false FIR. Seven people acquitted-5 police officers and 2 doctors.

From 2009 to 2011: 11 accused convicted file an appeal against conviction in Bombay High Court. CBI files appeal for enhancement of punishment of 3 main accused, and against acquittal of 7 persons, including police officers and government doctors in Bombay High Court.

May 4, 2017: Verdict on both appeals delivered by Bombay High Court. All 19 accused convicted (originally 20 were accused. One passed away during sessions court trial due to health reasons). Convictions of 11 accused upheld. Acquittals of 7 Police officers and doctors overturned – charged with evidence tampering.

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