A Muslim woman who was gang-raped as 14 other people were murdered during one of post-independence India’s worst religious riots has said she is “numb” after her attackers were released early from prison.
In a case that drew global outrage, Bilkis Bano and two of her children were the only survivors among a group of 17 Muslims attacked by a Hindu mob in the western state of Gujarat in 2002.
Bilkis was pregnant at the time and seven of those killed were relatives including her three-year-old daughter. The attack took place when current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was Gujarat state premier.
Eleven Hindu men were later sentenced to life in prison but were freed on Monday, with the Gujarat government timing its announcement to coincide with celebrations for the 75th anniversary of India’s independence.
Read more: Eleven Hindu men convicted of gang-rape of pregnant Muslim woman in 2002 riots go free
The attackers, released following a recommen-dation by a state government panel, were greeted by relatives outside the prison who gave them sweets and touched their feet in a traditional Indian sign of respect. Bilkis said in a statement released by her lawyer on Wednesday that she was “bereft of words. I am still numb.”
“I trusted the highest courts in our land. I trusted the system, and I was learning slowly to live with my trauma.
“The release of these convicts has taken from me my peace and shaken my faith in justice. My sorrow and my wavering faith is not for myself alone but for every woman who is struggling for justice in courts,” she said.
Read more: India at 75: Dreams of a Hindu na-tion leave minorities sleepless
On Thursday, around a dozen people staged a demonstration in New Delhi against the release of the men.—AFP