By Arun Srivastava
The truth is now in the public domain. While admiring “Nari Shakti (women’s power) on August 15, from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Narendra Modi resorted to uncanny act of concealing the fact that 11 rapists of Bilkis Begum and killers of her seven family members would be released the same day at the direction of the home ministry of Amit Shah. Bilkis Bano was five months pregnant when she was gang-raped during the riots of 2002. Her three-year-old daughter was among the seven family members killed.
While he visualised manifold contribution of Nari Shakti, he did not utter a single word of condemnation on the release of his rapist members. He preferred to maintain impassive silence. The only tenable reason for his silence was to allow the opportunity to smear his iron posture. But he could not succeed in keeping the issue under the wrap for long. The petition filed by four courageous activists CPI(M) leader Subhashini Ali, Revati Laul, a journalist, Roop Rekha Verma, former vice chancellor of the Lucknow University and TMC MP Mahua Moitra, before the Supreme Court and consequently the court issuing orders to place the facts before it, has brought out the real face of this government towards women.
What really came as a brute shock was the fact that Amit Shah’s ministry had agreed for release of the rapists at least thirty-five days before Modi’s solemn claim of respecting the women’s “mann aur samman” (prestige and dignity) on Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav on August 15. Notwithstanding his vows and pledges to preserve and protect the prestige of the women Modi’s government preferred to stand by the side of the rapists.
Senior Supreme Court lawyer Abhishek Singhvi rightly said “There are many compromises in politics. But the BJP has made the greatest compromise of all: a sacrifice of the last shred of conscience that separated them from those craven and venal elements who prize solely their own political survival over all else”. There is no denying the fact that Modi government conspired to hide critical facts about its role in the release of the convicts. The facts have come to light only after intervention of the Supreme Court.
The action of the Gujarat government to release them was being questioned by the political parties, intellectuals, academics and social activists. But the Gujarat government was maintaining a mesmerising silence notwithstanding the evidences candidly pointing to its deep involvement in the design.
Interestingly while defending its action Gujarat government said that it was in consonance to the 1992 remission policy since they had completed more than 14 years in prison and their conduct was found to be good. It also clarified the convicts were not granted remission in consonance with the circular for grant of remission to prisoners as part of ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ celebrations.
The government cleverly avoided the fact that a Supreme Court had ordered that a person convicted for committing rape or murder would not enjoy the benefit of remission. Gujarat conveniently cited the 1992 remission policy. The state home department said all the convicts had completed more than 14 years in prison under life imprisonment. On its part the Gujarat government approached the ministry of home affairs vide letter dated June 28, 2022, and sought the orders of India. Amit Shah’s ministry gave its clearance despite aware of the Supreme Court’s order.
What is most intriguing is the Home Ministry headed by Amit Shah gave the permission notwithstanding the objections by the Superintendent of Police, CBI, Special Crime Branch, Mumbai and the Special Civil Judge (CBI), City Civil and Sessions Court, Greater Bombay. This action is testimony to the fact that Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are out to exonerate the RSS and BJP cadres and activists found to be involved in crimes like murder and lynching.
Quite interestingly while the Supreme Court is sieged of the matter, the Gujarat government is making its last ditch effort to prevail upon it and make sure that it does no rescind its action. This is revealed in the remark of apex court which says Gujarat government’s reply to pleas challenging the remission granted to 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano gang-rape case is very bulky wherein a series of judgments have been quoted but factual statements are missing.
“I have not come across a counter affidavit where a series of judgments are quoted. Factual statement should have been made. A very bulky counter. Where is the factual statement, where is the application of mind?” a bench headed by Justice Ajay Rastogi observed.
Gujarat government also blamed the petitioners of having no locus standi as they were directly not related to the case. Affidavit had said, “the petitioner being a “third-party stranger”, has no locus to challenge the remission order passed by the competent authority as per applicable law in the instant case under the “garb of PIL”.
What is indeed shocking is Modi never condemned criminal action of the rapists. He never tried to goad or caution any of its leaders indulging in politics of hatred or threatening the minorities, especially the Muslims. Earlier BJP leaders Kapil Mishra, Pravesh Verma, Member of Lok Sabha and even MP, Anurag Thakur made some hatred speech. But Modi never pulled them up.
Modi, the iron man, has the dubious distinction of not speaking on key issues those particularly relate to Muslims. Bilkis case is not the first such illustration. He used to accuse former PM Manmohan Singh of keeping silent even as allegations of scams broke one after another. There are many instances when he resorted to golden rule of keeping silent. Speaking would have exposed the character of the government.
Some time back 13 opposition leaders had expressed their anguish and questioned Modi’s silence on the issue of communal violence at several places in the country during celebrations. They were hurt at the “polarisation” of society and the growing number of hate speeches. Their joint statement said; “We strongly condemn the recent outburst of communal violence witnessed across several states in the country. We are shocked at the silence of the PM, who has failed to speak against the words and actions of those who propagate bigotry and those who, by their words and actions, incite and provoke our society.
Modi’s silence shows that he agrees with every communal statement made by his party colleagues that has been followed by hatred and violence in the country. Even Congress leader Shashi Tharoor had said “it was high time Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke his silence on the “proliferation of hate speech and Islamophobic incidents” in the country. His silence is interpreted by some as condoning what has been happening.”
No doubt Modi’s silence is motivated. His silence is also a device to let the police and state administration resort to brutal repression on the dissenting people and activists. His silence is also a gadget to force the government machinery and institutions to fall in line. He never bothers to take seriously the voices of caution from the opposition parties, civil society leaders, writers, scholars and common citizens forewarned to put an end to Islamophobia. An insight into his silence would unravel the candid truth that it was a strategic manoeuvre to strengthen and encourage the Hindutva protagonists. Opening mouth will prove to be a major deterrent for the Hindu bigots, which Modi dislikes. (IPA Service)