A lawyer of 11 men convicted of gang rape and murder during the 2002 Gujarat riots in India, who were controversially released from prison last month, denied the news of the men’s disappearance.
The men were found guilty of raping Bilkis Bano, who was 19 and pregnant at the time of the anti-Muslim riots that killed more than 1,000 people. She survived an attack by a Hindu mob, but she saw 14 members of her family killed.
Last month, after serving 14 years of life in prison, the men were released from prison and were welcomed as heroes by relatives and supporters.
Now, a report from the video news portal Mojo story states that the released detainees are all missing or have gone ashore. Reporters from the outlet visited the homes associated with all 11 men, but reported there was no sign of them, while the alleged family members and neighbors did not provide clear answers on their whereabouts, according to the outlet’s video interviews. .
The report came just days before the Indian Supreme Court hears two reasons to contest their release in the case. It is feared that by the time the country’s supreme court delivers its sentence on Friday, the 11 men may already be untraceable.
However, Rishi Malhotra, a lawyer representing the 11 detainees, dismissed those concerns. He said The independent: “First of all they weren’t on bail. They have been released. They are very present [at their homes]. They don’t need to go underground. Is absurd”.
He opposed the characterization of them as “missing” and said “they just don’t want to face the media”.
This was stated by Shobha Gupta, the senior Supreme Court lawyer representing Bilkis Bano The independent. He had also heard “rumors” that the 11 men were in hiding but “after their lawyer [Mr Malhotra] assured that they are not really hiding or have gone underground, I would assume that this is the case ”.
He said that Mr. Malhotra “assured them that they were [the 11 convicts] they are required to appear before the court, they would be made available “.
When asked if there would be any obstacles to the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday that, as an interim measure, they would be sent back to prison, Ms. Gupta said, “I would like to believe their lawyer who assured them that they will be made available.”
The 11 men were serving life sentences for Ms. Bano’s gang rape and the murder of seven of her family members. They were released on August 15, the same day India celebrated its 75th Independence Day.
Narendra Modi, the country’s prime minister who was Gujarat’s prime minister during the 2002 riots, celebrated the national holiday calling for an end to crimes against women. Yet observers noted that on the same day, convicted gang rapists were welcomed home with garlands and sweets.
Ms. Bano said their release left her “numb” and “private”.
“Today I can only say this: how can justice for a woman end this way?” she said. “I trusted the system and was slowly learning to live with my trauma,” she said, adding that her release had shaken her confidence in the justice system. “Nobody asked about my safety and well-being before making such a big and unfair decision.”
Nearly 50 women’s rights groups and more than 80 activists and scholars have expressed disappointment and anguish at the decision.
“We are ashamed that on the day when we should celebrate our freedoms and be proud of our independence, the women of India instead saw the group rapists and mass murderers freed, as an act of generosity of the state”, they said. a joint statement last month. .