India frees 11 Hindus convicted of gang-raping pregnant Muslim woman
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Eleven Hindu men jailed for life for the gang-rape of a pregnant Muslim woman during Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002 have been freed on remission, drawing condemnation from the victim's widower, lawyers and politicians, reported CNN.
The Gujarat violence, one of India's worst religious riots, led to the deaths of more than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims. Gujarat was then led by current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as chief minister, and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party still rules it.
VHP garlands men convicted (& released on remission by @BJP4India Govt of Gujarat) of gang raping a Muslim woman neighbour, smashing her baby daughters head on the ground, killing 6 others. Remember, this is what you support when you vote BJP or donate to @VHPDigital @VHPANews pic.twitter.com/3o2hn8vqdI— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) August 17, 2022
Panchmahals' top bureaucrat told news agencies that the district jail advisory committee had recommended the release after considering the time the 11 had spent in jail and their good behaviour. "The fact is they had spent close to 15 years in jail and were eligible for remission," Sujal Jayantibhai Mayatra said.
Indian laws allow convicts to seek remission after 14 years in jail, officials said.
Media footage showed a man feeding the convicts sweetmeat outside the jail after touching the feet of one of them, a mark of respect.
The widower of the victim, Bilkis Bano, told British news agency they were disappointed because the riots had also killed many family members. "We have lost our family and want to live in peace, but suddenly this has happened," Yakub Rasul said. "We had no prior information about their release, either from the courts or the government. We only learnt about it from the media."
Opposition politicians and lawyers said the release contradicted the government's stated policy of uplifting women in a country notorious for violence against them. "The remission of the sentence of convicts of a gruesome crime like gang-rape and murder is morally and ethically improper," said senior lawyer Anand Yagnik. "What is the signal we are trying to send?"