“ I am happy that the court has acknowledged the pain I had to go through. Finally, the court has accepted it. I have waited for it for so long,” said Bilkis Rasool, almost in tears as she addressed the media today.
It was a press conference everyone who has been following the travails of the victims of the horrific Gujarat violence 2002 had been waiting for. Bilkis, then a young girl was gang raped. 14 members of her family, including her three and a half year old daughter was killed. Other female members of her family were raped and murdered before her eyes, memories that continue to haunt her.
She filed her first FIR in Limkheda police station in March 2003. And since then has moved from court to court seeking justice.
“I had full faith in my Constitution and always believed that justice would be done,” she said. The court ordered compensation of Rs 50 lakhs to her. Bilkees said that now she will settle down in one place, and leave her nomadic life behind. She along with her husband Yaqub and family had been moving from house to house, locality to locality, in search of security and justice.
She said that she will use part of the compensation to help others fighting similar battles. Bilkis was pregnant when she was raped, and alter gave birth to her second daughter Hajra. She said she wanted her girl to be a lawyer. “One of my daughters was lost, we did not even get her body, I pray she is in heaven and rests in peace,” she said.
“I saw my Saleha being stoned in front of me I saw my three old girl dying. We could not even bury her,” the survivor of Gujarat 2002 said. Bilkis wants to help other children, and will create a Saleha fund from the compensation money to be able to do so.
Asked what kept her going, her response was simple: “when you have seen your entire family, your life destroyed, why will you not fight for justice.”
The long years of struggle have taken a toll. The relief has still to sink in. As her lawyer Shobha pointed out, the system was weighed against her. “One has to read the chargesheet to understand how the system tried to save the perpetrators. In the closure report Bilkis was not even examined for rape, only for injury,” she said. The lawyer said that the picture changed only after the CBI was brought in . Even then when everything else failed, the advocates filed for compensation. And this, Shobha said, is that very rare case when maximum compensation has for rape has been granted by the court.
Yakub, Bilkis’ husband, has been virtually living on daily wages for these 17 years. He works when he gets a job. He said that the Gujarat government failed in helping the family, and not even provided security when they were under threat. The family has moved in Gujarat, then to Delhi, Lucknow and Mumbai. Today Bilkis is living with her family of seven in Devgadh Baria’s Rahimabad relief colony. They were trying to flee town on that fateful day as mobs had started attacking the Muslims. She boarded a bus with 17 members of her family. The bus was attacked by a mob and 14 of her family were killed. Apart from her daughter, her mother too died. Bilkis was five months pregnant at the time.
She was left for dead. She woke up in blood and bodies around her. She still has nightmares. She has four daughters now but the wounds remain.
Timeline of the Initial Years
March 3 2002: Bilkis Rasool was gang raped. 14 members of her family , including her 31/2 year old daughter, murdered. Several female members of her family also raped and murdered. Bilkis was the only eyewitness and adult survivor of he horrific massacre.
March 2003: Bilkis files first FIR in Limkheda police station. Names rapists but this was not included in the 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 that does not directly take up her case but requests senior counsel Harish Salve to represent her in the Supreme Court.
April 2003: Bilkis herself becomes a petitioner in Supreme Court. Her main prayers are: quashing of Summar A order of Limkheda Magistrate, CBI enquiry and action against errging Gujarat police officers, compensation.
September 25, 2003: SC asks Gujarat government to stop state CID investigation. State CID had started harassing Bilkis and members of her extended family.
December 18, 2003: SC asks CBI to undertake investigations.
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 two police officers.
April 19, 2004: CBI files chargesheet against 20, including six police officers and two government doctors.
May 12, 2004: CBI files final report disclosing gross violations and complicity of the Gujarat state.
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 cases outside Gujarat.
August 6, 2004: SC orders Bilkis case to be transferred to suitable court in Mumbai.
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 examined by Special Public Prosecutor continues. She identifies in court the 12 accused who raped her, killed her daughter, and raped and killed members of her family.
Case went on in the Supreme Court, being challenged by the accused. She was finally awarded compensation by the court in 2019.