NEW DELHI (AP) — A Muslim woman who was gang-raped while pregnant during India’s devastating 2002 religious riots is calling on the government to reverse its decision to release 11 men who had been jailed for life for committing the crime. after they were released. on suspended sentences.
The victim, now 40, was pregnant when she was brutally gang-raped during communal violence in 2002 in the western state of Gujarat, in which more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in some of the worst riots. religious experiences that India has experienced. since its independence from Britain in 1947. Seven members of the woman’s family, including her three-year-old daughter, were also killed in the violence.
The Associated Press does not generally identify victims of sexual assault.
The 11 men, released Monday as India celebrated 75 years of independence, were convicted in 2008 of rape, murder and illegal assembly.
The victim said the Gujarat state government’s decision left her cold-hearted and shook her faith in justice.
“How can justice for a woman end like this? I trusted the highest courts in our land,” she said in a statement late Wednesday, adding that she was not approached by any authority before the decision was made. “Please undo this damage. Give me back my right to live without fear and in peace.“
On Thursday, dozens of women protested against the men’s release in the capital, New Delhi. Maimoona Mollah of the All India Democratic Women’s Association said they are demanding that the state reverse its decision.
“(The victim) and other survivors must be able to live in peace and dignity,” Mollah said.
Raj Kumar, additional chief secretary in Gujarat, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party holds power, told the Indian Express newspaper that the convicts’ request for remission was granted because they had served more than 14 years in jail. A state government panel made the decision after considering other factors such as his age and behavior in prison.
Kumar said the men were eligible under a 1992 diversion policy that was in place at the time of their conviction. A more recent version adopted in 2014 by the federal government prohibits remand release for those convicted of certain crimes, including rape and murder.
The unrest has long dogged Modi, who was Gujarat’s top elected official at the time, amid accusations that the authorities allowed and even encouraged the bloodshed. Modi has repeatedly denied having any role and the Supreme Court has said it found no evidence to prosecute him.
Videos on social media showing the men being greeted with sweets and garlands after their release from prison went viral, sparking outrage and anger from women, human rights activists and opposition politicians.
Vrinda Grover, a lawyer, called the decision a “parody and a serious miscarriage of justice”, while speaking to India Today TV.
Opposition lawmaker Rahul Gandhi took aim at Modi on Twitter, questioning what kind of message he sent to women in India from a government that says it wants to empower women.
“The whole country is seeing the difference between your words and your deeds,” he wrote in Hindi.
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