The Congress on Wednesday stepped up its attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the release of the convicts in the Bilkis Bano case, asking whether he approved of the Gujarat government’s decision.
The opposition party asked what action the prime minister would take against the Gujarat chief minister if the Centre’s concurrence had not been sought. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said the entire country is seeing the difference between the prime minister’s words and deeds.
The party alleged that the Gujarat government flouted rules while releasing the convicts serving life imprisonment for rape and murder in the 2002 Gujarat riots case and demanded answers from the prime minister and Home Minister Amit Shah on whether the decision had the Centre’s concurrence.
Congress spokesperson and head of media department Pawan Khera told reporters that in cases investigated by central agencies like the CBI, the law binds the state to take concurrence of the Centre before giving any such remission of its own.
He also asked if it was shared with the court. “We demand an answer from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah on whether the Gujarat government had sought the Centre’s concurrence before giving remission to the convicts in Bilkis Bano rape case,” he told reporters.
Seeking answers, Khera said if the Gujarat government had taken the prime minister’s concurrence before granting remission, his words would ring hollow. “What action will the prime minister take against the BJP government of Gujarat? We also want to know from Gujarat who were the members of the jail advisory panel who recommended the remission,” he asked, alleging that two of the members on the panel are BJP MLAs.
He also asked why some sections of the Opposition were “silent” on the injustice and exhorted them to come together on the issue.
“Why parties that entered politics making ‘Nirbhaya’ the base are silent today? Do they only exist to garner votes?” he asked while making an oblique reference to AAP.
“Why are we silent as a society? We also want to ask why the media is silent, the same media that in one voice sought strong laws after the rape of Nirbhaya. If we do not ask these questions now, our society will stink and the world will feel the stench. If we do not ask these questions today, there will be no tomorrow for this country,” he said.
The Congress asked whether it was possible for the Gujarat government to approve the early release of the convicts without the knowledge and approval of Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Shah.
Khera claimed that the 1992 policy under which the Gujarat government granted remission was done away with on May 8, 2013 by Modi, who was then the chief minister of Gujarat. He said that under the Centre’s policy of 2014, persons convicted under cases of rape and murder cannot be granted remission.
He termed the claim of the Gujarat government that remission was granted based on the orders of the SC as “misleading”. The Supreme Court had directed Gujarat to dispose of the matter in three months and had not directed the state government to grant them this remission, he said.
“This is not a judicial order, but an executive one,” Khera said.
Meanwhile, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra attacked the prime minister, saying women are asking if respect for them is “only in speeches”.
The BJP government in Gujarat released all the 11 people convicted for the rape of a pregnant Bilkis Bano and murder of seven of her family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots, under its remission policy, she said.
“Those who raped a five-month pregnant woman and killed her three-year-old daughter were released during ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’. What message is being given to the women of the country by those who peddle lies about ‘Nari Shakti’?” Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.
“Prime Minister ji, the entire country is seeing the difference between your words and deeds,” he said.
Priyanka Gandhi asked if the release of the criminals by the BJP government and the welcome extended to them in front of the camera is not the height of injustice and insensitivity. “Narendra Modi ji, respect for women only in speeches? Women are asking,” she said.
Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh tagged a tweet by party colleague Khera in which he shared that the latest guidelines issued by the Home Ministry on early release of prisoners mention rape and murder convicts cannot be released out of turn by the prison administration.
“Brazenly shameless. Do you really think the Gujarat Govt did the early release without knowledge and approval of PM and HM?” he tweeted.
Opposition parties on Tuesday had hit out at Prime Minister Modi over the release of the 11 convicts within hours of his praise for “Nari Shakti” in his Independence Day speech and said this is the “real face” of New India under the BJP.
A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Mumbai on January 21, 2008, had sentenced the 11 to life imprisonment on charges of gangrape and murder of seven members of Bilkis Bano’s family during the 2002 Gujarat riots. Their conviction was later upheld by the Bombay High Court.
Modi, who was the chief minister of Gujarat then, has been persistently attacked by the Opposition over the 2002 riots, which had left 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus dead. The riots had erupted after the Godhra train burning incident in which 59 ‘karsevaks’ were killed. (PTI)