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The alarming silence of leaders

The alarming silence of leaders

Protest in Delhi organised by Centre for Struggling Women against release of the 11 convicts who were serving life sentences in the Bilkis Bano riots case of 2002 (Photo credits: Telegraph India)

'India observed two minutes silence for Nirbhaya; The criminals were executed. But when it came to Bilkis, there was only silence' - this is one of the comments made in the social media about the silence of many who should have responded to the Gujarat government's action of releasing eleven criminals. It was only after the Supreme Court intervened and transferred the case trial to the Bombay High Court that the demons who defied the law and humanity by gang-raping a pregnant woman, abducting her three-year-old daughter from her mother and throwing her on a rock and killing other relatives after raping and slitting them into pieces. They were given remission, not by the government of Maharashtra, but of Gujarat. The move, which received global attention and tarnished the country's image, has been widely criticized. International organizations such as the United States Commission on Religious Freedom, voluntary organizations, religious bodies in India, political leaders, activists and former judges are among those who have made their disapproval public. Six thousand civic leaders issued a statement. Various women's movements, human rights and civil rights activists and writers' groups have not only opposed this act of release, unbecoming of any civilised society where rule of law prevails, but have also demanded its cancellation. At the same time, the fact that a number of national media and cultural leaders, who have the power to influence public opinion are sitting back feigning ignorance about it tells us something frightening about India, which has completed 75 years of independence.

Legal experts point out that the action of the Gujarat government cannot be justified legally or morally. But it should be alarming that there are those who cannot recognize the serious malady that has afflicted the conscience of a nation. Let us ignore the fairness and justice in handpicking this case of 11 convicts for remission by applying the 1992 criteria instead of the criteria amended in 2015 in the remission rules, ignoring the law that excluded rape offenders from the remission policy, hiding the fact that the permission of the Centre is necessary in cases investigated by the CBI, and violating the guidelines issued by the Centre itself regarding the new remission procedures. The fact that when the perpetrators of such heinous crimes were released, there was a group of people who publicly greeted them with garland and sweets, and that they belonged to the main ruling party at the Centre and in Gujarat, shows that Arshabharat's depravity has become quite evident. If those at the helm of the country have reached the mentality of celebrating cardinal sin and crime, the leaders are bound to be seized of it and move the society in the right direction. The history of the long struggle to get the freedom which we have celebrated 76 times, is replete with accounts of diverse means adopted by leaders to correct the wrongs of their followers. Leaders and movements took care to awaken the moral thinking by admonition, strict reprimand or even fasting.

But today we see nothing of that kind happening. It was on the same Independence Day, when Prime Minister Modi spoke at length about the respect for women that Gujarat "respected" womanhood by freeing criminals. The Prime Minister was not heard to say anything about this or the reception given to the criminals by his own supporters, not ev en a single tweet. For the new President Draupadi Murmu also the release and reception given to criminals who tore womanhood to pieces, was a test immediately after becoming the second woman President of the country. Now is she known to have made any intervention. Many of the BJP's women ministers, MPs and other people's representatives are known for their prompt responses. responded eloquently. But in this case, they are also silent. Some groups like Aam Aadmi Party are also silent. Not that there are no random voices of conscience here and there. . BJP's Rajya Sabha member and lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani at least had the temerity to say that the Gujarat move was inconsistent with the Prime Minister's 'Narishakti' policy. At the same time some like Union Minister of State V Muralidharan was heard trying to justify the release of the convicts. Shouldn't we be able to overcome the momentary pressures of party politics and listen to conscience, religious morality, and judgement between good and evil at least in in the matter of basic principles of humanity? This is not just about a Bilkis Bano or 11 criminals. It is about what little is left of the values that no one born as human should ever give up.

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TAGS:Gujarat riots 2002Gujarat release of 11 convictscrimes of rape and murdergarland and sweets in publicMahesth JethmalaniNarishaktiPresident Draupadi Murmu
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