NEW DELHI: Bilkis Bano, the gang rape survivor of Gujarat riots who was ordered compensation of Rs 50 lakh by the Supreme Court on Tuesday — the highest awarded to a rape survivor in the country by an Indian Court — said no citizen should have to suffer violations by the state. Part of the money which the Gujarat government will now have to give to her will be used to help other women survivors, she announced during a press conference in the capital.
The top court has directed the Gujarat government to pay a compensation of Rs 50 lakh to the victim in a case by Bano through which she had sought exemplary compensation, refusing to accept the state’s initial gesture of Rs 5 lakh.
The apex court also directed the state government to provide her a government job and accommodation, according to the rules.
“I kept my faith in the Constitution and in my rights as a citizen and the Supreme Court stood with me. For that I am truly grateful to the honourable Judges,” she said. On being asked if she planned to take up the job and accommodation, she said she “wanted her life back.”
Speaking about her 17-year struggle for justice, she said, “It has been a journey of a million steps. First, seeking a criminal conviction of those who destroyed my life, killed my child and my entire family.”
“But today, the state has been convicted in a court of morals and Constitutional principles. The Supreme Court’s order to me is not about the money; it is about the signal it has sent to the state and to each citizen. We have rights that no state can be allowed to violate.”
On what she planned to do with the money, she said she wanted to give her children a stable life, perhaps see her eldest daughter — who was born after the riots — grow up into a lawyer who can defend others.
“I also want to use part of the money to help other women survivors of hate and communal violence seeking justice. I want to help educate their children, in whose lives the spirit of my daughter Saleha (the daughter killed in the riots) will live on,” she said.
During the riot
In March 2002 during the riots, Bano, then 19, was gang-raped when she was five months pregnant and 14 of her family were killed