Justice, not revenge, was my aim, says Bilkis Bano

The Gujarat riot victim terms the SC ruling a clear message

A day after the Supreme Court ordered the Gujarat government to give Bilkis Bano ₹50 lakh as compensation, a government job and a house, the 2002 communal riots victim on Friday said revenge was not her aim while fighting the case.

“Justice and not revenge was my aim. Throughout I kept my faith in the Constitution, my rights as a citizen, and the Supreme Court has stood by me,” said Ms. Bano at a press conference here.

Asked about what kept her going for the past 17 years she said: “On March 3 during the riots I saw the devastation of my family, I lost my daughter… I had nothing more to lose and that gave me the courage to struggle on.”

She added that she is happy with the order and the exemplary compensation. “Now I hope I can give my child a stable home and life. I also hope that my daughter will grow up and become 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 to seek justice. We hope to help educate their children, in whose lives the spirit of my daughter Saleha (who she lost during the riots) will live on,” said an emotional Bilkis, who had her husband Yakub by her side during the press conference.

Besides the media, the conference saw the presence of citizens from all walks of life, including women’s rights and human rights activists who said they were there to salute Bilkis’ courage, and at this dark time in India, when hate crimes and hate speech were on the rise, to celebrate this historic moment of hope for equal justice for all citizens of India, and for the victory of constitutional values.

Bilkis Bano speaking about the most difficult part of her ‘journey’ said: “The fact that I was forced to live in a hostile state was the most difficult part of the struggle. Today, everyone is asking me what I will do with the money…Well I would just want my life back. The fact that the courts acknowledge my pain itself is big for me.”

‘Not about money’

“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 of this country. The order’s clear message is that we have rights and that no State can be allowed to violate,” she said.

Bilkis Bano’s advocate Shobna, who represented her in Supreme Court, was also present.

“This case gives hope to women and the common man,” she said,. adding, “the order of the Supreme Court provides for the damages to Bilkis’s Constitutional right to life; right to bodily integrity; right to be protected by the State; and right to seek justice for wrongs suffered by her among others.”

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