This interview includes graphic accounts of violence.
NEW DELHI — On 3 March 2002, Bilkis Bano was gang raped and 14 members of her family murdered in one of the worst episodes during the Gujarat riots in 2002. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat at the time.
At the time, Bano was 19 years old and pregnant with her second child. Her three-year-old daughter was killed before her eyes. As local policemen went to extraordinary lengths to cover up the horrific crime, Bilkis started receiving death threats. For the next several years, her family led a nomadic existence, moving from place to place for their safety, but continued their fight for justice.
It took six years for 11 men to be sentenced to life in prison for rape and murder. One policeman got a sentence of three years in prison for tampering with the First Information Report (FIR). It took ten more years for five other policemen and two doctors to be convicted for attempting to cover up the crime.
Now, 17 years later, Bano’s lawyer Shobha Gupta asked the Supreme Court to award exemplary compensation to her and for disciplinary action against the convicted policemen.
On Tuesday, the court ordered the Gujarat government to pay Rs 50 lakhs as compensation to Bano, a house in a place of her choosing, and a government job. This is the highest compensation ever given to a rape survivor in India. ”The Supreme Court has acknowledged the pain that I have endured for 17 years,” Bilkis said on Wednesday. “That is important to me.”
Following this landmark judgement, HuffPost India spoke to Gupta, the Supreme Court advocate who has represented Bilkis since 2003.
Gupta, who runs her own law firm in Delhi, does a lot of pro-bono work. She has fought for juvenile justice reform, reducing water-logging in the capital, and better food quality in...