AS THE Congress sharpened its attack on the BJP Gujarat government over the remission of life sentences of the 11 accused in the gangrape of Bikis Bano and the murder of 14 members of her family, the BJP continued to maintain silence, including its Women and Child Welfare Minister and its women and minority morcha leaders.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is pitching itself as a challenger to the BJP in the coming Gujarat elections, has also chosen silence on the matter. Delhi Chief Minister and AAP national convenor Arvind Kejriwal, who announced a “guarantee” for women at an August 10 meeting in the state, did not raise the issue at a Kutch town hall on Tuesday.
After the Congress’s central unit held a press conference in Delhi Tuesday where it reminded Prime Minister Narendra Modi of ‘Raj Dharma’, its Rajya Sabha MP Amee Yajnik and president of its Gujarat Pradesh Mahila Morcha Jenny Thummar attacked the PM Wednesday for making “hollow claims” on women empowerment in his Independence Day speech.
“When you speak of dignity of women, the question of justice also arises… However, the manner in which the 11 convicted persons were pardoned by Gujarat — a state where the Prime Minister has been Chief Minister, and whose governance model he cites – it raises a question as to whether it is the same women empowerment that Modi was talking about?” Yajnik said.
Thummar said: “There are over 3.25 crore women in Gujarat. Just imagine how every woman in this state felt when those 11 men walked off laughing from jail. The BJP that talks about respect for women has pardoned rapists and murderers.”
The party also claimed Wednesday that a state cannot on its own give remission in a case that had been investigated by a Central agency, in this case the CBI. “We demand an answer from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah on whether the Gujarat government sought the Centre’s concurrence before giving remission to the convicts,” Congress leader Pawan Khera said in Delhi.
Asked about the remission order, Gujarat Minister of State for Women & Child Welfare (Independent Charge) Manisha Vakil and state BJP Mahila Morcha chief Dipika Saradva refused to comment. On Tuesday, BJP state spokesperson Yamal Vyas told The Indian Express that the party did not want to comment as “it was a court matter”.
A senior office-bearer of the party said they have been instructed not to speak on the issue since “it is connected with the Supreme Court”.
The post of chairperson of the Gujarat State Commission for Women, a statutory body, has been vacant since February, when the last incumbent resigned.
Among those who asked why AAP had not issued any statement on the Bilkis Bano order was its former leader Ashutosh. AAP has been going all out to woo Hindu voters in its campaign across states.
The Congress also attacked AAP without naming it, with Khera asking why some sections of the Opposition were “silent”. “Why are parties that entered politics making ‘Nirbhaya’ the base silent today? Do they only exist to garner votes?” he said.