File image of Bilkis Bano with her family. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: Over 400 writers, artists and other prominent citizens have said that they are “shocked beyond belief” over the release of 11 convicts guilty of the brutal gangrape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of 14 members of her extended family, including her three-year-old daughter.

They issued a statement condemning the “unspeakable brutalisation and trauma” suffered by Bilkis Bano, and said the Gujarat government’s decision to release the imprisoned convicts under the state’s remission policy on August 15 makes it even more “inhumane”. They also expressed anguish over convicts being felicitated.

Among 401 signatories are Rajya Sabha MP Jawhar Sircar; politician and columnist Sudheendra Kulkarni; journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta; actor, activist and politician Nafisa Ali.

“We believe that the remission and the government’s silence sends out a signal of impunity and sets a precedent that is inhuman and immoral. We, therefore, urge you to ensure immediate and complete revocation of the order of remission and thus restore the faith of all our citizens in justice, humanity and civilisation,” the statement said.

Earlier, in an open letter to the Supreme Court, 134 former members of the All India Services, under the banner of the Constitutional Conduct Group, had expressed their “deep distress” over the premature release of convicts. They had urged the top court to rectify the “horrendously wrong decision” by the Gujarat government, questioning the grant of remission to the convicts.

“On the morning of August 15, 2022, in his Independence Day address to the nation, the Prime Minister of India spoke of women’s rights, dignity and ‘Nari Shakti’. That very afternoon, Bilkis Bano, a woman who embodied that ‘Nari Shakti’ in her long and daunting struggle for justice, learnt that the perpetrators who killed her family, murdered her three-year-old daughter, gang-raped and left her to die, had walked free,” the signatories had said in a joint statement.

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