NEW DELHI: Speaking for the very first time about an investigation he undertook 13 years ago, retired police officer Vivek Dube still gets emotional. When 5 policemen and 2 doctors were also convicted by the Bombay High Court this week in the Bilkis Bano case, Mr Dube knew his job was finally done.
- 5 policemen, 2 doctors convicted in Bilkis Bano case this week
- Right decisions by CBI in early days of probe led to conviction: officer
- Bilkis Bano was gang-raped, her family massacred in March 2002
His team of investigators had already secured the conviction of the 11 men who massacred 14 members of her family in Gujarat's Dahod district in March 2002. The youngest of them was Bilkis Bano's two-year-old Saleha; her head was smashed on a rock. A pregnant Bilkis was gang raped. She survived, because they left her for dead, and came to symbolise the brutality witnessed during the 2002 riots.
As head of the CBI's special crime team in December 2003, Mr Dube was the officer in-charge of the case when the Supreme Court ordered the agency to take over the probe.
"We were taking her statement down and asked Bilkis how many people raped you. She said three. She was five months pregnant and she apparently asked in Urdu "Chacha, yeh kya kar rahe ho" (Uncle, What are you doing). They didn't listen to her and raped her. This really moved me, and the entire CBI team," said Mr Dube, who went on to become Andhra Pradesh police chief before retiring in 2015.
The perpetrators of the rape and those who smashed her child's head were all who were from her village, people she knew. But the only one running around was the victim, Bilkis.
He told NDTV how the local policemen took down Bilkis' statement four times, varying them each time, and made her put her thumb impression on it as she wasn't literate. Asked why the police refused to record her rape in their FIR, Mr Dube said, "Personal consideration, everybody doesn't try to be impartial. Maybe somebody was worried about their postings and transfers."
The CBI, whose track record in convicting the accused is often called into question, and was famously described as a "caged parrot' by the country's top court, managed to file a charge sheet against state policemen even while it was an NDA government at the Centre.
Mr Dube suggests the conviction became possible due to some right decisions taken by the agency in the early days of its probe. From exhuming the bodies 2 years after the murder, to nailing the inconsistencies in the post-mortem by the government doctors, CBI's final masterstroke was to arrest the 11 accused as soon as they appeared in the case. "Usually we have to take permission from the Director CBI but I realized I also have the power so I empowered our officer. If we hadn't, then those men would have gone missing," he said.