The release of 11 men serving life term for the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of her family during the 2002 Gujarat riots, is "appeasement politics" ahead of the state elections in Gujarat, Asaduddin Owaisi, the chief of AIMIM, told NDTV today. "It is more unfortunate as the Prime Minister talked about women's empowerment from Red Fort on the Independence Day. It is sending a wrong message to the Muslim community and sets a wrong precedent," he added during an exclusive interview.
"This is again a crime committed against Bilkis Bano. Fresh wounds are given to Bilkis Bano. I hope good sense would prevail in the BJP," Mr Owaisi said.
Elections are due in Gujarat by the end of this year, in which the BJP is hoping for another term in power in the state.
In June, the Centre had said that rape convicts cannot be released under a special release policy for convicted prisoners as part of the "Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav" celebrations. But those guidelines may not be applicable in this case.
The Gujarat government had released the men following its own policy after the Supreme Court's directions in May to consider a remission plea by one of the convicts.
"The BJP is completely biased to people practicing a certain religion. Why are people in jail for Godhra? They don't care about rule of law. They are committing a crime again. They have no remorse," he added.
Bilkis Bano was five months' pregnant when she was raped on March 3, 2002. Her toddler daughter was among the seven family members murdered the same day. The family was hiding in fields near Ahmedabad as violence erupted in the aftermath of the burning of a Sabarmati Express coach that killed 59 'kar sevaks'.
In 2008, a special court in Mumbai sentenced the 11 men to life term in jail – a sentence that was upheld by the Bombay High Court.