Calling it "shocking", former union minister Sharad Pawar today hit out at PM Narendra Modi over the release of 11 rapists and murderers in the Bilkis Bano case from the 2002 riots in his home state Gujarat last month.
In a series of tweets, the veteran politician from Maharashtra juxtaposed the convicts' release with the Prime Minister's August 15 speech. He had pointed this out while speaking to reporters in Thane last month.
"On the one hand, the PM talks about respect for women," he tweeted, in Hindi, "But in the state from which he comes, where our sister Bilkis Bano and her children suffered atrocities, where her family members were murdered, the BJP reduced the punishment of those who did that."
"The BJP has shown to the people of Gujarat and the rest of India how it defines honour for women," added Mr Pawar, who was re-elected as chief of his party NCP for four years today at a convention in New Delhi.
प्रधानमंत्री जी ने जो महिला सम्मान की बात की वह सम्मान की व्याख्या क्या है यह भारतीय जनता पार्टी ने गुजरात और देशवासियों के दिखाया है। ऐसे कई प्रश्न समाज के कई वर्गों के सामने हैं।— Sharad Pawar (@PawarSpeaks) September 10, 2022
The 11 men were sentenced to life imprisonment for the gangrape of Bilkis Bano, who was pregnant at the time, and the murder of seven members of her family, including her three-year-old daughter. Having served 15 years, the men walked out of the Godhra jail on August 15 after the Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy.
The BJP government has said the Supreme Court, on a petition by one of the men, had asked it to consider their plea. They were were eligible for release as per policy, the government said.
Sharad Pawar, in an interaction in Thane on August 29, had also questioned activist Teesta Setalvad's arrest by the Gujarat Police on allegations of using false evidence to file cases over the 2002 Gujarat riots. Ms Setalvad was recently granted bail by the Supreme Court after spending over two months in jail.
Mr Pawar's assertions become more significant as he's one of the leaders working on Opposition unity before the 2024 Lok Sabha contest. The NCP, holding its eighth national convention in Delhi, will on Sunday present a blueprint for bringing together anti-BJP forces.