Press Trust of india

Activist Sandeep Pandey, others detained in Gujarat for padyatra in support of Bilkis Bano

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Ahmedabad: Social activist Sandeep Pandey and others were detained at Sevaliya in Gujarat’s Kheda district on Monday for taking out a foot march to express solidarity with 2002 Gujarat communal riots victim, Bilkis Bano, without permission, officials said.

Notably, the Panchmahal police on Sunday night detained Pandey, a Ramon Magsaysay awardee, and his aides from Godhra for planning to take out a foot march from Randhikpur, the native village of Bilkis Bano in the Dohad district. They were released only on Monday afternoon at the Kheda border.

“Sandeep Pandey and ten other activists were detained at around 4 pm on Monday. They were detained after they started their padyatra without permission. They are still in detention,” a Sevaliya police station official said.

Activists claim three local people at Sevaliya who had arranged for their food and accommodation were also detained.

“At Godhra, Pandey had sat on a fast for permission to allow the foot march,” his associate Kalim Siddiqui claimed.

The foot march was to be organised from Randhikpur village in Dohad district to the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad between September 26 and October 4, “to apologise to Bilkis Bano for the injustice and pain she had to go through since 2002, and more so, after the early release of the 11 life-term convicts,” the Hindu Muslim Ekta Samiti said.

“Sandeep Pandey and three others were detained from Godhra (in the Panchmahal district) at around 10.30 pm on Sunday,” a police officer had said.

The Samiti said they only wanted to apologise to Bilkis for whatever has happened to her and after the Gujarat government on August 15 released 11 convicts in her case under its remission policy.

The convicts were serving a life sentence in the Godhra sub-jail on charges of gang rape of Bilkis Bano and murder of seven members of her family in a post-Godhra riot case.

On March 3, 2002, Bilkis Bano’s family was attacked by a mob at Randhikpur village in Limkheda taluka of Dahod. Bilkis, who was five months pregnant at the time, was gang-raped and seven members of her family were killed.

A special CBI court in Mumbai had on January 21, 2008, sentenced to life imprisonment 11 accused in the case of murder and gang rape. Their conviction was later upheld by the Bombay High Court.

These convicts served more than 15 years in prison, after which one of them approached the Supreme Court with a plea for his premature release.

The Gujarat government later issued an order to release all the 11 convicts, as per its remission policy, following which they walked out of the jail on August 15.

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