Hundreds of people held demonstrations in different regions India To protest the government’s recent decision to release 11 men jailed for life for gang-raping a Muslim woman during religious riots in India in 2002.
Protesters chanted slogans in the country’s capital, New Delhi, on Saturday, demanding that the government in the western state of Gujarat reverse the decision. They also sang solidarity songs with the victim.
Similar protests were held in several other states.
11 people who were released on parole on August 15, when India celebrated 75 years of independence, were found guilty of rape, murder and illegal assembly in 2008.
The victim, who is now in his 40s, recently said that the Gujarat state government’s decision it numbed him and shook his faith in justice.
The victim was pregnant when she was gang-raped during communal violence in Gujarat in 2002, when more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in India’s worst religious riots since independence from Britain in 1947. Seven family members, including the woman’s three-year-old daughter, were also killed as a result of the violence.
Prominent activist Kavita Krishnan said: “The whole country should demand answers directly from the Prime Minister of this country.”
Officials in the state of Gujarat, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party is in power, said the pardons of the convicts, who had served more than 14 years in prison, had been granted. The men were eligible under a 1992 amnesty policy in effect at the time of their convictions, officials said.
A newer version of the policy, passed by the federal government in 2014, prohibits the release of people convicted of certain crimes, including rape and murder.
The riots have long dogged Modi, then Gujarat’s top elected official, amid allegations that the authorities allowed and even encouraged the bloodshed. Modi has repeatedly denied any role and the apex court said it found no evidence to prosecute him.
Asia Qureshi, a young protester in New Delhi, said she participated in the demonstrations to seek justice for the victim.
“Modi gave a speech on August 15 about the safety and protection of Indian women and on that day they released the rapists,” he said. “How am I safe in such a climate?”
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