'I want my life', says Bilkis, happy with the SC acknowledging her struggle
New Delhi: "I want my life," Bilkis Bano said on Wednesday at a Press conference here when asked whether she wants to take up the offer of a government job and house that the Supreme Court has asked the Gujarat government to provide for her.
In a first for India, the highest court in the country ordered the Gujarat government on Tuesday to pay Bano Rs 50 lakh as compensation, a government job and housing in an area of her choice.
At the press conference, Bano also said she intends to use a part of the money awarded to her as compensation to set up a foundation in her daughter Saleha's name, who was murdered in front of her along with 13 other family members by a mob during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
A three-and-a-half-year-old Saleha was murdered by smashing her head on a rock, as the five-month-pregnant Bano, who was being gang-raped, watched helplessly.
Bano gave birth to her daughter months after the incident, and she said her 16-year-old daughter now wants to become a lawyer.
Supreme Court lawyer Shobha Gupta, who took up Bano's case in 2003 and was instrumental in getting the compensation for her, said this judgment will definitely set a precedent for victims of such crimes who sue for compensations.
Gupta said the 17-year struggle has been extremely painful for her and all people involved specifically because of repeated discussions and research on the nature of the crime, which was required for this victory.
Addressing media persons, an emotional Bano said, "I am glad that the Supreme Court has recognised and acknowledged the struggles I have seen, felt and fought through for 17 years."
"And when you see your entire family being killed in front of you, the courage to fight for justice comes naturally. You end up not having anything to lose," Bano said, replying to journalists who were in awe of how she could have kept at it for so long.
She said that it is a monumental victory for the court to have acknowledged the Gujarat government's massive failure in her protecting her constitutional rights.