Ramon Magsaysay award recipient Sandeep Pandey and others who were scheduled to participate in the foot march, titled ‘Apologising to Bilkis Bano’ on Monday were detained by Gujarat Police on Sunday night.
The march was planned to be taken out from Bano’s native village Randhikpur in neighbouring Dahod district under the banner of ‘Hindu-Muslim Ekta Samiti’. The march was to conclude in Ahmedabad on October 4.
Bilkis Bano was five months’ pregnant when she was gang-raped by the Hindu mob while fleeing the anti-Muslim genocide that broke out in 2002. Her three-year-old daughter was among the seven killed by the Hindu mob. The 11 men convicted in the case walked out of the Godhra sub-jail on August 15 this year after the Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy.
“We only wish to apologise to Bilkis for whatever has happened to her and wish such heinous acts do not happen in an otherwise peaceful state of Gujarat,” the Hindu-Muslim Ekta Samiti said in the statement.
“We have been brought to a police station 15 km from Godhra. Our yatra was to apologize to Bilkis Bano, not to oppose the government. I am an anti-caste atheist, but as a person born into a Hindu family, I feel these people are a blot, and I am deeply ashamed,” Pandey said.
“This is happening in Gandhi’s Gujarat— Gandhi, who called for Truth and Non-violence. It is a matter of deep injustice that that the murderers and rapists were released and celebrated as sanskaari Brahmins, we peaceful yatris been detained. Why are they afraid of us?,” he added.
“It seems they will detain us for a day or more, so that the pad yatra does not take place as scheduled. Others who have not been detained might start the Yatra as planned. If we are prevented from doing the yaatra, I may do a 9 day fast in solidarity with Bilkis Bano,” said Pandey.
“Dr. Sandeep Pandey along with 6 others have been detained at the Godhra police station even before they could start their yatra demanding justice for Bilkis Bano. First, let the rapist free & then detain those demanding justice for victims. That’s gujarat model for us,” tweeted Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani.
The other detainees include Nitesh Gangaramani Bharatiya, Tanushree Gangopadhyay, Hanif Haji Kalandar, Noorjehan Diwan, Kausar Ali and T. Gopal krishna.
Hindus for Human Rights, a body of Indian Americans had demanded the immediate release of Dr. Sandeep Pandey and others.
“We demand that the peaceful padyatra in solidarity with Bilkis Bano be allowed to take place as planned,” it said in a statement.