The Gujarat Police detained social activists, including Magsaysay award recipient Sandeep Pandey, and three others, ahead of a foot march planned on Monday to express solidarity with and apologise to Bilkis Bano, who was gang-raped and had seven of her family members murdered during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Mr. Pandey and other activists were scheduled to participate in the foot march, named ‘Apologising to Bilkis Bano’, which was planned to be taken out from her native village of Randhikpur in Dahod district under the banner of ‘Hindu-Muslim Ekta Samiti’.
The march from Randhikpur was to conclude in Ahmedabad on October 4 as per the schedule. However, local police in Godhra detained Mr. Pandey and others late on Sunday night.
“Mr. Sandeep Pandey and three others were detained from Godhra at around 10.30 p.m. on Sunday. They are still in detention,” the Hindu-Muslim Ekta Samiti said, condemning the police action against the activists.
The 180 km march was planned against the Gujarat Government’s move in August this year to remit the life sentence of 11 of the convicts in Bano’s rape case. The State government’s controversial decision has been challenged before the Supreme Court.
Sources said police detained some of the activists on Sunday night in Godhra. They were reportedly kept at different locations throughout the day on Monday, and released in the evening near the Mahisagar district border.
The police again detained a few of the activists on grounds that they did not have the required police permission to take out the march.
The activists were detained before they could enter Randhikpur, from where they were to commence their foot march.