Sharad Pawar hits out at PM Modi over Bilkis Bano case

The NCP chief said he was aghast that while PM Modi on August 15 spoke on the importance of according dignity to women, the tormentors of Bilkis Bano were being ‘shamefully felicitated’

August 29, 2022 09:07 pm | Updated 09:07 pm IST - Pune

Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar addressed a press conference after a workers’ rally, in Thane, on August 29.

Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar addressed a press conference after a workers’ rally, in Thane, on August 29. | Photo Credit: PTI

Hitting out at Narendra Modi, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar said he was astonished that for all the Prime Minister’s talk on the need to respect women, perpetrators in the Bilkis Bano gang-rape case were released by the BJP-ruled government in Mr. Modi’s home State of Gujarat.

Speaking in Thane on August 29, Mr. Pawar further charged the Bharatiya Janata Party of running a ‘campaign’ to dislodge non-BJP governments in States by splitting a section of MLAs among ruling parties by either unleashing central agencies against them or luring them by offering positions of power.

“Everyone knows the trauma that Bilkis Bano went through [during the 2002 Gujarat riots] … she was raped, several of her relatives were killed and her child was murdered. The lower court, the high court and the Supreme court all had decreed the sternest punishment to be meted out to the perpetrators which was imprisonment for life. Yet, the BJP government in Gujarat got these criminals released. Not only that, they were felicitated upon their release as well,” Mr. Pawar said.

The NCP chief said he was aghast that while PM Modi, in his Independence Day speech on August 15, spoke on the importance of according dignity to women, the tormentors of Bilkis Bano were being “shamefully felicitated.”

“This is extremely distressing and worrisome. Under the Centre, there has been a daily rise in crimes against women,” Mr. Pawar said.

Last week, the NCP’s ally in the MVA – the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena – had similarly criticised both Prime Minister Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah for their silence over the release of the convicts in the case.

“We cry out loud when similar atrocities take place in neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh,” the party wrote in its mouthpiece Saamana. “Then where has our sensitivity gone in the case of Bilkis Bano?”

Meanwhile, Mr. Pawar said that the only focus of the BJP leadership appeared to be to destroy their political opponents from other parties by any underhand means possible.

“For instance in Karnataka, which never previously had a BJP government, certain people were found who were pliable and the non-BJP government was overthrown. Likewise in Maharashtra, a section of Shiv Sena leaders [Eknath Shinde and rebel Sena MLAs] were targeted and a government was formed with them. The same thing happened with Kamal Nath’s government in Madhya Pradesh,” said the NCP chief, whose party was a critical component of the erstwhile tripartite ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ (MVA) government in Maharashtra.

Bilkis Bano case | Past verdicts will hold SC in good stead to examine premature release of convicts

Mr. Pawar further said the very fact that the BJP had to resort to such means to overthrow non-BJP administrations meant they were not sure they would be able to secure a popular mandate on their own.

“Since they cannot come to power by legitimate means, they are splitting Opposition parties and forming governments with breakaway factions,” he said.

Alleging that most of the commitments made by the BJP-ruled Central government before the 2019 Lok Sabha election had proven hollow, Mr. Pawar said that the Modi government had failed on its promises to provide sanitation, round-the-clock water supply and proper homes for the underprivileged sections.

“The Centre had claimed every Indian will have a toilet by 2022. As per its own figures, it has failed to provide toilets in 56% of the homes in Bihar, 43% homes in Jharkhand and 40% of the houses in Orissa. Overall, there is a 30% deficiency in providing toilets in homes across the country. In 2018, the Centre had promised that all Gram Panchayats would have an Internet connection. Nothing of the kind has happened,” Mr. Pawar said.

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