Special Reports

Civil outrage in India, abroad at govt. action against Teesta

New Delhi: Demonstrations were held across the country and abroad in solidarity with Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand and their colleagues who are being hounded by the Gujarat government and Central agencies for their consistent support to the victims of Gujarat pogroms perpetrated under the wathc of the then chief minister who is now prime minister of the country. Intellectuals, academicians, students, artists, activists, journalists, teachers and ordinary people came out outraged by the blatant misuse of state machinery to hound and persecute a group of courageous human rights defenders who should instead be honoured for their consistent brave stand. The latest raids by the Central Bureau of Investigation into their homes and offices in Mumbai on 14 July 2015 are continuation of the undeclared policy of first the Gujarat government and since May 2014 of the Central government to harass and demoralize such people foisting false court cases which will keep them busy for years.

Ever since the registration of the malicious FIR against the Setalvad-Anand couple and their organisations in 2014, they have been cooperating with the Gujarat police - and now with the CBI - by providing them with full documentary evidences of audited accounts and all other financial dealings. Nonetheless, the intention of the Gujarat police has been to somehow secure the custody of Setalvad and Anand and throw them into the inhuman confines of Indian jails. Frustrated in their attempts by the intervention of the Supreme Court, the Gujarat government has now mobilized the Ministry of Home Affairs, which has in turn unleashed the CBI on the activists.

 It is appalling that while multi-billion scams and the ruling party's coziness with scamsters awaits investigation, the Central Government is busy witch-hunting such brave activists. The reasons are obvious: Setalvad and others must be made to pay for their relentless pursuit of justice in the 2002 massacre of Muslims.  It is well-known that Teesta Setlavad and Javed Anand have fought to expose the role of the Gujarat government in enabling, abetting and even organising these crimes. They have been fearless in charging the then Chief Minister who is currently the country's Prime Minister, with direct criminal culpability for these crimes. For this they have assisted the widow of a former MP who was brutally slaughtered and burnt alive in the Gulbarg colony massacre. They are also appealing against court orders to free on bail prominent political leaders of the BJP convicted of the worst massacre in Naroda Patiya, Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi.

It is no surprise therefore that the latest round of raids comes just before the Zakia Jafri case begins its final hearings on July 27 2015 and when the Naroda Patiya appeals (Kodnani and Bajrangi) were to be heard in the Gujarat High Court.

What we are witnessing is a crude and defiant misuse of official bodies to beat down these human rights defenders so as to silence their voices, break their morale and divert them from their unrelenting battles in defense of justice which charge the country's current leadership with complicity in hate crimes.  The open official bullying of courageous human rights defenders even as persons charged with a range of serious crimes walk free are brazen official attempts to diminish Indian democracy. This will be powerfully resisted by all democratic voices in the country.

 We therefore demand: 1)  The false, flimsy cases which have been used as a pretext to hound Setalvad, her colleagues and their organization be withdrawn. 2)   The CBI must, with immediate effect, end its misinformation campaign which is absolutely contrary to facts and truth. (From the statement of the organisations which held a dharna at Jantar Mantar on 18 July, 2015)

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 August 2015 on page no. 13

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