Support Pours in For Teesta Setalvad
Messages in support have poured in for activist Teesta Setalvad after she was arrested from her home by the Anti Terror Squad of Gujarat. She was taken to Ahmedabad and more news is awaited. Policemen barged into her home and before being taken away Setalvad told reporters that she had no idea under what charges she was being detained, and that she had been "assaulted" by the police.
Citizens have issued a call for a nationwide protest on Monday June 27 in support of Setalvad. V.Suresh,Aruna Roy, Medha Patkar, Apoorvanand, Syeda Hameed, TM Krishna, Rooprekha Verma, Shabnam Hashmi, Kavita Srivastava, Gauhar Raza and others have issued a statement stating:
"The judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Zakia Jafri v State of Gujarat, dismissing the petition filed by Zakia Jafri calling for an investigation into the conspiracy to hatch the events resulting in communal violence following the Godhra train burning, deepens the sense of injustice and marks a moment of profound hurt and loss as far as all those who care about constitutional values. The Supreme Court not only dismissed the idea that there was a conspiracy to commit the crimes of murder, rape and destruction of property, but instead went further and took to task those who sought to ensure justice for the communal hate crimes following the Godhra incident.
It observed that a 'coalesced effort of the disgruntled officials of the State of Gujarat along with others was to create sensation by making revelations which were false to their own knowledge.' The judgment then assailed those who used the process of law to pursue justice for those who were targeted because of their minority status for over sixteen long years as having the 'audacity' to 'question the integrity of every functionary' and their motives were tarred as 'ulterior design'. The Court observed that 'all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law.'
The state has now used the observations made in the judgment to falsely and vindictively prosecute those who had struggled for justice even in the face of state callousness and complicity. It is truly an Orwellian situation of the lie becoming the truth, when those who fought to establish the truth of what happened in the Gujarat genocide of 2002 are being targeted.
Following the judgment on 24.06.2022, the Gujarat ATS swung into action and forcibly got into Teesta Setalvad house, assaulted her, picked her up and took her in their custody on 25.06.2022. Teesta, in her written complaint to the Santa Cruz Police Station stated "I fear seriously for my life." The FIR under which she has been detained accuses the Gujarat retired police officials ADGP R.B Sreekumar, DIG Sanjiv Bhatt and activist Teesta Setalvad of conspiring to fabricate evidence, tutor witnesses and abuse the process of law.
The FIR casts its net very wide and makes the case that the time period of the offence ranged from 1.01.2002 to 25.06.2022. In effect every effort for justice for the victims of 2002, be it petitions filed in the High Court, Supreme Court or the Magistrates' court is sought to be criminalised. The ordinary process of criminal litigation to make the state accountable by establishing guilt of those accused of serious crimes is tarred with the criminal brush.
It seeks to deter citizens from holding the state accountable for enabling violence in future and in effect conveys that the state can do no wrong. That if you point out that the emperor has no clothes, you open yourself up to arrest and criminalisation. This is the implicit message going out to all in Indian civil society and to the public at large.
We condemn this naked and brazen attempt to silence and criminalize those who stand for constitutional values and who have struggled against very difficult odds to try to achieve justice for the victims of 2002. We demand that this false and vindictive FIR be taken back unconditionally and Teesta Setalvad and others detained under this FIR be released immediately.
As a mark of our protest, as a way of expressing our feelings of hurt, loss and anger and to find a way to go forward, and to preserve our Constitution, we are giving a call for an all India protest day on 27th June 2022. The protest is against the Supreme Court judgment in the Zakia Jafri case and the observations made against Teesta Setalvad, RB Sreekumar, Sanjiv Bhatt and others who fought for justice. It is also against the FIR and the illegal detention, demanding the immediate release of all those detained."
The All India Democratic Women's Association has strongly condemned the arrest stating, "after the unfortunate SC~ decision to throw out the appeal filed by Zakia Jafri whose husband was killed in the Gujarat pogrom, the Gujarat police has lost no time in arresting Teesta Setalvad who has stood with Ms Jafri like a rock." AIDWA has demanded her immediate release and end to the "harassment."