‘End Politics of Vengeance’: Journalist Bodies Demand Teesta Setalvad's Release; UN Official Raises Concern
The Mumbai Press Club on Sunday expressed shock and dismay at the arrest of journalist and human rights activist Teesta Setalvad by the Gujarat Police from her home in the Maharashtra capital and her to be released at the earliest. The National Alliance of Journalists (NAJ) and the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) also condemned the “ugly and motivated, hasty” arrest.
The activist was taken into custody by the Gujarat Police's Anti-Terrorism Squad from Mumbai on Saturday evening. The arrest came day after the Supreme Court dismissed a petition by Zakia Jafri, widow of late Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was killed in the riots. Jafri had challenged the SIT's clearance to PM Narendra Modi, then Chief Minister of Gujarat, and others in cases related to the 2002 riots. While calling her appeal "devoid of merit", A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court said that Setalvad, co-petitioner in the case, exploited the emotions of Jafri and slammed those who had "kept the pot boiling" on the Gujarat riots.
The police arrived at the activist’s home in Mumbai hours after Home Minister Amit Shah, in an interview with news agency ANI, accused Setalvad’s NGO of giving “baseless information” to the police about the 2002 Gujarat riots. She was sent to five days of judicial custody on Sunday after being accused of a conspiracy to send alleged innocent persons to jail over the 2002 Gujarat Riots.
The Mumbai Press Club in its statement said, “Unfortunately, Teesta Setalvad and others, who lent their voice to the victims of communal violence in 2002 and after, have now been made scapegoats in a chilling process of vendetta unleashed by the executive and judiciary. More specifically, remarks by the Supreme Court bench against some ‘functionaries’ who ‘had kept the pot boiling’ has been used by the Gujarat Police to punish those who are essentially human rights defenders.
It added that the apex court’s disagreement with the petitioners does not give the right to the executive to launch “a witch hunt” against the ones questioning the Special Investigation Team’s findings on the riots.
“The FIR against Teesta includes charges under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, including Sec. 468 (forgery for cheating), Sec. 471 (using as genuine a forged document or electronice records), 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy), and 194 (giving or fabricating false evidence with the intent to procure conviction of capital offence,” the statement said, adding that, “It is unacceptable that a person who has been fighting for civil justice should be accused of fabricating evidence and misleading the Special Investigation Team.”
The Mumbai Press Club called for an end to the politics of vengeance and the dropping of charges against Setalvad.
The NAJ and DUJ have called upon their members to be ready for a protest action in solidarity with Setalvad and demanding her to be freed.
The statement by NAJ President S.K.Pande, DUJ General Secretary Sujata Madhok and NAJ Secretary General N.Kondaiah said that the arrests smacks of an increasingly visible undeclared Emergency that is increasingly becoming visible in continued attacks on both press freedom and democratic rights of citizens which are being bulldozed.
The NAJ –DUJ added, “She is not only a veteran journalist but also a human rights activist and a fearless fighter for victims of communal violence in Gujarat. It is unfortunate that defenders of civil rights are treated as criminals.”
They noted that after her arrest, Setalvad had apprehended a threat to her life and alleged that she was roughed up by the Gujarat Police. Besides her, former Gujarat director general of police S.B.Sreekumar has also been arrested and sent to judicial custody.
Meanwhile, Mary Lawlor, the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, condemned the detention of Setalvad, saying "defending human right is not a crime". Expressing deep concern, Lawlor in a tweet said "Teesta is a strong voice against hatred and discrimination".
Deeply concerned by reports of #WHRD Teesta Setalvad being detained by Anti Terrorism Sqaud of Gujarat police. Teesta is a strong voice against hatred and discrimination. Defending human rights is not a crime. I call for her release and an end to persecution by #Indian state.
— Mary Lawlor UN Special Rapporteur HRDs (@MaryLawlorhrds) June 25, 2022
Rights bodies have called for a protest on Monday afternoon at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar against Setalvad’s arrest. In Kolkata, West Bengal, the Left Front held a rally demanding the activist’s release. In a statement, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) alleged that her arrest is an “ominous threat” to all democratic minded citizens not to dare to question the the government under whose watch communal violence occurs.
JNU Teachers' Association Demands Release
New Delhi: Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers Association (JNUTA) has demanded the release of activist Teesta Setalvad, who was arrested by the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad allegedly for submitting false evidence in the 2002 Gujarat riots case, reports PTI.
In a statement issued on Sunday, JNUTA urged the people to stand in “unwavering support” of the activist against, what it called, a “motivated action of the Gujarat police.”
The JNUTA said it stands committed in its support of Setalvad, saying her "longstanding and indefatigable work in the defence of civil liberties" has made justice for communal violence victims viable.
"JNUTA expresses its solidarity with Teesta Setalvad and all others who are being persecuted for upholding and affirming the values of India’s democratic polity against all forms of autocratic oppression," the teachers’ body said in the statement.
It demanded that “the FIR filed against supporters of victims of Gujarat violence be withdrawn and that Teesta Setalvad and others, falsely implicated in this case, be immediately released."
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