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Hounding Activists to Protect the Guilty

The Gujarat High Court Judgement denying Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand anticipatory bail is a travesty of justice. The Supreme Court has stayed the order of the Gujarat Hight Court till 19th February, where hopefully she and her husband will get relief.

The Gujarat police have been pursuing a vindictive agenda, filing false cases, which on a number of occasions have needed the intervention of the Supreme Court. This case is no different. The police has filed patently false allegations on transfer of funds from the Gulbarg Trust for personal use. What is atrocious is that Gujarat Hight Court “judged” that without the Gujarat police having Setalvad and Anand in custody, they would not be able to investigate this case “properly”. The court also went completely by the affidavits filed by the Investigation Officer and not the answers filed by Setalvad and Anand in court.

In 2012, the Supreme Court had labelled the Gujarat government's case against Setalvad for illegal exhumation of the 2002 riot victims as a “spurious case”. In 2005, she was accused of trying to put pressure on the witness Zaheera Sheikh in the Best Bakery Case. The SC not only absolved Setalvad but also convicted Zaheera Sheikh for perjury.

The entire country knows that without the courageous fight put up by activists such as Teesta Setalvad and others, the victims of the Gujarat riots would not have received justice. Even today, Modi has still not been able to break completely free from the judicial processes arising out of the Gujarat riots. More than 150 persons have been convicted including Maya Kodnani, a Minister in the Modi government in Gujarat. This is based on the fight through the judicial system that Setalvad and others have doggedly carried out for the last decade. It is also a first for the Indian judicial system -- that those who have carried out such mass violence have been convicted. This is precisely why Setalvad and Anand are in the crosshairs of the Modi government.

The case is that personal credit card bills for travel were paid from the trust account. If the travel is for official purposes of the trust, whether cash or credit cards are used is irrelevant. A set of such frivolous charges have been filed only as a means to an end – silencing the voices of dissent and penalise those who have dared to fight the power of the Modi government. The mala fide in the present case can be seen from the fact that the Gujarat High Court was pronounced on Thursday and the Gujarat Police were at her doorsteps within a few hours. They seemed to have been prepared for the judgement even before it was delivered! The intent of this acts of the Gujarat government are clear. It is to enmesh the two activists in false cases such that they cannot devote their energies to fighting the riot cases that are winding their way through the judicial system.

Already, political parties, media, and activists have come out against the hounding of Setalvad and Anand. The vindictive acts of the Modi government is rapidly becoming its hallmark. Just after being roundly trounced by the Delhi electorate, the Finance Ministry took up the case of campaign contributions to the AAP and the Congress. This despite much higher campaign funds coming to the BJP. It is evident that we have a government which has authoritarianism coded in its DNA. It is the responsibility of all of us to see that such acts of vindictiveness do not succeed and those who try it are rejected by the people.

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