They were critical of the Supreme Court judgment in the Zakia Jafri case which, they said undermines the due process of law and criminalises them. They made an appeal to the apex court to review its own judgment
NEW DELHI – More than two thousand people from all over India and abroad came together in a rare show of solidarity with noted journalist and Human Rights Defender Teesta Setalvad and former DGP Gujarat police RB Sreekumar. They protested against their arrest by the Gujarat Police (crime branch) and subsequent remand on June 26.
In a resolution, the protestors demanded the immediate release of both Setalvad and Sreekumar. They were critical of the Supreme Court judgment in the Zakia Jafri case which, they said undermines the due process of law and criminalises them. They made an appeal to the apex court to review its own judgment.
The signatories of the resolution who led the protest were People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) General Secretary V Suresh, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) convenor Medha Patkar, Columnist Apoorvanand, Theatre and Film actor Shabana Azmi, Writer Aakar Patel, Kumar Ketkar, MP, former Navy Chief Admiral Ramdas, Writer and Former Planning Commission Member Syeda Hameed, former VC, Lucknow University Rooprekha Verma, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, (MKSS) founder Aruna Roy, Carnatic Musician TM Krishna, Poet Gauhar Raza, Shabnam Hashmi, Anhad, Feroze Mithiborwala, Bharat Bachao Andolan, Pratibha Shinde, Lok Sangharsh Morcha, V S Krishna, HRF, Activist and Socialist party leader Sandeep Pandey, Writer Gita Hariharan, HRD Henri Tiphagne from Human Rights Watch, Writer Shamsul Islam, HRD Babloo Loitongbom Human Rights Alert, Former Diplomat Madhu Bhaduri, Actress Mallika Sarabhai and 2250 others in a statement which said that –
The Supreme Court in the case of Zakia Jafri Vs State of Gujarat, dismissed the petition filed by Zakia Jafri calling for an investigation into the conspiracy behind the 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 court not only dismissed the idea that there was a conspiracy to commit the crimes of murder, rape and destruction of property but went further by taking to task those who sought to ensure justice for the 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 proceed 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.
Taking cue from the SC verdict of 24, June 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 the next day. 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 herself 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 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. 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, to the public at large and to the Gujarat Judiciary before which there are ongoing criminal cases of the violence of 2002 in the various courts of the state.
We condemn this naked and brazen attempt to silence and criminalise 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 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.
Several cities have announced protests today, which include Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Jaipur, Patna, Ranchi, Ajmer, Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Kolkata, Lucknow, Allahabad, Chandigarh, Chennai, Dhulia, Raipur and more.