At Last Out on Bail, But Bells won’t Toll for Teesta

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The daring social activist who has dedicated more than two decades of her life fighting for justice for Gujarat riot victims certainly deserved better for the sacrifices she made.

Syed Ali Mujtaba

Activist Teesta Setalvad stepped out of Sabarmati Jail on Saturday night and was received by Jesuit Fr Cedric Prakash and others in a dissipated and damp squib manner. Maybe what stopped her admirers to come and receive her was that the release came at the most unearthly time. Nonetheless, the lady who shook the entire edifice of the BJP and its stalwarts looked calm and composed, if not cheerful after spending 70 days in jail.

Teesta, a journalist and internationally celebrated activist did not look bitter but was an epitome of patience and had put up a smile to the handful of well-wishers who had come to receive her at the jail’s gate.  Wearing a blue top and a trouser, she was seen carrying loads of things perhaps her personal belongings when she stepped out of the prison.    

As per the Supreme Court order, Teesta was produced before sessions judge V A Rana for bail formalities on Saturday.  “The sessions’ court imposed two conditions over and above the conditions imposed by the apex court. One to furnish a personal bond of Rs 25,000, and two not to leave India without its prior permission,” special public prosecutor Amit Patel said.

Teesta Setalvad was incarcerated by a Gujarat court’s ruling for daring to take up cases of survivors of the 2002 anti-Muslim riots. The new case foisted on her was of allegedly fabricating evidence related to the 2002 Gujarat riots victims and tampering with the witnesses. She was arrested on June 26 following the rejection of the appeal of Zakia Jaffery and some negative observations made against Teesta Setalvad made by the Supreme Court. Her arrest was without any trial and was based on verbal allegations by the apex court.  She was picked up from her home in Mumbai and was taken to Gujarat where she was lodged in the Sabarmati Central Jail.

Her bail application was rejected by the Gujarat High Court and her appeal was headed by a Supreme Court bench of the Chief Justice of India.  The bench found it strange that the high court was taking time and delaying the case and granted her interim bail. Hence, the apex court asked the high court to release her on interim bail following the due procedure of law.

The video that shows Teesta stepping out of the prison clearly tells that not many assembled to receive her at the gate. There were only a handful of people like Jesuit Fr Cedric Prakash and others and there were no prominent faces in the picture frame. As usual, there were some photojournalists doing their duty and were certainly not there to welcome her.

The daring social activist who has dedicated more than two decades of her life fighting for justice for Gujarat riot victims certainly deserved better for the sacrifices she made for the victims of the Gujarat genocide in 2002.

The so-called national media’s reportages on her release were on expected lines. No one expected the media they should make Teesta the modern-day Jhansi ki Rani, but what was hateful in their description was a subdued account of a woman for whom bells never toll due to fear of the mighty state. 

Well, that’s the way our country has turned out to be these days. In India, right now the accused are made innocent and victims are made accused. The case of Teesta Setalvad falls in the latter category.

_______________

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. Views expressed here are author’s personal. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@kasimjaipurgmail-com

Photo: Teesta Setalvad coming out of jail. — PTI

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