Eyewitness Account of Teesta Setalvad’s Arrest Drama


A journalist friend of Teesta, Rukmani Sen, who was present on the spot when the events that led to the activists’ arrest followed in quick succession, narrated the entire story

Syed Ali Mujtaba | Clarion India

It was on June 25. At around 4 pm the high-voltage drama of the arrest of civil rights activist Teesta Setalvad began unfolding. A journalist friend of Teesta, Rukmani Sen, who was present on the spot when the events that led to the activists’ arrest followed in quick succession, narrated the entire story.

For an eye-witness account, click on the link given below: https://rukminiatwork.wordpress.com/about/

Teesta received a call in the morning from the Noida’s office of the Anti-Terror Squad (ATS). They first asked her about her security before informing her that Gujarat ATS will question her at the Santa Cruz police station after which she will be taken to Gujarat.

Rukmani Sen, who came to visit Teesta at her home, saw the activist sitting on the floor of her bedroom surrounded by ATS officers. Teesta told in front of all those present there that there was no arrest warrant. In fact, the ATS team had barged into her house pushed her to the wall and hurt her while showing her a black bruise on her left upper arm.

Teesta asked one of the ATS officers ‘Jasmine’ to follow the procedure and if it was detention, not arrest, then she will go to the local police station and register a complaint of kidnapping as it is done without a warrant.

After that, Rukmini Sen and MJ Pandey accompanied Teesta Setalvad in a car along with two ATS of the rank of sub-inspectors. They were taken to Santa Cruz police station where the ATS officer, Jasmine Patel, and the lady sub-inspectors tried to resist Teesta from entering the police station. They pushed and intimidated her, but Teesta could be able to make her way into the police station.

She spoke to the media at the police station. She said the ATS people were not letting her register her complaint and that the ATS Gujarat was not carrying any warrant of her arrest and as such her arrest/ detention was illegal. She gave a written complaint to the Santa Cruze police station. The Mumbai Police followed all procedures and took down the names of all the ATS officers present, reports Rukmini Sen.

After that, Teesta along with Rukmini Sen and MJ Pandey were taken to Gujarat. Teesta’s phones were seized at the Nirant, her Juhu home.  Once they entered Gujarat, they made a stop at a restaurant called Papillon where Teesta asked for her phone. She insisted on speaking to the IO; otherwise she won’t move from the restaurant. After much verbal duel, ACP Chudasama, the IO from the crime branch, gave her the phones that were switched off apparently on instructions not to be used.

Teesta, along with her friends, reached the Crime Branch Ahmedabad at around 6 am on June 26. She told the IO and the officers from ATS that she will cooperate, but they must follow the procedure.

 It was then that one officer, who pushed Teesta’s friend MJ Pandey and abused Teesta with the slur “bhosdi nee” while taking all the phones back. This happened in the atrium/courtyard of the Ahmedabad crime branch, reports Rukmini Sen.

Teesta and Rukmani were taken to the first floor of the crime branch where Rukmani was asked to leave, but she insisted on staying back till the IO arrives. They sat in a room with seven woman cops.

Then, Teesta asked whether RB Sreekumar was also there. About an hour’s time, they saw Sreekumar going to the washroom. Teesta called him out by name and he peeped inside and exchanged pleasantries asking when she came in.

RB Sreekumar is a 1971 batch IPS officer, who is originally from Kerala and was ADGP in charge of the armed unit in Gujarat during the Godhra incident. He was one of the very few officials who testified against the Gujarat government before the Nanavati Commission that looked into the 2002 Gujarat riots.

At around 8 am, ACP Chudasama met Teesta who made a verbal complaint about her illegal detention and told her that this was a political case. She also requested the ACP to meet her lawyers and they must be allowed at the magistrate’s office.

Then, Teesta was first taken to SV hospital, Ahmedabad for the Covid test. She managed to show her bruise to the media for the first time there, and then was brought back to the crime branch.

At around 2 pm, the activist was brought to the metropolitan court, Ahmedabad where RB Sreekumar was also brought in at the same time. That was a closed-door hearing as no one was allowed inside.  Teesta was constantly surrounded by large teams of crime branch officials and Gujarat police. At every juncture, the lady reminded me that her prosecution was a political case. She told them she was pushed and pulled even though she was not a criminal.

Teesta was once again taken to a hospital for reexamination and then taken back to the Crime Branch where the magistrate’s order of her arrest was communicated to her. She was taken on remand for the first five days which was to be extended to another six days that would end on July 2. The order also said that she can meet a family member and a lawyer every day.

The entire episode is summed up in a media report that says; “An SIT consisting of four members, including ATS DIG Deepan Bhadran, has been constituted to investigate the case involving activist Teesta Setalvad. The activist was on Saturday detained by the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) from Mumbai in connection with an FIR registered against her at the Ahmedabad city crime branch.  Setalvad’s arrest is in connection to her NGO, which had supported Zakia Jafri throughout her legal battle.”

Jafri’s husband Ehsan Jafri, who was a Congress leader, was hacked to death during the 2002 Gujarat riots. The case reignited after the Supreme Court upheld the verdict on the Gujarat riots giving clean chit to then CM Narendra Modi for his involvement in the Gujarat riots.

The media report said that “Gujarat ATS had sought 14-day custody of Setalvad because she was not cooperating in the investigation. “The accused are not supporting us in the investigation. We are demanding 14 days of custody. Teesta will be produced in front of the Magistrate and all her statements will be recorded there. We are getting the documents arranged from various sources,” said the DCP.
Trivia – Teesta Setalvad is a foot soldier of the Indian Constitution who has been simply left in the lurch by the Congress and other Opposition parties and the civil society at large in her hour of need. Only Left parties, lawyers, and some civil rights activists have come out in her support openly.  She is literally at the mercy of merciless people.

Stop Press – Chudasama is no longer IO, a special SIT appointed to investigate the Teesta Stalvad case.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com. The author has received the input from Rukmani Sen via email –sen.rukmini@gmail.com,  via dgroups.org

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