GOVERNMENT, CBI ACCUSED OF RUNNING A WITCH HUNT AND PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN AGAINST RIGHTS DEFENDER
By Abdul Bari Masoud
NEW DELHI – Popular support continues to pour in for the embattled rights activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand in the face of a vicious government crackdown. While condemning Narendra Modi-led NDA government at the center in the strongest possible terms for its alleged misuse of state machinery, rights and civil society groups on Thursday held demonstrations across the country in solidarity with the renowned activist and her colleagues.
Sitting at the protest here at Jantar Mantar in Delhi were prominent intellectuals, academicians, students, artists, activists, teachers and ordinary people who vehemently demanded that false, flimsy cases which have been used as a pretext to hound Setalvad, her colleagues and their organization be withdrawn and the CBI end its witch hunt and misinformation campaign with immediate effect.
Noted social activist and ANHAD trustee Shabnam Hashmi described it as a crude and blatant attempt to cow down and demoralize the courageous human rights defenders. She said that the Zakia Jafri case begins its final hearings on July 27, 2015 in which Prime Minister Modi is the key accused and before that the State wants to send Teesta to jail.
She said the Naroda Patoiya appeals (Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi who were in jail have come out on bail) are being heard in the Gujarat High Court as well. It is nothing but a brazen attempt to subvert the cause of public justice and ensure that no justice happens in these cases, she added.
Speaking at the protest demonstration in the capital, Veteran journalist and activist Johan Dayal said that “Teesta is being hounded because she dared to challenge the rulers of Gujarat for their role in the mass murder and gang rapes of Muslims in 2002, and the false encounters”.
Calling it a very serious matter, activist Garji Chakarvarty said it is time to launch a nation-wide movement against this government.
“This is not a Modi government or BJP government but a truly RSS government which is hell-bent on pushing the country into a communal cauldron,” she said.
Welfare Party president Dr S Q R Ilyas said it is an undeclared emergency as the government is trying to muzzle democratic voice and personal liberty. He said the Muslim organizations should have come out in support of Teesta in big way as she has been fighting their case. “The country is fast heading towards fascism and we all should stand united to resist this impending danger to democracy and justice,” he added.
Speakers were unanimous in their opinion that it is the blatant misuse of state machinery to hound and persecute a group of courageous human rights defenders. They said the latest raids by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the home and offices of Teesta and Javed Anand in Mumbai on 14 July 2015 are continuation of the undeclared policy of first, the Gujarat government, and since May 2014, of the Central government to harass and demoralize them by foisting false cases of financial irregularity.
They underlined the fact that Teesta has been cooperating with the police and other agencies for long years in the multiple cases filed against her but the Modi government wants to see her in jail, if even for a day. “This is rank persecution by any definition of the word”.
“Ever since the registration of the malicious FIR against the couple and their organization in 2014, they have been cooperating with the Gujarat police – and now with the CBI – by providing them with full documentary evidence of audited accounts and all other financial dealings. Nonetheless, the intention of the Gujarat police has been to somehow secure the custody of Setalvad and Anand. Frustrated in their attempts by the intervention of the Supreme Court, the Gujarat government has now mobilized the Ministry of Home Affairs, which has in turn unleashed the CBI on the activists”.
It is appalling that while multi-million scams and the ruling party’s coziness with scamsters await investigation, the Government is witch hunting activists. The reasons are obvious: Setalvad and others must be made to pay for the relentless pursuit of justice in the 2002 massacre of Muslims.
“It is well-known that Teesta Setlavad and Javed Anand have fought also to expose the role of the Gujarat government in enabling, abetting and even organizing these crimes. They have been fearless in charging the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is currently the country’s Prime Minister, with direct criminal culpability for these crimes”.
For this they have assisted the widow of a former MP Ehsan Jafri who was slaughtered in the carnage Zakia Jafri to fight a brave court battle in which the first accused is the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi. They are also appealing against court orders to free on bail prominent political leaders of the BJP convicted of the worst massacre in Naroda Patiya, Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi.
It is no surprise therefore that the latest round of raids comes just before the Zakia Jafri case begins its final hearings on July 27 2015 and when the Naroda Patiya appeals (Kodnani and Bajrangi) were to be heard in the Gujarat High Court.
Activists said the country is witnessing a crude and defiant misuse of official bodies to beat down these human rights defenders so as to silence their voices, break their morale and divert them from their unrelenting battles in defense of justice which charge the country’s current leadership with complicity in hate crimes.
The open official bullying of courageous human rights defenders even as persons charged with a range of serious crimes walk free are brazen official attempts to diminish Indian democracy. They announced that its will be powerfully resisted by all democratic voices in the country.
The demo was organized by more a dozen civil groups including AIDWA, ANHAD, EFIRLC, Jana Natya Manch, Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, NFIW, Nomore Campaign, Shahri Adhikar Manch, Begharon Ke Saath, and United Christian Forum.
They also issued a joint statement on the occasion signed by more than 100 activists, intellectuals and academicians.