Activist Teesta Setalvad, who was taken by Gujarat’s Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) on June 25 from Mumbai to Ahmedabad, was remanded to police custody on June 26 and will remain in detention with the Ahmedabad police until July 2. Former Indian Police Service officers R.B. Sreekumar and Sanjiv Bhatt will be kept in police custody as well.
Mediapersons, rights activists and Left parties held demonstrations protesting the arrests on June 27 in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Bengaluru, Jaipur, Patna, Ranchi, Ajmer, Bhopal, Kolkata, Lucknow, Allahabad, Chandigarh, Chennai, Dhulia, and Raipur. A meeting organised by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in Ahmedabad issued a press statement saying: “More than 2,200 persons from 21 States in India and all around the world condemn the arrest of human rights defender and noted journalist Teesta Setalvad and former DGP R.B. Sreekumar and demand their release.
“The judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Zakia Jafri vs State of Gujarat, dismissing the petition filed by Zakia Jafri calling for an investigation into the conspiracy to hatch the events resulting in 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 Supreme Court not only dismissed the idea that there was a conspiracy to commit the crimes of murder, rape and destruction of property, but instead went further and took to task those who sought to ensure justice for the communal hate crimes following the Godhra incident.
“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.
“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.”
The Mumbai Press Club also released a statement saying: “Unfortunately, Teesta Setalvad and those who lent their voice to the victims of the communal violence in 2002 and after have now been scapegoats in a chilling process of vendetta unleashed by the executive and the judiciary. More specifically, some remarks made by the Supreme Court against some ‘functionaries’ who ‘had kept the pot boiling’ has been used by the Gujarat police to punish those who are essentially human rights defenders.... It is unacceptable that a person who is fighting for civil justice should be accused of fabricating evidence and misleading the Special Investigation Team.”
Mary Lawlor, the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, says she is shocked at the move and has expressed concern over the detentions. Mary Lawlor tweeted: “Deeply concerned by reports of #WHRD Teesta Setalvad being detained by Anti-Terrorism Squad of Gujarat police. Teesta is a strong voice against hatred and discrimination. Defending human rights is not a crime. I call for her release and end to persecution by #Indian State.”
The police came for Teesta Setalvad, Sreekumar and Sanjiv Bhatt after a first information report (FIR) was filed by a Gujarat policeman, charging her with forgery and fabricating evidence. Bhatt is serving time in jail for another case. The report appears to have been triggered by the June 24 Supreme Court judgment that upheld a Gujarat’s court order which gave Prime Minister Narendra Modi a clean chit over the 2002 Gujarat riots. The apex court’s order said those who were involved in creating the case should be hauled up.