Teesta Setalvad 2014
9 February 1962 |
Teesta Setalvad (born 1962) is an Indian civil rights activist and journalist. She is the secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) an organisation formed for fighting for justice for the victims of communal violence in the state of Gujarat in 2002. CJP is a co petitioner seeking criminal trial of Narendra Modi, the then Chief Minister of Gujarat and the current Prime minister of India and 62 other politicians and government officials for complicity in the Gujarat violence of 2002 and whose names did not figure in any of the FIRs /charge sheets that formed the subject matter of the various Session Trials regarding the riots at that point of time. Four of the accused since then were charge sheeted of whom Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi have already been convicted.
Teesta was born in 1962 She is the daughter of Atul Setalvad, a Mumbai based lawyer and his wife Sita Setalvad. Her father is the son of M. C. Setalvad, India's first Attorney General. Teesta is married to Javed Anand who is a journalist, and civil rights activist. She and Javed have two children, daughter Tamara and son Jibran.
Teesta graduated with a degree in Philosophy from Bombay University in 1983 and started work as a journalist. She reported for the Mumbai editions of The Daily (India) and The Indian Express newspapers, and then for Business India magazine, she and her husband quit their regular jobs to start Communalism Combat an advocacy magazine. According to Setalvad's husband and co-founder of Communalism Combat, Javed Anand, the decision to break from mainstream journalism was motivated by their desire to engage in legal advocacy along with journalism.
Setalvad and her husband along with Alyque Padamsee, Anil Dharker, Father Cedric Prakash, Javed Akhtar, Rahul Bose and Vijay Tendulkar and other leading citizens of Mumbai set up an NGO called Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) on 1 April 2002.
In April 2004, the Supreme Court of India, in response to a petition filed by Setalvad's NGO, CPJ, in a landmark judgement, ruled that the "Best Bakery case" be shifted to Maharashtra and that it be re-investigated. The court also overturned the acquittal of 21 accused.
- Padma Shri in 2007. The Padma Shri citation stated that the award had been given to her for "Public Affairs in Maharashtra".
- International Nuremberg Human Rights Award in 2003.
- 2004 Defender of Democracy Award by Parliamentarians for Global Action
- 2004 M.A. Thomas National Human Rights Award from the Vigil India Movement.
- Parliamentarians for Global Action 'Defender of Democracy' award, jointly with Helen Clark, the Prime Minister of New Zealand.
- The Nani A Palkhivala Award 2006.
- The Nuernberg Human Rights Award in 2003.
- PUCL Journalism for Human Rights Award 1993.
- Chameli Devi Jain Award for outstanding Woman journalist 1993.
- Maharana Mewar Foundation's Hakim Khan Sur Award (jointly with Javed Anand) in 1999.
- Human Rights Award of the Dalit Liberation Education Trust in 2000.
- Pax Christi International Peace Award (jointly with Australian artist Eddi Kneebone).
- Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award (jointly with Harsh Mander) for highlighting and helping the victims of violence in February – July 2002 in Gujarat, India.
- FIMA Excellence Award – 2009 by Federation of Indian Muslim Associations in Kuwait
- Teesta, with her husband Javed Anand is the co-founder and co-editor of the magazine Communalism Combat which fosters communal harmony by attacking entities propounding communal violence.
- Teesta testified at the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom on 10 June 2002 against the BJP-led Gujarat government's role in the post-Godhra communal violence.
- In 1997, Teesta started work on a project, Khoj (Quest), which aims to rewrite sections of Indian school History and Social Studies textbooks to remove "anti-minority prejudices".
- Teesta is a staunch feminist, campaigns for rights and privileges of Dalits, Muslims and women.
- Teesta's husband Javed Anand runs Sabrang Communications which fights for human rights. Teesta is the official spokesperson of this organisation.
- Teesta heads the Mumbai based NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace'(CJP).
- She is one of the founders of the Women in the Media Committee. The group seeks to bring together working women journalists to raise job-related concerns and awareness of gender-sensitivity in writing and reporting on issues concerning women.
- She is one of the founding members of Journalists Against Communalism.
- Apart from the journalistic tasks Teesta Setalvad leads the project “Khoj: Education for A pluralistic India”.
- Teesta is General Secretary of People's Union for Human Rights" (PUHR).
- Member of the Pakistan India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy.
Zakia Jafri-CJP petition
Zakia Jafri-CJP Special leave petition seeks criminal trial of Narendra Modi, the then Chief Minister of Gujarat and the current Prime minister of India and 62 other politicians and government officials for complicity in the Gujarat violence of 2002. The criminal conspiracy complaint alleges that in a meeting of senior police officers and officials convened by the Chief minister Mr Modi on 27 February 2002 following the Godhra tragedy, he issued his "let Hindus give vent to their anger" directive. In all, there are 30 interrelated and closely interlocked allegations including
- parading dead bodies of Godhra victims to inflame passions
- police control rooms being manned by Cabinet ministers
- police investigations being botched
- VHP men being appointed as public prosecutors
- promotion of police officers like Mr M.K. Tandon and Mr P.B. Gondia, who faced serious charges of dereliction of duty as a result of which over 200 Muslims were killed in Gulbarg society, Narada Patiya and Naroda Gaam in Ahmedabad
- penalising upright police officers
- ignoring intelligence warnings
- destruction of carnage-related records
In response to the petition, the Supreme Court on 27 April 2009 ordered the SIT to undertake the investigation. The SIT under the Chairmanship of R K Raghavan was originally formed to investigate nine major cases of riots in Gujarat in 2002.
The SIT submitted a preliminary report in May 2010 The chairman, SIT submitted his comments to the report for perusal of the Supreme Court on 14 May 2010 Further investigation report was filed in November 2010. The Supreme Court in November 2010 appointed Raju Ramachandran as amicus curiae to assist the court in this case. The amicus curiae submitted a note dated 20 January 2011 to the Supreme Court.
On 15 March 2011, the Supreme Court directed SIT to examine the observations of the amicus curiae, to re-examine the entire evidence recorded and if some more evidence is required to be recorded, to do so. It observed that the SIT chairman's inferences did not match with the findings of the SIT probe. Thereafter the SIT examined more witnesses and recorded their statements and submitted a further investigation report on 24 April 2011. On 5 May 2011, during a hearing in the Supreme Court, Shanti Bhushan, the counsel for Zakia Jafri alleged that SIT was a doing cover-up job and sought copies of the investigation reports. The amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran informed the court that he had received a copy of affidavit filed by Sanjiv Bhatt that he was present in 27 February 2002 meeting convened by the chief minister where instructions were given to teach Muslims a lesson. The Supreme Court ordered "The copies of the report, along with the comments of the chairman, be given to the amicus curiae, who shall analyse them in the light of evidence, statements of witnesses, and have his independent assessment of the entire evidence which has come on record". The court further said,"If the amicus curiae, on the basis of evidence on record, finds that any offence is made out against any person, he shall mention the same in the report". The amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran submitted his final report where he found sufficient evidence to make Mr Modi stand trial.
Thereafter, the Court directed the SIT to submit the final report along with the entire material collected by them to the trial court. The SIT was also given access to the reports of the amicus curiae submitted earlier to the court. The SIT did not agree with his conclusion and filed the closure report on 8 February 2012. The trial court on 10 April 2012 observed that SIT had not found any evidence for the prosecution of Modi or any of the top bureaucrats or police officials and had recommended that the investigation be closed.
The court gave the complainant, Zakia Jafri, the option of filing a protest petition However SIT raised various objections to giving all the investigation papers to the petitioner and finally on 7 February 2013, the Supreme Court asked the SIT to hand over copies of all the reports and investigation papers to the petitioners. The protest petition was filed on 15 April 2013
In April 2013, the SIT while opposing the protest petition filed by Zakia Jafri and CJP against SIT's closure report submitted before a local court that "Teesta Setalvad and others have falsified the complaint targeting the chief minister who had never said that go and kill people." Their lawyer further submitted that the so-called incident of Chief Minister (Narendra Modi) giving instructions (in the meeting) to high-level police officers not to take action against the rioters is a sole creation of Teesta Setalvad. There is no evidence to the same and that Setalvad was not present during the incident.
In their argument that sufficient grounds existed for ordering criminal prosecution of Modi, Zakia Jafri's counsel told the court that SIT which gave Modi a clean chit, itself behaved like a conspirator and glossed over a wealth of official evidence which suggested State complicity in the incidents 
||This article's Criticism or Controversy section may compromise the article's neutral point of view of the subject. (October 2013)|
Allegations of witness tampering
In November 2010, Setalvad was accused of pressuring Zaheera Sheikh, the key witness in the Best Bakery case, to make certain statements, leading to the unprecedented transferral of the case outside Gujarat. In August 2005, a Supreme Court of India committee absolved her of the charges of inducement levelled against her by Zaheera and awarded a one year jail sentence to Zaheera for perjury. In 2013 Tehelka in an undercover investigation discovered that Zaheera had been paid to alter her testimony. Tehelka recorded BJP member Madhu Srivastava, described by Tehelka as a "close associate of Narendra Modi" and Batthoo Srivastava describing how they had paid Rs 1.8 million to Zaheera.
Teesta Setalvad's former aide Rais Khan Pathan has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court alleging manipulation of evidence, which were in the form of statements of witnesses, by her in five sensitive post-Godhra riot cases.
In April 2009, the Times of India ran a story claiming that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the Supreme Court of India to investigate and expedite the Gujarat riot cases had submitted before the Court that Teesta Setalvad had cooked up cases of violence to spice up the incidents. The SIT which is headed by former CBI director, R K Raghavan has said that false witnesses were tutored to give evidence about imaginary incidents by Teesta Setalvad and other NGOs. The SIT charged her of "cooking up macabre tales of killings".
The court was told that 22 witnesses, who had submitted identical affidavits before various courts relating to riot incidents, were questioned by SIT and it was found that the witnesses had not actually witnessed the incidents and they were tutored and the affidavits were handed over to them by Setalvad. The report which was brought to the notice of the bench consisting of Justices Arijit Pasayat, P Sathasivam and Aftab Alam, noted that the much publicised case of a pregnant Muslim woman Kausar Bano being gangraped by a mob and foetus being removed with sharp weapons, was also fabricated, and false. However, Kausar Bano's husband states alleges the doctors falsified the post-mortem despite his wife's uterus having been removed from her body. The court that was trying the issue found beyond reasonable doubt that Babu Bajarangi killed Kausar Bano and her nine-month old foetus by stabbing her in the stomach with a sword, but did not find sufficient evidence to prove that he removed the foetus from the uterus.<
A day later, the Times of India published a letter from Citizens for Justice and Peace claiming that the report in question was not SIT report but a report by the Gujarat Government. The author of the Times article responded saying "My report was based on the SIT report and not any document circulated by the Gujarat government, as suggested by CJP. Whether any section of the media has the report or not is irrelevant as TOI has access to the report.
R.K. Raghavan, the chairman of the SIT criticised the report leakage, saying, "The alleged reported leaks appear to be inspired by dubious motives. I cannot confirm such claims. The act is highly condemnable". However, he refused to deny or confirm whether the leaked contents were true. The Supreme Court itself condemned the leaking of the SIT report as a 'betrayal of trust' but did not deny the report itself. Raghvan noted that "many incidents were cooked up, false witnesses were tutored to give evidence about imaginary incidents, and false charges levelled against the then Ahmedabad police chief P C Pandey".
Pratap Bhanu Mehta, President of the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi and the former member of National Knowledge Commission has criticised Teesta Setalvad, saying that if the charges against her were true then she had done the cause of justice irreparable harm. He observed that her actions, as described, will undermine the capability of civil society to have any imprimatur of impartiality in investigating riot cases. However, subsequently Mehta backtracked on his earlier article, stating that, "My intention was not to expose Teesta. I have no competence and desire to do so. I was just stuck by the fact that this seemed to be an important story, carried by a "credible" newspaper, the Economic Times, followed by TOI and a slightly different version by IBN." An article in Pragati stated that her grandstanding has undermined the foundations of the beliefs of the Indian republic
Allegations of misappropriation of funds
In 2013, twelve residents of the Gulbarg Society who were the victim of Gujarat riots, accused Setalvad of collecting donations in the name of riot victims but failing to use them for their benefit and sent a legal notice to her. They claimed that she had collected huge donations from national and international organisations in the name of providing financial assistance for reconstruction of houses or developing the society into a museum but it was not passed to the members of the society. They also sought to ban her organisation "Citizens for Justice and Peace" and prevent them entering the society to organise programmes. The Ahmedabad Crime Branch is conducting an inquiry into the matter.
On 13 March 2013, the official representatives including the secretary and chairman of the Gulbarg Cooperative Housing Society in a letter to the joint commissioner of Police, Crime Branch, Ahmedabad, informed him that the letter-head of the society had been misused by some residents and the claims being made by them were patently false since nothing had been parted from them. A similar letter was also released to the media. In a press release CJP and Sabrang clarified that CJP never sought nor received any money for the museum. Sabrang Trust had raised an amount of Rs 460,285 nationally and internationally from donors for the purpose of the museum and since the plan has been abandoned because of the spiralling real estate prices, the matter is between the trust and the donors which they will address when final decision is taken. All other funds, nationally and internationally raised, have been funds legitimately collected for activities that they publicly engage in. Their accounts are audited and submitted to the relevant authorities. Subsequent to the letter written by the Gulbarg Society members to the police, the police sent them a letter asking for the status quo to be maintained while investigations were in progress. Later, the Crime Branch claimed that the complaint did not have any substance and instead filed an FIR against Setalvad.
After a First Information Report was filed by the Ahmedabad police on 4 January 2014 Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand were granted interim bail. According to the judge, similar relief has been provided in the past when false allegations were raised. The bail application stated that "The FIR is a mala fide action of the Crime Branch, Ahmedabad, to intimidate a human rights defender. This is the fifth time that a false criminal case has been lodged since 2004 because of me and my organization's consistent legal support to the victims of 2002 riots ... Gulbarga cooperative housing society had been totally burnt down by politically motivated anti-social elements and 68 people had lost their lives in the massacre." It also said the accusation was brought by "powerful forces in Gujarat who wish(ed) to stymie the appeal in the Zakia Jafri case".
On finding that the Crime Branch, Ahmedabad instead of acting on his complaint had filed an FIR against Setavad and others, the Secretary of the Gulbarg Housing Society, Firoz Gulzar Pathan moved the court complaining against Gujarat police's biased approach. The court sought a report from the Crime Branch. The Police responded by claiming that the complaint did not have any substance. This was countered by the complainant's advocate who maintained that the Crime Branch had not even bothered to question the complainant before shelving the complaint. This led the magisterial court on 15 February 2014 to direct the city crime branch to lodge an FIR and start investigation against former residents of Gulbarg Society who had made the complaint against Setalvad last year.
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