Tag Archive for Gujarat riots

Protect free speech and accountability, nation-wide support pours in for Teesta Setalvad

save-democracy-India

By Team FI
Support is pouring in for Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand following the CBI raids on their residence that began on Tuesday, 13th July. Social activists have been alleging that the Hindu nationalist party BJP’s Narendra Modi led Government has been repeatedly attacking Setalvad and her organsiation for helping the victims of Gujarat violence that shook the secular conscience of the country in 2002. Human rights activists and civil rights organizations have alleged that the Gujarat violence was orchestrated by Modi who was then the Chief minister of Gujarat. One of the ex ministers of the then Modi state government in Gujarat is currently serving jail term for her involvement in the riot that claimed about 3000 lives.

Feministsindia is compiling statements issued by organizations in support of Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand.

We, the concerned citizens and activists stand by Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand & their organisations.
We accept the challenge to counter war against Justice and Democracy unleashed by the Modi Government and the Indian state.

Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah, Activists
The Narendra Modi led Union Government and the Indian State has declared war against Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand and their organisations as they are fight to seek justice for the victims of Gujarat Carnage 2002. Inspite of all the means adopted by the Modi Government to sabotage the process of Justice, Mr. Narendra Modi even as Gujarat Chief Minister with a pliable bureaucracy at his disposal was unable to defend themselves legally and morally. In his new avatar now as the Prime Minister, the Modi Government and Indian state has declared their war against Justice. We, the concerned citizens and activists accept the challenge.

This Modi Government’s continuous harassment of Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand and their organisations is de-facto war against Justice and also against all such organisations and activists who have taken up the struggle to defend the cause of Justice, Human Rights on various people’s issues.

We, the concerned citizens and activists stand by Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand & their organisations and accept the challenges of Modi Government and Indian State and are determined to continue our protest in peaceful and democratic manner.

It is time for all movements, organisations and activists to give a united fight to this Modi Government and Indian State’s war against Justice. It is time to show our united strength against the fascist forces.

We, the concerned citizens and activists resolve to continue our fight for Justice and Truth, to uphold the values of Human Rights, to stand up and speak-out for the oppressed against injustice of all kinds, unafraid of all consequences.

People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism : Press Statement
PADS strongly condemns the CBI raids of 14 July 2915 at the premises of social activist Teesta Setalvad, her husband Javed Anand, Gulam Mohammed Peshimam and office of Sabrang Communications and Publishing in Mumbai. These raids are undertaken for purely vindictive reasons given the assurances of complete cooperation and submission of thousands of pages of documents to the CBI. It is by now an open secret that activists working for justice and truth with regard to the pogrom called ‘Gujarat Riots’ have earned the hatred and animosity of the Modi government; which does not hesitate to employ official state power to indulge in a witch-hunt.

Setalvad and Anand set up Sabrang Communications and began publishing Communalism Combat in 1993, and not after 2002. It was this company that published the Justice Srikrishna Commission Report on the Mumbai communal riots of 1992-1993 at a time when the state government would not make it available to the public. The state not only fails in its constitutional duty to protect all citizens from unlawful deprivation of life and liberty under Article 21, but hounds and intimidates all those who seek to uphold human rights and democratic values.

It may also be noted that a senior Public Prosecutor, Rohini Salian, has accused the NIA of showing a bias in favour of certain persons accused of terrorist crimes. None other than the respected Julio Rebeiro, retired Police Commissioner of Punjab, has asked the public to take serious note of what Ms Salian has alleged. Furthermore, a Gujarat special judge, Ms Jyotsna Yagnik, stated in May this year that she has received 22 threats since retirement, on account of her role in convicting those responsible for the Naroda Patiya massacre in 2002. Her security cover was not enhanced, but scaled down.

It is also noteworthy that the final hearings in the Zakia Jafri Criminal Revision Application are due to begin on July 27. Mrs Jafri seeks to make top-level politicians, including the then Gujarat chief minister, and top-level policemen, including the present Commissioner of Police, Shivanand Jha, former joint CP, Crime Branch, AK Sharma (now in the CBI ) answerable for criminal and administrative culpability for their role in 2002.

Seen together, in their entirety, the above facts are a cause for grave concern to all Indian citizens. They portend nothing less than an undeclared Emergency. Lovers of democracy should resist the ruthless campaign of intimidation unleashed against Sabrang Communications. PADS demands that the Union Government abandon its hostile and vindictive stance towards human rights defenders and concentrate on upholding the rule of law and providing justice to innocent Indian citizens who have fallen victim to bloodthirsty communal politics.

Nationwide support for Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand

Teesta-Setalvad

Statement by People’s Union for Civil Liberties(PUCL)

The PUCL welcomes the Supreme Court granting an immediate stay on the Gujarat High Court order permitting the custodial interrogation of journalists and Human Rights Defenders, Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand, while refusing to grant them anticipatory bail.

The Gujarat High Court passed its order on the 12th of February in the FIR of alleged misappropriation of funds collected for building a memorial for the 2002 and other riot victims of the Gulbarg Society in Ahmadabad. In the same matter it also granted bail to three other accused of the same charge.

This is not the first time that Teesta Setalvad is being targeted through false FIRs. Earlier too in the Best Bakery case of Vadodara and the Exhumation case of Panchmahals, there were efforts to malign the name and credibility of journalists Teesta and Javed Anand; however, both were stayed by the Supreme Court.

It also cannot be ignored that it was through the efforts of Teesta, Javed and other activists of Gujarat and outside, that 117 people have been given life imprisonment for perpetrating the 2002 Gujarat mass killings, including Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani. Incidentally Gujarat state is the only one where so many victims of communal violence have got justice, thanks to the untiring efforts of human rights defenders like Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand, CJP and others.

PUCL had brought to the attention of the NHRC the type of persecution and prosecution by Gujarat police of Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand and the CJP for persistently seeking justice for the victims of the communal holocaust in Gujarat in 2002 following the Godhra incidents. We had pointed out that the, “allegations of financial impropriety are easy to make; but the damage such allegations cause to individual reputation and self respect is irreparable. Very often though nothing much comes out of such allegations finally, the allegations would well have achieved their purpose of putting the individuals and organisations concerned on the defensive and force them to necessarily participate in an endless spiral of litigation trying to prove their innocence.

Apart from diverting defenders from the main task of protecting, promoting and preserving human rights work, immense amounts of time, physical and emotional energy, and finances are lost in fighting malicious prosecutions and litigations”.

it was through the efforts of Teesta, Javed and other activists of Gujarat and outside, that 117 people have been given life imprisonment for perpetrating the 2002 Gujarat mass killings

Seen in this backdrop the dogged and repeated demand of the Gujarat police seeking the arrest and “custodial interrogation” of Teesta and Javed is a matter of grave concern.

Firstly, we would like to highlight that legally the direction of the Gujarat High Court seeking custodial interrogation is in violation of the fundamental right under Art. 20(3) of the Constitution that “No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself”.

Secondly, we would like to point out that factually during the pendency of the anticipatory bail before the Gujarat High Court, Teesta and Javed in obedience to the directions of the court had presented themselves regularly before the investigation officers. They were subjected to hours of questioning each time during which they fully cooperated.

Reportedly all documents including audited accounts, bank statements of the individuals and the Trust, resolutions of trustees and so on were submitted. Voluminous documents were filed before the Gujarat High Court as well. Hence the insistence of the Gujarat police for `custodial interrogation’ appears to be more a veiled threat of third degree methods and torture than any genuine necessity for investigation.

PUCL would like to point out that the SC has clearly spelt out the law relating to arrest and custodial interrogation in the landmark case of `Joginder Kumar vs State of UP’ (1994). The SC has pointed out that arrest and detention in police lock-up of a person can cause incalculable harm to the reputation and self-esteem of a person and therefore no arrest can be made in a routine manner on a mere allegation of commission of an offence made against a person.

Pointing out that it would be “prudent for a police officer in the interest of protection of the constitutional rights of a citizen and perhaps in his own interest that no arrest should be made without a reasonable satisfaction reached after some investigation as to the genuineness and bona fides of a complaint and a reasonable belief both as to the person’s complicity and even so as to the need to effect arrest”. Stressing that denying a person of her / his liberty is a serious matter the SC said, “A person is not liable to arrest merely on the suspicion of complicity in an offence.

There must be some reasonable justification in the opinion of the officer effecting the arrest that such arrest is necessary and justified. Except in heinous offences, an arrest must be avoided if a police officer issues notice to person to attend the Station House and not to leave the Station without permission would do.” ((1994) 4 SCC 260 at page 267, emphasis ours)

Very importantly, the apex court also pointed out that “No arrest can be made because it is lawful for the police officer to do so. The existence of the power to arrest is one thing. The justification for the exercise of it is quite another. The police officer must be able to justify the arrest apart from his power to do so”. The court thereafter pointed out that arrest and custodial interrogation that follows should be only in the following circumstances: (i) if the accused persons will flee justice or (ii) tamper with evidence or (iii) intimidate witnesses. The ruling of the Supreme Court is now a statutory safeguard incorporated in section 41 of the Criminal Procedure Code as amended in 2010.

None of these three situations exists in the case of Teesta and Javed, who have been regularly appearing before the authorities. They have always produced required documents even when it was clear that the police were on a fishing expedition desperately trying to find some evidence to pin against them. It is necessary also to point out that the accusation against Teesta and Javed are not of having committed heinous offences but financial ones, all of which can be established or disproved mainly on documentary evidences.

PUCL is disturbed by the other sweeping and unwarranted comments made by the Gujarat High Court about the role of individuals and NGOs. We are however confident that the Hon’ble Supreme Court will ensure that justice is eventually done as the judiciary is the only bulwark against abuse of power by the executive against human rights defenders.

We also hope that the SC will consider ordering an impartial enquiry into the matter by an independent agency under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court as was ordered in other cases related to Gujarat communal violence. This will help establish the truth.

Sd/ -
Dr. V. Suresh, General Secretary, PUCL & Prof. Prabhakar Sinha, President, PUCL

Activists question Gujarat Govt motives in Setalvad case

Teesta- Setalvad

Civil society and political activists raise voices in support of social activists Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand who are facing arrest by the Gujarat police

By Team FI
Following the Gujarat High Court’s rejection of the anticipatory bail plea of Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand and Gujarat police’s immediate arrival in Mumbai to arrest Setalvad in the embezzlement case of the Gulbarg society, activists, eminent citizens, journalists and legal experts have condemned the actions of the Gujarat government.

At a function organised at the Press Club of India on 16 February, in New Delhi, former Additional Solicitor General of India Indira Jaisingh, veteran journalist and activist Dr. John Dayal and the editor of Jan Satta Hindi daily Om Thanvi spoke against the machinations of the Gujarat government and questioned the veracity of its claims against Setalvad and Anand.

On 15th February, a demonstration of solidarity with Setalvad and Anand was organised by the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) Maharashtra committee. A large number of activists and eminent citizens gathered outside local railway station at Dadar to condemn the Gujarat police of hounding the social activists with false cases.

The gathering was attended by film maker Anand Patwardhan, renowned writer-activist Dr. Ram Puniyani, AIDWA Maharashtra Secretary Sonya Gill, CITU leader Dr.Vivek Monteiro, Dolphy D’souza, Subodh More, Vandana Shah, Sumedh Jadhav and several other eminent citizens of Mumbai. DYFI state president conducted Adv.Bhagavan Bhagwan Bhojne, Secretary Preethy Sekhar and State committee member Moin Ansar also spoke.

As per the press release issued by DYFI, Anand Patwardhan spoke about the long standing criminal record of Gujarat Police, alleging that they have become a tool in the hands of Sangh Parivar. Cruel encounter killings, diabolic attempts to destroy evidence and frame innocents – these are the credentials of Gujarat Police, stated Patwardhan in his speech.

Gujarat Police is targeting Teesta because she had shown many BJP leaders their way to Jail

Dr. Ram Puniyani stated that Gujarat Police is targeting Teesta because she had shown many BJP leaders their way to Jail. “What is now taking place is part of the efforts to insulate the perpetrators of 2002 massacres from the process of law. Fascist forces occupying state power are not going to stop at this. They will try to hunt down everyone who will stand up for justice. All citizens who wants secularism and democracy to prevail must fearlessly resist SanghParivar machinations,” said Dr.Puniyani.

The press release stated that Sonya Gill drew attention to the irony of police officers accused of infamous encounter killings are walking free even as Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand are sought to be put behind bars. “Tireless and courageous work by Teesta and Javed have been instrumental in bringing high-placed criminals to justice. Now the state machinery is trying to frame them in the hope that their work could be obstructed. It is a matter of much pride that Teesta and Javed are undeterred by all the machinations of Gujarat Police,” said Gill as per the press statement.

Dr. Vivek Monteiro explained how BJP has been using the police machinery in Gujarat and elsewhere to frame innocents. It is a pity that judiciary is not able to prevent the bias in our police system against minorities and those who stand up for the rights of the marginalized sections.

“Slogans like “Teesta tum sangharsh karo, hum tumhare saath hai”, “BJP sarkkar ki dadagiri nahi chalegi” electrified the evening at Dadar; it was a show of determination and unity of secular forces in Mumbai. DYFI leaders declared that, in the days to come, the organization will galvanise the secular collective of Maharashtra and meet the challenges posed by Hindutwa forces in the state,” declared the press release. According to the press release the demonstration was attempted to be disrupted by the Mumbai police who were present in large numbers at the protest site.

Justice J.S.Verma: In memoriam

Justice Verma

To pay tribute to the man who left a legacy of justice is to promise to keep the fight ongoing

By Farah Naqvi

On April 22, 2013, India lost a man who stood taller than others. In a lifetime of work he unwaveringly upheld the values of our Constitution and deployed them to uphold rights of those most weakened, most marginalized – whether by the deliberate tragedies created by vicious state politics or by the ubiquitous hierarchies of a patriarchal social order. He stood up for the rights of women, for justice in Gujarat, and for so much more.

Justice J. S. Verma led from the front. He led with integrity, honesty and a fearless ability to hold accountable the State, even the Judiciary and certainly society as a whole. Both as Judge and as citizen he spoke boldly a language of justice on the many complex issues that define our times. He dug into the depth of the horrors in Gujarat to craft the NHRC report in 2002. And 10 years later he pierced through the resilient patriarchy of Indian society to craft the Justice Verma Committee report in 2013. Both with the same deep intellect and instinctive clarity on what was right and what was just.

Way back in 1997 he headed the three member Supreme Court bench that gave us the Vishakha Judgment, a time when ‘sexual harassment in the workplace’ was little more than a collection of meaningless words to most Indians, and he lived to see that judgment translate itself into an Act.

Most recently, on January 19-20, 2013, at the hearing of the Justice Verma Committee, the stamina of seasoned women’s rights activists, to sit for endless hours, to speak for endless hours, was more than tested by the stamina of the committee members, including Justice Verma, Justice Leila Seth and Gopal Subramanium who sat without break, and listened and absorbed till late into the evenings.

The JVC report shall remain a historic report, because it sliced through the layers of patriarchy, not by peeling one layer at a time, but in dealing sharp, clear blows to its very core

Justice Verma turned 80 just before he formally handed the JVC report to the government. This gift – not for himself but for the women of India – shall remain a historic report, because it sliced through the layers of patriarchy, not by peeling one layer at a time, but in dealing sharp, clear blows to its very core. Parts of the JVC Report have found their way into the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013. Other parts remain an unfinished agenda. And the lasting tribute of the women’s movement, to this extraordinary Jurist and human being, can only be to stay the course on this long journey on which he joined us, leaving a milestone in his wake.

At his funeral there were several of us, women’s rights activists of many different hues standing together, joined in a moment of respect and gratitude, silently owning his legacy, silently promising to take it forward.

Farah Naqvi is a Delhi based activist and writer

Justice Verma: A judge who fought for women’s rights