Assam: Civil society group speaks up for Teesta Setalvad The Telegraph
30, Jun 2022 | Umanand Jaiswal
A statement issued by Guwahati-based CCACAA seeks ‘restoration of her civil rights and human dignity’
A civil society group in Assam opposed to the Citizenship Amendment Act on Monday demanded the “immediate” release of human rights defender Teesta Setalvad, who has been arrested in connection with the aftermath of the Gujarat Gulberg Society massacre case.
A statement issued by the Guwahati-based Coordination Committee Against Citizenship Amendment Act, Assam (CCACAA), while registering their “honest bewilderment and protest” at this “gross” mistreatment and injury to Setalvad’s reputation, also sought the “restoration of her civil rights and human dignity”.
CCACAA president Hiren Gohain and chief coordinator Deben Tamuly in the statement said they were deeply shocked and disturbed at the “bewildering” turn of events that have led to the “shocking” arrest of the noted human rights activist on charges of “wilful and malicious pursuit of subverting justice, implicating the innocent in grave crimes to ruin their reputation with forgery and fraud, and exploiting sentiments of victims of spontaneous riots and violence”.
Citing media reports, the statement said the Supreme Court bench had made “unfavourable remarks on the motives” for persistence in maintaining a lawsuit that called for a fair review of the SC-appointed SIT’s report on the 2002 Gujarat riots and a new probe to ascertain if the riots had been the result of a “planned conspiracy”.
Gujarat police had detained Setalvad on Saturday soon after Union home minister Amit Shah named the activist in an interview on Friday’s Supreme Court ruling in the massacre case and said the NGO run by her had given baseless information about the riots to the police. She was later arrested.
Setalvad runs the NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP). It also works in Assam, helping those trying to establish their Indian citizenship.
The interview was held a day after the apex court dismissed the plea of Zakia Jafri to reject the findings of the SIT that gave a clean chit to then Gujarat chief minister (now Prime Minister) Narendra Modi, among others.
Zakia’s husband Ehsan Jafri, a former Congress MP, was among the 68 killed in the Gulberg Society on February 28, 2002, a day after 59 people were burnt in a train coach at Godhra in Gujarat.
The anti-CAA group in a statement said: “Their Lordships may well have concluded that the petition to set aside the earlier findings and start a fresh enquiry was devoid of merit. The matter should have ended there. But to go farther and denounce the petitioner of bad faith and malign motives is without precedent and rather ominous for the constitutional rights of citizens to seek redress for dangers and injuries to their rights to life and liberty.”
The statement also mentioned the “many” critical and dissenting views of seasoned journalists, rights activists and “some” respected prominent public personalities questioning the alleged shortcomings of that SIT report when it was published.
“There had also been serious circumstantial evidence that there might have been a larger conspiracy at the background of those terrible events. Hence Teesta Setalvad, who has a proven record of long, devoted and distinguished work in upholding human rights and securing justice for victims of riots and communal violence, for which she was honoured with a ‘Padmashree’, does not appear to deserve such an ascription, far less arrest and detention under various sections of the IPC.”
The statement ended with the anti-CAA organisation calling for her release. “We therefore join many others in the country in registering our honest bewilderment and protest at this gross mistreatment and injury to her reputation. And we demand her immediate release and restoration of her civil rights and human dignity.”
The original piece may be read here