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Citizens for Justice and Peace

iq5nov

08, May 2017


 

Reproduced below is the English translation of
the editorial in the Urdu daily Inquilab (Mumbai) on November 5
 
ZahiraÂ’s assault 

That
Zahira has chosen to change her statement yet again gives rise to several
questions. For example, could it be that the perpetrators of the Gujarat
carnage who are still trying very hard to escape the long arm of the law
are continuing to intimidate witnesses? Or are they trying different 
tactics to lure the family?

 Zahira
Shaikh is neither an ignorant child nor is there any sign of her having
lost her mental balance. It is evident that she is fully in her senses
while saying whatever she is. Quite possibly, she is also being mindful of
where her ‘real interests’ lie. In view of this, the fact that she has
changed her statement yet again, or gone back on her earlier statement,
can only mean that she has received fresh threats or a deal in which she
sees great benefit for herself.

 

Readers will recall that the Best Bakery case is not only among the most
gruesome incidents of the Gujarat carnage, it is also among those in which
 every possible effort has been made to hide the truth. When some human
rights groups (e.g., Teesta Setalvad, against whom Zahira has now leveled
very serious charges, and about whom later) extended to her their support
and encouraged her to speak the truth without any fear, the Supreme Court
delivered a milestone judgment that the case be transferred to Maharashtra
for a retrial since the situation in Gujarat was such that the victims had
no hope of getting justice there.

 

It
may also be recalled that the strong words used by the apex court in
castigating the Gujarat administration and the lower courts had reassured
millions of peace-loving people within India and abroad and renewed the
hope that the Gujarat victims would get justice. If despite this
unprecedented and extraordinary court ruling the victims themselves start
changing their statements, the fate of the justice process can well be
imagined. While delivering justice to the victims, the court also
pronounces punishments for the perpetrators. The judicial process even
grants to the victim the right not to seek justice. But in exercising such
right, besides giving aid to the perpetrators and encouraging further
misdeeds, the victim also throttles the process of justice. Perhaps Zahira
does not realise the far and wide-ranging implications of her retraction
and the number of people she could be harming in the process.

 

As
far as the allegations against Teesta Setalvad are concerned, we see no
truth in them because whatever she is doing can not be for her personal
benefit. She is the daughter of a top lawyer, but she is herself not a
lawyer who could be charged with trying to corner major cases relating to
the Gujarat carnage in order to extract large sums of money from clients.
She is part of a voluntary organisation (Citizens for Justice and Peace)
and it may be argued that she is trying to raise money for her NGO through
her activities. But even this argument is difficult to digest because
there are any number of fruitful activities for NGOs to undertake. Why
would Teesta choose Gujarat of all places as her field of activity unless
she has a certain kind of commitment? Above all, the question arises as to
why any person should endanger her own life? Ask yourself if it is easy
for anyone to extend support, not merely in words but through deed, to
Zahira Shaikh or any other Gujarat victim? For, does not taking such a
stand mean making enemies of individuals responsible for criminal deeds,
such as Madhu Srivastava who is implicated in the Best Bakery case and
chief minister Narendra Modi himself?  

Teesta Setalvad is co-editor of Communalism Combat, which has been
fighting a relentless battle against communalism for the last 11 years.
The journalÂ’s special report Genocide, Gujarat 2002 (CC, April
2002) has the status of a solid document with elaborate details on the
killings, destruction of property, estimate of losses and much more. Even
a cursory glance at the publication would give you an idea of the
painstaking labour without which it would be impossible to bring out such
a report.  

It is
conceivable that on occasion Teesta may have frightened Zahira or coerced
her only to keep her away from certain elements attempting to offer
inducements or issuing threats to Zahira. But it is inconceivable to
attribute any other motive to this. By her retraction and attempt to
malign a courageous human rights champion like Teesta, Zahira is damaging
her own credibility. In so doing, she is only acting as an instrument of
people who want to prevent her from speaking the truth and an activist
like Teesta from fighting for any cause. It is certain that behind this
conspiracy against Teesta are those who, deeply agitated by the prospects
of a free and fair trial of the Gujarat cases and of the exposure of the
Gujarat governmentÂ’s role in the process, are attempting to demoralise
those who have dared enter the public arena in the battle for justice and
truth.

Zahira is not only a victim, she is also innocent. She probably does not
even realise that she is being used as an instrument. 

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