Rally demands release of Teesta Setalvad, Mohammed Zubair telegraphindia.com

04, Jul 2022 | DEBRAJ MITRA 

Justice seekers targeted by state: Sujato Bhadra

The rally demanding the release of Teesta Setalvad, Mohammed Zubair and other rights activists on Sunday.

The rally demanding the release of Teesta Setalvad, Mohammed Zubair and other rights activists on Sunday. Gautam Bose

In New India, people are arrested for busting fake news and fighting for justice, a rally in central Kolkata asserted on Sunday.The rally was held to demand the “unconditional release” of Teesta Setalvad, Mohammed Zubair and other jailed rights activists.

“Losing a court case is one thing. Being put behind bars for seeking justice from the court is another. The arrest of Teesta Setalvad,who has led a valiant fight for the victims of Gujarat riots, sends a grim message to the people of this country. If you fight for those wronged by the State, you will be targeted by the State. The State will unleash its full might on you,” said veteran rights activist Sujato Bhadra.

Setalvad’s NGO had supported Zakia Jafri, wife of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was killed during the Gujarat riots of 2002, throughout her legal battle. Zakia had filed a petition alleging a larger conspiracy behind the riots, which happened when Narendra Modi was chief minister of Gujarat.

The rally, from Moulali to Esplanade, was held under the banner of the Bengal Against Fascist RSS-BJP, a forum that took shape in the run-up to the Assembly elections in Bengal.

Kushal Debnath, one of the organisers, said people like Zubair, a co-founder of fact-checking website AltNews, posed a serious challenge to the devious designs of the Right wing.

“They have turned fake news into an industry. Zubair was causing a lot of damage to that industry. Reason enough to go after him,” he said.

Anwar Raza Rahi, 76, was one of the participants in the rally. The septuagenarian, a resident of Metiabruz, came with a walking stick and a bag that had medicines and a bottle of water.

Rahi suffers from hypertension and a host of other ailments.

“I came because not protesting means being complicit in the crimes of the BJP-RSS regime,” said Rahi.

“The blood and toil of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians have brought India this far. You cannot change this truth. India cannot be a Hindu Rashtra,” said Rahi.

Kasturi Basu, one of the conveners of the forum, said the arrests of Setalvad and Zubair were not an isolated case.

“There is a pattern. It started with the Bhima Koregaon case. Fabricated charges were pressed on the accused, who have been behind bars for three years. The same pattern was visible when the government targeted NRC protesters like Umar Khalid and Sharjeel Imam, who are still languishing in jail. Selective media leaks are then used to suit the interests of the agencies,” said Basu.

The police have been accused of planting evidence in electronic devices belonging to several of the Bhima Koregaon activists, many of whom have been in jail since June 2018 despite repeated appeals for bail. The priest, Stan Swamy, who had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, died in prison in July 2021 aged 84.

On Sunday, students and senior citizens were part of the rally. Thesa marchers walked with posters and banners. “Fascism is not to be debated. It is to be smashed,” read one poster.

Many of the participants were from districts.

The Original piece may be read here


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