Teesta incarceration incurs resentment The Telegraph

29, Jun 2022 | Snehamoy Chakraborty

Radhanagar residents are not sure whether their voice will be heard, but want more citizens to stand up for activist

Many residents of a remote village in Bankura came in support of Teesta Setalvad, human rights defender and secretary of the NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), on Sunday, a day after her arrest.

They recalled how her NGO helped a village youth, Gangadhar Pramanik, returned home last September after detention for over four years in a transit camp in Assam for failing to satisfy a tribunal there of his Indian citizenship.

Gangadhar, 33, a resident of Bankura’s Radhanagar village, returned home last September with a CJP team who helped him in a legal battle to get bail from a foreigners’ tribunal in Assam.

Gangadhar, now a worker at a sweetmeats shop at Radhanagar market, earns Rs 4,000 a month and lives with his mother.

Gangadhar said he had heard Setalvad’s name from others but not met her.

“How can I forget the role of the association (Setalvad’s NGO) which dragged me out of the hell where I spent over four years. I was beaten up severely. I was not given enough food and lived in filth at the camp. I pray for her release,” Gangadhar said from Bankura.

His trauma has largely disappeared, said employer Bappa Layek. “Those who saw them after his return from Assam know he was behaving like a mentally-challenged person. Now he is like you or me,” said Layek.

Ashish Dey, a fellow villager, said: “She (Setalvad) was arrested soon after the Union home minister took her name. It was really unfortunate…. The charges against her are yet to be proved. We demand justice for her as we saw what she and her team did for a youth from our village.”

Setalvad was arrested on Saturday from Mumbai after Union home minister Amit Shah named her in an interview accusing her of providing “baseless information” on the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Shah’s comment came after the Supreme Court dismissed a plea by Zakia Jafri, widow of slain Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, in the Gulbarg Society Massacre, and gave a clean chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then the Gujarat chief minister.

Radhanagar residents are not sure whether their voice will be heard, but want more citizens to stand up for Setalvad.

“We are poor villagers…. But we want to promote what she and her organisation did for common people with the example of Gangadhar,” said another villager.

Nanda Ghosh, the CJP’s Assam chapter in charge, said they all “respect the support and solidarity from the villagers of Bengal”.

The original piece may be read here.


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