By Lalit Shukla,
Teesta Setalvad, a civil right activist and journalist, is fighting for justice for the victims of Gujarat Riots in 2002 under the banner of Citizen for Justice and Peace (CJP) as a part of her long fight against communalism stated since 1992 with her husband Javed Anand. The organization CJP is fighting a legal battle for criminal trial of Narendra Modi including many other leaders and state officers for their alleged roles in riots. Till now, it has been successful with about 120 convictions including Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi in different cases.
Teesta Setalvad, born in 1962, graduated with a degree in Philosophy from Bombay University in 1983 and starting working as journalist. In 1993, she started a monthly magazine Communalism Combat with her husband Javed Anand. Teesta and Javed, along with many active citizens set up CJP on 1st April 2002 which led the legal fight to the landmark judgement of the Supreme Court of India to shift “Best Bakery Case” to Maharashtra for re-investigation which resulted in convictions.
Describing horrors of Gujarat riots, Arundhati Roy wrote in her essay Democracy, “Within hours of the Godhra outrage, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal put into motion a meticulously planned pogrom against the Muslim community. Officially the number of dead is 800. Independent reports put the figure at well over 2,000. More than a hundred and fifty thousand people, driven from their homes, now live in refugee camps. Women were stripped, gang-raped, parents were bludgeoned to death in front of their children. Two hundred and forty dargahs and 180 masjids were destroyed—in Ahmedabad the tomb of Wali Gujarati, the founder of the modern Urdu poem, was demolished and paved over in the course of a night. The tomb of the musician Ustad Faiyaz Ali Khan was desecrated and wreathed in burning tyres. Arsonists burned and looted shops, homes, hotels, textiles mills, buses and private cars. Hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs.”
Describing unwillingness and attitude of state in delivering justice to the victims, Amnesty International said on 29 February 2012, “Immediately after the riots, the Gujarat authorities cited lack of evidence to close 2,107 cases without giving the victims an opportunity to depose as per the law. Following this, a Supreme Court-appointed enquiry, in February 2006, directed the state authorities to reopen 1,594 of the cases; the victims lodged 13 fresh complaints and successive probes found that 41 police officials were involved in the riots, naming more than 600 persons as accused in various cases. However, the state authorities appointed members and supporters of extremist Hindu organizations as public prosecutors in an overwhelming number of cases, many of which did not lead to convictions given the communal bias of public prosecutors and members of the lower judiciary in Gujarat.”
A committed activist to fight communalism cannot keep mum when genocide is going on and justice is being denied to the victims. Teesta and Javed along with many other started the challenging task to lead a legal fight to avail justice to riot victims. They took the task to collect evidences, protect witnesses, and get to the lawyers who are committed for justice to people. This courageous intervention resulted many convictions in different cases and this fight for justice is going on.
The people, who lost everything in this state programme of genocide, were feeling hopeless under the fascist regime. State government used all its power to terrorize people. The draconian law POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) was used in Production of terrorism act, many fake encounters were performed to make Narendra Modi as “hindu hriday samrat”, and jails were filled with innocent Muslim youths. This dedicated intervention by organizations like CJP to fight for justice for oppressed has given some hope and real face of Gujarat Model is quite visible.
Nishrin Jafri Hussain, daughter of Ehsan Jafri, wrote on Facebook remembering horrors of “Gulberg Society case”, “Now it is the afternoon of February 28, 2002, thousands of goons have surrounded Gulberg Society to take revenge of the burning of the kar sevaks in Godhra, they are charging with swords, they have beheaded Akhtar and his dad in their front yard, people are frantically running towards my father’s house, reason being my father’s house is in the center of the complex, goons have started burning the properties outside, they have pulled our neighbor’s daughter and miss behaving with them, her mother is not letting her go, she is not succeeding, you can see couple kids running outside, they have been doused with kerosene and they are running screaming with pain, these are the same kids who were playing Cricket after breakfast in the open space, Ammi (my mother Zakiya Naseem Jafri) is now hiding on the second floor with few other ladies and children who managed to run upstairs. Stones are being pelted from all four directions of the house now, almost all the Muslims from the neighborhood are either killed, lying outside injured or have succeed in taking shelter in our house, our house is now also surrounded and goons have started throwing fire balls with kerosene, they have started pushing the gas cylinders in the house.
Abba (my father Ahsan Jafri) probably is now outside in the front of the house requesting, almost begging the goons to leave the children and women alone, he probably has been dragged outside by now, he knows he will not survive. Upstairs Ammi has just realized that in this chaos Leelaben, lady who lives with her and helps her around the house with housework has followed her upstairs, even in this frenzy and chaos she knows that she does not have to die with her, Ammi takes four other ladies with her and brings Leelaben outside on the balcony at the back of the house, folds her hands and requests the crowd to allow them to let her go, she shouts “she is a Hindu, please take her, let her go”, Ammi and the other ladies lower Leelaben on the water tank below the balcony, Ammi is hit by a stone, they all run inside, goons have discovered survivors on the top floor, Ammi and others shut the iron gate and lock it from inside behind them, by this time the second floor is engulfed with fire and there is no way out.”
Former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri repeatedly tried to phone the then Ahmedabad Police Commissioner for help before he was attacked and burnt to death by a mob.
With the aid of CJP, Zakiya Jafri is fighting for justice. Hearing of her case is on 27th July before the magistrate’s court is Ahmedabad. Narendra Modi is accused in the case. You don’t need to be rocket scientist to understand why government is behind Teesta Setalvad, why her bank accounts are being seized, why travel ban have been imposed on her, why CBI registers new FIRs against her every day.
The writer is a passionate reader and considers himself a fellow traveller of all those who doesn’t believe ‘life is a race’. He blogs at https://asongfornextday.wordpress.com/ and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org