Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) has demanded the release of activist Teesta Setalvad, who was arrested by the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad allegedly for submitting false evidence in the 2002 Gujarat riots case.
In a statement issued on Sunday, JNUTA urged the people to stand in “unwavering support” of the activist against, what it called, a “motivated action of the Gujarat police.” On Saturday, the Gujarat ATS detained Setalvad from her house in the Juhu area of Mumbai in connection with an FIR lodged by Crime Branch Inspector D B Barad in Ahmedabad for “criminal conspiracy, forgery and placing false evidence in court to frame innocent people” in the 2002 Gujarat riots.
The ATS also arrested former Gujarat DGP R B Sreekumar and former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt — who is already in prison in a police torture case — under the same charges.
The JNUTA said it stands committed in its support of Setalvad, saying her “longstanding and indefatigable work in the defence of civil liberties” has made justice for communal violence victims viable.
“JNUTA expresses its solidarity with Teesta Setalvad and all others who are being persecuted for upholding and affirming the values of India’s democratic polity against all forms of autocratic oppression,” the teachers’ body said in the statement.
It demanded that “the FIR filed against supporters of victims of Gujarat violence be withdrawn and that Teesta Setalvad and others, falsely implicated in this case, be immediately released.”
Meanwhile. a group of students, teachers, activists and civil society members staged a protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Monday against the arrest of Teesta Setalvad by the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad, calling it a “pre-planned conspiracy” and an attempt to “silence” other activists.
Senior Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh and Ajay Maken also joined the protest.
Around 300 protesters gathered at Jantar Mantar and raised slogans demanding the release of Setalvad and former IPS officers R B Sreekumar and Sanjiv Bhatt. Congress leader Maken said his party stood by the trio and demanded their release at the earliest.
Activist Shabnam Hashmi told PTI, “We think it’s a pre-planned conspiracy because there is no way that the Supreme Court comes out with a judgment on June 25 and the same day an FIR was lodged and Teesta was arrested…. We strongly condemn it.”
Hashmi said the arrest was an attempt by the government to silence and frighten other activists in the country.
“We know that they’re giving a signal to all the activists who have been raising their voice. This is an attempt to silence and frighten them but this country is not going to be frightened,” she said.
She demanded that the trio be released and the FIR quashed.
Questioning the arrests, All India Students’ Association (AISA) president N Sai Balaji said, “If the fight against injustice is being criminalised, what message are they giving out? That we cannot speak against communal riots? That no one can stand with the victims?”
Speaking to PTI, All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) president Mariam Dhawale said that with the arrests, the government is sending out a message that action will be taken against those who raise their voice against injustice.
“Every citizen in the country has the right to free speech and expression. It is not necessary that everyone has to agree with what the government and authorities are doing. This arrest is a way of govt sending out message that if you raise voice, action will be taken against you,” she said, alleging, “This is fascism and completely against our Constitution.” (PTI)