I have been a hate target, says Teesta

In an interview to The Hindu a few days ago, she said that under the Modi regime the future is dark for activists.

Updated - November 17, 2021 03:02 am IST

Published - July 25, 2015 02:13 am IST

There is no charge sheet, just intimidation, harassment and vilification, says Teesta

There is no charge sheet, just intimidation, harassment and vilification, says Teesta

Arguably the face of the fight for justice for the victims of the Gujarat riots in 2002, Teesta Setalvad has tirelessly fought scores of cases, provided legal aid to the survivors through her non-governmental organisations and played a role in securing conviction of 120 perpetrators. But today, she is accused of forgery and criminal breach of trust, facing multiple inquiries and six FIRs. Her organisational and personal accounts were frozen in early 2014, and a travel ban was imposed recently.

You are accused of cheating those very people whom you fought for …

None of the allegations made by the Gujarat Police Crime Branch has stood the test of documentary evidence [running into 25,000 pages] supplied by us. There is no charge sheet, just intimidation, harassment and vilification in the public domain. This entire chain of vindictive actions aggressively pressed by the Ahmedabad Police Crime Branch began in January 2013 when our accounts were illegally frozen; when desperate attempts to get us into custody failed. When this ploy failed, the Gujarat Home Department wrote to the Union Home Affairs Ministry’s FCRA [Foreign Contribution Regulation Act] Division and a spate of inspections ensued.

This is being driven by those who are irked at the concrete results we achieved post-2002, further enraged that all attempts to silence us have so far failed.

Your NGOs Sabrang Communications and Citizens for Justice and Peace have been accused of receiving funds in violation of the FCRA and using the money for anti-India sentiments.

We have broken no laws. Section 3 of the FCRA, 2010, bars certain categories, including political parties and registered newspapers, from receiving foreign donations. However, Section (4) says that it will not apply if the foreign contribution is received in the form of salary or wages. Sabrang Communications, which published the monthly Communalism Combat, signed a consultancy agreement with the Ford Foundation in 2004 and 2006 to address the issues of caste and communalism through a clearly defined set of activities which had nothing whatsoever to do with Communalism Combat or remuneration to Javed Anand or Teesta Setalvad towards discharging editorial/managerial functions. The consultancy was signed by Sabrang Communications only after advice from eminent legal counsel that such an agreement was covered under the exclusion stipulated under Section 4 of the Act and, therefore, the consultancy fees (not grant or donation) received would not be in violation of the Act.

You say you are subjected to a witch-hunt by the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo because of your unrelenting fight for justice in Gujarat.

I have been a specific hate target. An FIR, in our view malicious and motivated, was lodged over 18 months ago at the Crime Branch, Ahmedabad, that simply speaks of funds collected for the Gulberg Memorial. This princely sum of Rs. 4.6 lakh is still lying unutilised due to our inability to take this dream project forward. To date, despite over 24,000 pages of documentary evidence being filed, there is no charge sheet.

Did you face similar suppression under the UPA or Vajpayee regimes?

No. In fact, in December 2000, Communalism Combat was honoured with the Prince Claus International Award for Exceptional Initiative in the field of Journalism and Development. Believing in the law, we applied for permission to receive the award amount and were duly granted that permission. In 2003, I was co-recipient of the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award, and we had an NDA government in power in Delhi. We applied for due permission from the Home Ministry and then received the amount.

Under the Modi government, is the future dark for activists?


On accusations of being a Congress stooge?

It was the brute post-Babri Masjid demolition that led us to take the step into exploratory journalism. Which government was in power in Bombay in 1992-93? Who were among the several groups to lead the campaign for punishment to the perpetrators? It was us. Who was at the forefront to ensure that evidence before Justice B.N Srikrishna actually got filed? Whether it is 1992-93 Bombay or 1984 Delhi, we have taken a clear-cut position against the politics of communalism, whether it stems from the majority or the minority.

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