Several activists, advocates and members of civil society groups organised a protest in Bengaluru, over the arrest of Teesta Setalvad and demanded the release of the journalist and activist and former IPS officer RB Sreekumar. Over 70 protesters reached the Civil Court premises on Monday, June 27, raising slogans and standing in solidarity with the detainees. Teesta Setalvad and former IPS officers RB Sreekumar and Sanjiv Bhatt have been accused of abusing the process of law and fabricating evidence to frame innocent people in connection with the 2002 Gujarat communal riots.
Calling Teestaâ€™s arrest â€śanti-democraticâ€ť and â€śfascistâ€ť, the protesters condemned the Union and state governments along with the Gujarat police. Slogans condemning Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Union Home Ministry were raised in English and Kannada. They demanded that the government â€śstop using central intelligence agencies to silence detractorsâ€ť, while echoing that fighting for rights is not a crime.
Advocate Narsimhamurthy, who was at the protest, termed Teestaâ€™s arrest unconstitutional. â€śShe was the voice of the voiceless and for that, she has been arrested and it is concerning that since last two years, at least 14 human right activists in India have been arrested.â€ť
Poorna R, an advocate with the All India Lawyersâ€™ Association for Justice, said that the arrest is shocking, but not surprising, and that there is an â€śincreasing trendâ€ť of human rights activists being targeted by the BJP government. â€śWe will absolutely not accept the cover-up of the Gujarat massacre and will not be afraid of any consequences as we stand together in these dark hours,â€ť she said. Others who had gathered questioned whether the judiciary serves the government or the citizens.
Teesta Setalvad runs the NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace, formed for those who were targeted during the 2002 violence. On Friday, June 24, the Supreme Court dismissed a plea by Zakia Jaffri, wife of late Congress MLA Ehsan Jaffri who was killed in the 2002 Gujarat riots, challenging a Special Investigation Teamâ€™s (SIT) clean chit to PM Modi in the case. The court came down on Setalvad, saying she â€śexploitedâ€ť the emotions of Zakia Jaffri for personal gain. In its ruling, the bench said that Setalvadâ€™s antecedents must be examined as she is â€śvindictively pursuingâ€ť the case for â€śher ulterior design by emotionally exploiting Zakia Jaffri, the real victim of the circumstancesâ€ť.
She was detained by the Gujarat police the following day from her Mumbai residence, and later arrested. Ex-Gujarat DGP Sreekumar was arrested on Saturday while the process is on to get a transfer warrant for custody of Bhatt, who is serving a life sentence in a custodial death case at a jail at Palanpur, in connection with the FIR lodged against them.
Setalvad, Sreekumar, and Bhatt were booked under sections 468, 471 (forgery), 194 (giving or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction of capital offence), 211 (institute criminal proceedings to cause injury), 218 (public servant framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save a person from punishment or property from forfeiture), and 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The complaint is mainly based on the documents of proceedings and other materials to make out a case of cognisable offence. It drew on various submissions made before the Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed by the Supreme Court to investigate the 2002 Gujarat riots cases and the Justice Nanavati-Shah Commission of Inquiry appointed by the Gujarat government to probe these cases.