In the photo from left: Tushar Gandhi, Dilip D'souza, Anand Patwardhan and Sandhya Gokhale at the press conference to express solidarity with Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand. Photo by: Satyen K Bordoloi
“If they get arrested, how will we ensure that they will be protected from those who they have put in jail,” asked writer Tushar Gandhi, the great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi at a packed press conference at the Press Club, Mumbai. The conference was called by civil society to present evidence to prove the innocence of Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand against cases which they claimed was fabricated.
On February 12, 2015 the High Court of Gujarat passed an order denying anticipatory bail to Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand in the matter of an FIR pertaining to misappropriation of funds from an NGO they worked for and filed by the Gujarat police against them.
A special leave petition was filed before the Supreme Court of India against the said order within hours after which the court granted them interim relief and the matter will be further heard on 19th February 2015.
"Teesta and Javed have fully cooperated with the investigations. They have appeared before the Ahmedabad police twice. They have furnished 15,000 vouchers of all the expenses made by Sabrang trust. They have even put all the evidence in the public domain for all to see and judge. One wonders why the Gujarat Police still wants them in custody. We fear there is ulterior motive in this arrest because if they wanted proof they have it all," said activist Sandhya Gokhale.
Documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan alleged that the Modi government is bent on punishing them for their "exemplary work" in getting those responsible for violence in Gujarat 2002, behind bars. Insinuating the hand of the Modi government in this case, he said, "Since Modi has become PM, many accused jailed in false encounter cases by the courts, have been coming out. Some have got bail, others have been promoted. On the other hand Javed and Teesta have been punished. It is our duty to stand by Teesta and Javed and prevent this witch hunt and also ensure that the guilty of Gujarat 2002 are punished."
Writer Dilip D'souza drew parallels with the case of Dr. Binayak Sen of Chhattisgarh. Giving example of a government’s own document found in Binayak’s computer which the police presented as irrefutable evidence against him, Dilip said, "So thin was the evidence against Binayak Sen that they had to make it up. They thought they could get away and they did. These have taught me to be terminally suspicious of every evidence. It is our duty as citizens to view evidence suspiciously and I would urge us all to examine the evidence presented by the police well."
Tushar Gandhi was direct in his criticism of the ruling government. "I am from a generation that remembers the Emergency well. At least Indira Gandhi had the decency of proclaiming Emergency before unleashing her tyranny. Today it is being unleashed without warning. This case is an opportunity to sound an alarm before we slip down into another emergency like situation."
A powerpoint presentation with charts and figures was shown to the press which gave details of the money Teesta and Javed have been accused of embezzling. “The money that is said to have been appropriated by the two is all there with the NGO, fully intact,” said Tushar Gandhi.
(Satyen K Bordoloi is an independent film critic, writer and photojournalist based in Mumbai. His writings on cinema, culture and politics have appeared nationally and globally.)
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