Condemn the arrest of Teesta Setalwad, staunch fighter for justice for the Gujarat genocide victims

On June 25, the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Gujarat Police arrested Teesta Setalwad from her home in Mumbai and took her to Ahmedabad. She was produced before a magistrate before being placed in police custody till July 2.

The Supreme Court of India has called for punishing Teesta Setalwad and others for allegedly besmirching the names of ministers and officials of the Gujarat government who had worked hard to stop the massacre in 2002. The essence of the Supreme Court ruling is that those who dare to oppose and expose state terrorism will themselves be the target of state terrorism.

The Gujarat genocide took place twenty years ago, at the end of February 2002. Thousands of innocent people were burnt alive in Ahmedabad and other cities of Gujarat, as well as in rural districts. Women were raped and brutally murdered.

The Concerned Citizens’ Tribunal headed by noted jurist VR Krishna Iyer carried out exhaustive hearings in Ahmedabad and other places in Gujarat, following the genocide. The tribunal included many prominent personalities such as Justice Hosbet Suresh, Justice P. B. Sawant and Mr. K. G. Kannabiran.  They recorded testimonies of victims of the massacre, as also of various activists, police officials and politicians. The evidence and information compiled showed that the preparations for the genocide had begun six to eight months in advance.  They showed that it was not a spontaneous “riot”, as is officially portrayed.   It was a well-planned and organised mass crime committed with the full backing of the administrative and police machinery of Gujarat.

Women and men of conscience worked to organize relief camps for the families who were victims of the genocide. They also took up the fight to punish those guilty of organizing the genocide. Teesta Setalwad is one such activist for justice.  She has spent two decades fighting to ensure punishment for those guilty, no matter how high an official position they may hold.

The struggle to punish the guilty of the 1984 genocide and the “encounter killings” in Punjab clearly showed that victims cannot hope to get justice when the state itself is the organizer of mass killings and terror. All the institutions of the state — the government, the police and other investigative agencies, the judiciary as well as the ruling class parties — together cover up the truth. They ensure that the guilty, the organisers of the genocide, are never punished. Instead of getting justice, the victims are further persecuted. Furthermore, those who dare to defend the victims and demand that the guilty be identified and punished are themselves persecuted.

This is what has happened with Teesta Setalwad and others. Within 24 hours of the Supreme Court Ruling, the ATS of the Gujarat Police not only prepared a detailed FIR against Teesta Setalwad and some others, but also arrested them. The Central Government wants to use this as an example to prevent anyone from ever daring to raise his or her voice in defence of the victims of state terrorism.

The FIR will investigate the role of Teesta and others from January 1, 2002 — that is from 2 months before the genocide. It is likely that the state will now try to blame Teesta and others for a conspiracy to defame the Gujarat government. The experience of the cases against activists involved in the anti CAA protests points in this direction.  Those activists have been in jail for nearly two years.  They have been charged under the UAPA with conspiring to organize the North East Delhi riots in February 2020, allegedly to defame the Central government.

The Communist Ghadar Party of India joins all justice-loving people of our country in condemning the unjust arrest of Teesta Setalwad.

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