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Boost to Teesta: Noam Chomsky, Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib protest Gujarat cops' "politics of vendetta"

Noam Chomsky
By Our Representative
In a major boost to well-known human rights activist Teesta Setalvad – whom Gujarat police craving to arrest for allegedly “misusing” NGO funds meant for riot victims – more than 200 prominent individuals led by Noam Chomsky, one of the world’s most well-known philosophers, have expressed solidarity with her. Voted the "world's top public intellectual" in 2005 and considered father of modern linguists, he along with top historians Irfan Habib and Romila Thapar have called the Gujarat police's intention as a “clear case of the politics of vendetta.”
In a statement, distributed by the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust, setup in the memory of a well-known theatre personality who was murdered, the prominent individuals have said, “Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand, who have fought a long and heroic battle to advance the cause of justice for Gujarat’s 2002 pogrom, face possible prosecution on charges of financial misappropriation. We see this as a clear case of the politics of vendetta launched with explicit intent to whitewash and efface from public memory the misdeeds of those who today wield political power in the state and centre.”
Protest in Mumbai in favour of Setalvad
The statement, which has been signed the statement include well-known artists, film personalities, litterateurs, economists and experts in several fields, said, “As the government headed by Narendra Modi launches a fresh investigation into the 1984 carnage on the streets of Delhi – a measure that we would welcome except for the obvious partisan motivation behind it – we are shocked to see this persisting spirit of vendetta against an effort to enforce legal and moral accountability for an equally horrific massacre in Gujarat.”
“The Gujarat police’s alacrity in turning up at the doorstep of Teesta and Javed’s Mumbai residence within minutes after the High Court in Ahmedabad pronounced that it would not entertain their plea for anticipatory bail, suggests an intent to bully and intimidate”, the statement said, underlining, “The ostensible reason, that Teesta and Javed are required for ‘custodial interrogation’ is an unwitting, but nonetheless chilling confession of the Gujarat police’s real intent.”
Pointing out that they have “serious doubts about the bona fide of the complainants in this matter”, yet have taken the trouble of “familiarizing” themselves with the “nature of the charges they make”, the statement said, “An utterly trivial complaint has been inflated by the prosecution into charges involving crores, when the actual magnitude of funds received for the impugned purpose – building a museum of remembrance in Ahmedabad for victims of communal violence – was a mere Rs 4.6 lakh.”
Activists protest against Gujarat police
“These funds were received in the accounts of Sabrang, one among two trusts that have been engaged in the cause of justice for the 2002 riots. The other trust of which Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand are executive functionaries – Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) – has received far larger donations for the cause of pursuing avenues of legal redress for the 2002 victims and survivors. Curiously, every withdrawal for petty cash expenses for the activities of the Trust has been portrayed by the prosecution as an instance of defalcation for personal ends”, the statement said.
Then, the statement said, “Honorarium or salaries paid to Teesta and Javed have been similarly presented, though these are fully in conformity with memoranda of understanding and agreements arrived at between their trusts and donor agencies. There are several such patent distortions of fact in the prosecution case.”
While Setalvad and Anand have “submitted all relevant invoices clarifying the purposes of every one of the impugned cash withdrawals”, and there are in all some11,000 documents, which are available with the investigating agencies, the fact is, the statement recalled, “The Supreme Court has at least twice in past years, made adverse observations about the Gujarat state government’s campaign of vilification against Setalvad and Anand.”
“The first such instance was in 2004, after elements within the ruling party in Gujarat pressured and in other ways induced a key witness in the Best Bakery case, Zaheera Sheikh, to change her testimony so that charges of obstructing the course of justice and perjury could be brought against Teesta. A second instance was in 2010-11, when malicious charges of exhuming the bodies of riot victims from their graves were brought and summarily dismissed as absurd by the highest court”, the statement said.

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