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Protesters demand release of Teesta Setalvad, Sreekumar, seek review of SC order

By Our Representative 
Protests broke out across India on June 27 following Teesta Setalvad’s arrest demanding her immediate release. Sabrang India, a site run by Setalvad, claimed she was “arrested on trumped-up charges after the Supreme Court dismissed the petition moved by Zakia Jafri demanding an investigation into the larger conspiracy behind the 2002 Gujarat violence.” The protesters also demanded release of former DGP Gujarat police RB Sreekumar, also arrested simultaneously.
The protests were preceded by over 2,200 people from across the globe signing a statement demanding their immediate release. Leading signatories such as People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) general secretary V Suresh, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) convenor Medha Patkar, former Naval chief Admiral Ramdas.
“The state has used the observations made in the judgment to falsely and vindictively prosecute those who had struggled for justice even in the face of state callousness and complicity. It is truly an Orwellian situation of the lie becoming the truth, when those who fought to establish the truth of what happened in the Gujarat genocide of 2002 are being targeted,” the statement said. They appealed to the apex court to review its own judgement, which had triggered the arrests.
“The ordinary process of litigation to make the state accountable by establishing guilt of those accused of serious crimes is tarred with the criminal brush. We condemn this naked and brazen attempt to silence and criminalize those who stand for constitutional values and who have struggled against very difficult odds to try to achieve justice for the victims of 2002. We demand that this false and vindictive FIR be taken back unconditionally and Teesta Setalvad and others detained under this FIR be released immediately,” said the signatories.
In Bengaluru, activists protested at Town Hall in solidarity, holding posters demanding the release of Setalvad and Sreekumar. Two persons were detained during the protest. Earlier, the All India Lawyers Union (AILU) had expressed solidarity with Setalvad. On Monday, young lawyers held a protest outside the City Civil Court complex.
In Kolkata, activists gathered on June 27 at Moulali and Rajabazar areas to condemn the arrests. Earlier, Earlier, on June 26, the West Bengal’s Left organisations organised a march in Kolkata demanding the immediate release of Setalvad and Sreekumar. Participants included Left Front chairman Biman Bose, actor Badsha Maitra, social activist, Saira Shah Halim and CPI-M state-secretary Mohammad Salim.
In Delhi, the All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP) leaders Ashok Chowdhary and Roma Malik, social activist and filmmaker Gauhar Raza, Prof Shamsul Islam, Democratic Teachers’ Front president Nandita Narain joined protesters gathered at the Jantar Mantar to demand justice for Setalvad and Sreekumar. Attendees chanted “Free all political prisoners”.
In Varanasi, the Nagrik Samaj – which included academics, social activists, lawyers and media persons – submitted a memorandum to the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate a memorandum demanding release of Setalvad and Sreekumar. Protesters, including Senior Samajwadi Party leader Vijay Narayan Singh, Sunil Sahasrabuddhe, Professor R P Singh, Aflatoon, Lenin, Rajendra Chaudhary, Manish, Praval, farmer leader Ramjanam, Luxman Prasad, Advocate Abdullah and Abu Hashim, showed their support to Setalvad.
People gathered and sang songs of solidarity while a person held a poster with the words “I am Teesta”. Citizens for Justice and Peace Varanasi coordinator and social activist Muniza Khan said, “We demand the release of Setalvad and Sreekumar. Regarding the Supreme Court decision, we see for the first time that the petitioner herself is being questioned. We appeal to the court to reconsider this decision.” Protests were shortlived owing to security pressure.
In Mumbai, activists gathered outside Dadar railway station demanding immediate release of Setalvad and Sreekumar. The protesters, including trade unionists, demanded that the ruling regime stop abusing their power. In Thiruvananthapuram, a protest meeting was held in front of the Secretariat, It was organised by the Purogamana Kala Sahitya Sangham. There were also protests in Jaipur, Ranchi, Ajmer, Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Lucknow, Allahabad, Chandigarh, Chennai, Dhulia, Raipur. etc.

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