As the debate rages with news about the latest stand off between human rights activist Teesta Setalvad and the Central Bureau of Investigation, the David vs Goliath saga continues. People from progressive sections of the civil society, academia and other walks of life have expressed strong reservation against the cbi raid at the activist’s residence. The raid is also being perceived as an act of vendetta being carried out in desperate haste even as the cbi has labelled her to be a “threat to national security”.
Teesta is one among those activist who have consistently worked to get justice for the victims of Gujarat 2002. The essence of the issue is Teesta’s efforts to put pm Narendra Modi, then Gujarat cm, to trial in court for the 2002 riots. Setalvad has pursued the legal cases pertaining to different incidents, especially that of Zakia Jafri, that took place back then in different parts of Gujarat.
This is not the first time Setalvad has been hounded by law enforcement agencies. Earlier she was accused by Gujarat police of keeping Zaheera Sheikh, one of the key witnesses in Best Bakery case as hostage. However, this time the activist has found herself facing the wrath of the agency for allegedly embezzling funds procured from Ford Foundation in 2009 for the purpose of building a museum for the victims of communal violence under Sabrang Trust. The trust was founded by her and husband Javed Anand.
The issue of embezzlment of funds by Teesta and her husband, Javed, had come to the fore earlier in 2014 after a complaint made by a resident of the Gulberg Society. The complainant had alleged that they were not given money out of the funds procured in their name, despite them living in penury. Responding to the allegation, the couple had explained about the nature of the funds and what they were meant for. Questionably, even nine months after this initial complaint, the Gujarat police did not act upon it and only took the matter in cognizance after Zakia and Teesta decided to challenge the lower court judgement in the Gujarat high court, asking that charges be framed against Narendra Modi in a case related to 2002 violence.
Since then, things have changed. But not in the favour of Teesta and her husband Javed. It’s now that the Narendra Modi-led NDA government is in power at the Centre that the Central Bureau of Investigation has begun tightening the rope around her. When the PM criticised what he described as “five star activists”, it was clear at whom the remark was aimed at. The CBI has maintained that Teesta has violated FCRA regulations in procuring fund for her Sabrang Communication and Publishing house from a foreign donor, which finds itself in a sticky situation after the crackdown. Setalvad has rebuked this allegation citing the legal clauses under FCRA regulations under which the fund was procured.