Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Callous Iconography

Teesta Setalvad
While this week should have been devoted to the unfortunate verdict in the ZakiaJafri (supported by CJP) case against NarendraModi and Others, the pressing ground level reality at Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Baghpat and Meerut has compelled the writer to change gear. Over the next few weeks I shall offer the reader an analysis of the judgement of the Court.This week is dedicated to the thousands suffering in bitter cold in Western UP, in bitter cold and poor conditions, with an Appeal to India and Indians to find their heart and visit and re-visit the tragedy:-
No man’s land is the land is, under international law, land between nations or disputing parties, land under dispute, where uncertainty and ambiguity govern, land that no authority or state controls but significantly where no laws, national or others, apply. Internally displaced persons (IDPs), especially those internally and forcibly displaced by manmade tragedies, or deliberate plans of development or natural disasters are recognized as among the world’s most vulnerable people. Especially because they have not crossed over international borders but remain under the protection of their own government, even though the abdication of the fundamental duties of the government and rights of the government may be the cause of their desperate flight.
Responsibility for their welfare must and should rest with the state. However the culture of impunity prevalent in a country that has failed to book powerful state actors for their role in the prevention of perpetrated violence, i.e. their fundamental failure in governance to, without prejudice or bias, protect the lives of the poor, underprivileged as much as the politically shrill and powerful, has penetrated to blurring responsibility for the plight and conditions of IDPs.
In 2002, as 1,68,000 IDPs were forcibly and cruelly evicted from their homes by marauding mobs in Gujarat, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) supported a PIL that finally ensured that Gujarat state accepted responsibility for the rations (grains, tea, milk and sugar) been until then borne by community organisations. The action that forced them into living as cattle herd in essentially difficult conditions was made worse with the state, in a desperate hurry to “clean up” the remains of the blood and gore, wanted to rush into elections and forcibly close the camps.
Eleven years later the response of the state, under a different political dispensation, after the violence in Uttar Pradesh in the four districts of Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Meerut and Baghpat, affected by violence is worse, not better. Faced with five petitions in the Supreme Court of India, and keen to ensure a gloss on its blemished imaged the Nine Reports filed by the Uttar Pradesh government are obfuscations of the reality on the ground. As lead petitioners in one of the cases that ahs presented significant contrary data to the Court, we have shown that the reports of the district officials contradict what the state is officially saying to the highest court of the land.
Over 33,000 persons, IDPs, forcibly displaced by the unleashed terror of a more powerful Jat community in the four districts lived until they were forcibly evicted over the past few days on open state and central government land, in sub-human conditions at bitterly cold temperatures (many of the camps are out in the open, just tents above ground that is treacherous and cold as night settles in; on days where it rains, wet bitter cold has resulted in deaths). Nineteen camps in Shamli district and two in Loi were and are testimony to gross abdication of state responsibility as food and clothing was donated generously by private donations and individuals; State presence in distribution had been limited to a fortnight except the inadequate quantities of milk that continued to come to Mallakpur relief camp until recently.
Even as the state cynically carried out these forcible evictions, 3 year oldUvez lost the struggle for his life and died in the Manna Majra camp on December 23-24 2013. In the affidavit we had filed before the Supreme Court in mid-December, we had listed the names of 23 persons, child and adult who had died in the camps because of ailments related essentially to the inhuman conditions in sub-human  temperatures. Two twin baby girls had died within hours of being born as far back as September 10, 2013 at the Jaula camp. Days before we travelled again through the camps where it is impossible to stay after 5 p.m. as wind and cold settles in, two day old Chhotu( he was not given a name) son of Manga breathed his last two days after breathing life; one day old Chhotu (he was not even given a name) son of Azad died at Phugana on November 28, 2013.A few kilometers away from the Mallakpur camp is a colony of re-settlers, displaced by a flood 30 years back. (Rathoda ,Baghpat) and Soop-Silana) but the state has seen no desire to vacate them from their irregular habitats which is now permanent home.  Both sets of IDPs had to inadvertently make homes on forest/state government land; yet the state appears to be treating the two sets of IDPs differently, why?
The biting thought that kept creeping up to me as we witnesses state denial and callousness over these deaths, was the question, which was worse? Deaths by the perpetrated mob violence (over 80 dead and a few dozen missing) or those deaths that were avoidable and took place under the state’s redoubled watch as our own people live in abysmal conditions as IDPs? Do we as Indians even care?
The vile statements of Gujarat scion Modi, “Relief Camps are Babymaking factories” have become iconic of state abdication and cruelty. (The speech made by him on September 9, 2002 at the temple town at Becharaji in Mehsana was the launching pad of his GauravYatra and 2002 election campaign). Today, MulayamsinghYadav’s sickening “those in relief camps are Congress and BJP workers” and his chief secretary claiming “No one dies of cold; go check Siberia” have joined this merciless iconography. Finally pushed by outraged criticism, the UP government was compelled, 3 days after Yadav’s outrageous comments, through the findings of a government committee, to admit that 34 deaths had indeed taken place  in the relief camps between September 7 and December 20.
Our plea in the petition is that the Supreme Court appoints a Court Commission (just like at the time of the Right to Food Petition) to ensure regular and impartial monitoring of the ground situation with feed back to the Court. Of the 436 FIRs filed, little action has been taken against accused. Powerful accused with allegiance to the BJP, SangeetSom have not just been released on bail but were felicitated at Agra with the PM in waiting in tow. Chilling accounts of gendered violence, brutal, on 19 girls and women await legal and judicial note and redressal.
Responsibility for the protection of fundamental rights (right to life, property and protection before the law) under the Indian Constitutional scheme lies not just with the state government, but ultimately also with the Centre.The abdication in the case of what has come to be names as the Muzaffarnagarviolence, must and does also lie with the Centre. At least as far as the IDPs are concerned what stopped the Centre from using the Army to ensure that our own people, little babies and pregnant women (there are over 100 in the camps) are well fed, clothed and protected from the cold? The same obduration that, across party lines has little respect for human lives.
It is this bitter reality that impelled a mass movement in this country to demand the enactment of a law that fixes responsibility for perpetrated and mass communal violence and humane rehabilitation - the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Right to Justice and Reparations) Bill. Strident opponents of the bill, including those forces that have benefitted most from communal polarization, apart from using their rank and file in acts of violence, have so far succeeded in brazenly bullying the Centre from even tabling the proposed law for sane discussion. It remains to be seen if this UPA II government, floundering and weak, will have the will to keep a promise made through the Common Minimum Programme in 2004.


We rest our Case Part Two

We rest our Case                                         Part Two
Teesta Setalvad
As I said in these columns last week, scant respect for the rule of law governs the motives of the man who would be PM and the malevolent forces that he represents. Last Friday for the fifth time I had to seek bail against arrest, since 2002.

Allegations made by agents of the Gujarat government were not confined to the Sardarpura cases. Similar allegations of tutoring were made by defence counsel in the Naroda Patiya case. In the judgement delivered on 29.8.2012, 32 persons were convicted in the Naroda Patiya case by a detailed judgement. The Learned Judge in the said judgement also dealt with the issue of the affidavits which were filed by the victims in this Hon‟ble Court and allegation of tutoring of the witnesses, the Learned Judge has given a finding as below:
Exceprts from Naroda Patiya Judgement Point 14, Pages 305, 306 “The affidavits filed in the Hon‟ble Supreme Court are also another point of cross-examination and arguments. Firstly, it has not been proved that whether this affidavit was produced in the Supreme Court or not. The most important aspect is, it is not elicited from the I.O. as to whether these affidavits were really filed at Hon'ble the Apex Court or not. No certified copy has been secured from Hon'ble the Apex Court. When defence wants to rely upon it, it should highlight reasonable probability of its filing, if not proof. No investigation was carried out admittedly on that and secondly the purpose for filing such affidavit is different from the purpose of giving the testimony and even giving statement before SIT. Hence, two unequals cannot be compared. (2) Even if it is accepted that such affidavits were in fact filed then also the reason for which the affidavits were filed before Hon'ble the Supreme Court of India that too, in a transfer petition, is absolutely different than giving statement before the Investigating Officer. Hence it cannot be treated as earlier statement of the PW in the sense that it is not the same thing. In the humble opinion of this Court these affidavits cannot be used to challenge credibility of the witnesses as submitted.
(3) It is possible that after six years, when the PW gave statement for the first time in free and fearless atmosphere after getting the security which the PW did not have during previous investigation, the PW could muster courage to state many more true facts. But at times, after coming home from the SIT, one remembers many other things which one has missed while telling it to the SIT. It can happen that the witness would like to tell those left out things in his testimony. Hence, if something was not told to the SIT and if told only to the Court, then, in such case, it is not proper to believe that the witness is speaking lie only on that count. It is different that the deadline has to be drawn somewhere. In the facts and circumstances of this case, what is not told before SIT and if it is material contradiction or omission in the eyes of the Court then that part has been kept out of consideration as interest of fair trial demands that. Except the uniform, mechanical sentence and such other aspects and such other parts which has not inspired the confidence of the Court even in the investigation of SIT by and large the investigation of SIT is the base of the case. (4) Even if it is accepted that these affidavits were filed, then it was obviously to support the transfer petition and not to prove or investigate the prosecution case, therefore also, the purpose being different, this cannot be held to be earlier statement made during the investigation. (5) Who drafts the affidavits, for what, when, who translated the contents of instruction of the P.W. are also all the issues needs to be answered before giving importance to this part of the cross but no such material is on record. It is therefore just and proper not to blow it out of proportion.”
Point 32, Page 332 “32. TUTORING OF NGO, SOCIAL WORKERS, ETC. : It is notable that it is not alleged that the NGO leaders or lawyers or the social workers have any personal enmity or ill-will against the accused. Hence the suggestion in the cross-examination of PW that they have been speaking as was taught to them, is found very irrelevant. What would be the benefit of such NGO is nowhere suggested except suggesting that it was to defame State of Gujarat. But then, the State of Gujarat is not an accused but is the prosecuting agency which was forgotten it seems. No substance is found in this submission.”

We would like to emphasise that in the ten long years repeated attempts by the state of Gujarat and its agents to induce witnesses and turn them hostile have not borne fruit. In 2004 the star witness in the Best Bakery case turned hostile for a second time while she was due to give evidence in re-trial in Mumbai and on November 3, 2004 made malafide allegations against me and my organisation. I moved the Hon‟ble Supreme Court praying for an independent inquiry into the allegations. An Inquiry conducted by Registrar General Supreme Court BM Gupta was ordered that completely exonerated me and my organisation. (July 2005).  The Supreme Court of India (March 2006) convicted Ms Shaikh to one year simple imprisonment for contempt of court and the Trial Court for perjury. The BJP MLA Madhu Srivastavawho’s voice in a sting operation claimed that he has offered Rs 18 lakhs to the family to turn them hostile, refused to allow voice samples of his voice to be taken. Scant respect for the rule of law?

Yet powerful lawyers associated with the ruling dispensation PN Lekhi, Ram Jethmalani, Mahesh Jethmalani and VHP advocates like Ankur Oza for Raiskhan Pathan and Meenakshi Lekhi continue to make shameless allegations unproven in the public domain.
Registrar General’s report Pg 45: The allegations of confinement put by her (Zahira) is not believable as not supported by the circumstances as mentioned hereinafter nor by any other witness. Thus, in view of the above, no inducement, threat, coercion or pressure whatsoever has been established in this part”. Pg 49: “As discussed above, no coercion through tutoring and putting the words by Ms. Teesta into her mouth and also substitution of statement by another already prepared document do not establish”. Pg 101: “It may undisputably be said that the phrase „to have fruits of heaven out of hell‟ has now been established synonymous to Ms Zahira who once earned public sympathy out of her desertion through the condemned tragedy has made concerted efforts and has engaged herself in having cash/comforts from every possible corners... Ms Zahira changed her stand three times as already mentioned in parts A to D and that changing of these stands are well known”. [pages of Vol. II] shows that there was no influence by tutoring of Ms. Teesta on her or on her family till she went to Bombay and, as such, there is no truth in the said allegation: “Question” Whether influence, fear or pressure of Ms. Teesta started on you in July 2003 after you went to Mumbai? Answer: There was no influence of Teesta on me or on my family prior to the period I was taken to Mumbai.” Difference appears in both the statement.
Pg: 105: “Looking at the aforementioned status in full including all other circumstances of the case, I feel no hesitation to mention that Ms Zahira is not such a lady who speaks the truth and has developed an image of a self-condemned liar whose statements alone cannot be safely accepted”.
Manipulation of poor victim survivors is obviously the game best played by the Gujarat government and its paid agents. Crores of public money are spent on legal fees. But for the vigilance of the Supreme Court of India, the tenacious legal services provided by the CJP team and the inherent courage of Victim Survivors 117 persons, including Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi would not have been convicted in Gujarat. That is the greatest sore for the Man who would be PM. He had promised completely impunity to the marauding mob. But the rule of law had better ideas.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Dangerous Portents for Press Freedom

Dangerous Portents for Freedom of Expression
Teesta Setalvad

In Gujarat for some years now, some articles simply don’t make it into the final editions of the newspapers even as individual journalists toil bravely on. A sinister effort at manufacturing consent and support has been systematically afoot.
Shadows and Silences at (Communalism Combat).
Over the past few months since the generated hysteria of Modi as PM has gained ground, sinister links in this chain can be found. There appears to be a clearcut, powerful and monied effort to manufacture consent and stifle critical comments in the media.

Freedom of expression is clearly a threat to those who back Modi.
Recent examples
1)      On or around December 4, 2013, an article critical of Modi’s serial blunders authored by Dheeraj Tiwari was published online on Economic Times website and later, strangely, deleted. The article was published sometime around 4th December 2013. Titled Is Modi Our Palin? by Dheeraj Tiwari, the article was available when I downloaded it at” which leads to an error page right now. The above link can be confirmed as it also appeared on Now the link shows up as an error. (Attached below is the article)
2)      On January 6, 2014, again, after months of speculation, PR Ramesh, a journalist considered close to general secretary of the BJP Arun Jaitley, joined the magazine as managing editor leading to the resignation of Manu Joseph as Editor.
3)      On January 7, 2014, the day before yesterday, an innocuous comment by advocate Patrawala on the Times of India website was removed as “offensive” (Attached below is the comment etc)
4)      On January 8, 2014, SUN TV sacked a senior journalist and political analyst from his job. Veerapandian for the last 17 years, succumbing to pressure from the BJP. Activists have alleged that Sun TV had taken the decision to stop the program following a letter from the BJP’s state office secretary Sarvothaman to its MD on the 23rd of last month stating that no BJP representative would take part in Veerapandian’s programs on the channel. (See, Modi critic loses job in Sun TV: Activists The talk show can be viewed at
Individually these developments are bad and sincerely challenges the freedom of expression essential to a vibrant democracy. Reports of paid professionals trawling the internet to blot criticism have been many as much as agencies like funded by BJP bigwigs with the assistance of Foreign Firms like APCO wordwide.
Together they are sinister attempts at manufacturing consenta head of, or in preparation for 2014.
Teesta Setalvad
Articles in Question
Is Modi Our Palin? by Dheeraj Tiwari
 Insulting the intelligence of voters is could be suicidal in an election year. In the 2008 US Presidential elections, Sarah Palin, the Republican nominee for the vice president’s post, committed that offence. In 2013, is Narendra Modi following in her footsteps?
 When Palin started her campaign, commentators gave the ‘hockey mom’ a real chance. After all, she was folksy, which America loves, good looking and a would-be grandmother to boot. The concoction was deadly and Republicans lapped it up. A war veteran, John McCain as the head and a mommy as his aide fell in line with the American dream.
 Modi’s team has also created a similar aura around him. Decisive, incorruptible and earthy – are the characters which largely define Modi’s campaign. If BJP is to be believed, Modi is the underdog of Indian politics, a ‘chaiwala’ who through his sheer hard work has managed to rise in the political hierarchy. In his own words, he is not a ‘shehzada’ but a ‘sevak.’
 Till this point, the script runs perfect. But the American dream crumpled when the mommy started getting her facts wrong. Palin was ridiculed when she claimed to have an insight into American foreign policy because Russia is the next door neighbour to her state of Alaska.
 Back home, Namo replicated that feat in his Independence Day speech at Bhuj. He almost took the same neighbourhood line as Palin and while lambasting Pakistan claimed that his voice reached Pakistan first and Delhi later. This came from the same man who some months ago had offered Sindh province in Pakistan, the ‘Gujarat model’ to overcome its power crisis.
 While Palin called Afghanistan a neighbouring country, Modi brought Taxila from Pakistan to Bihar. There is an uncanny resemblance between these two politicians in getting their facts wrong, again and again. Their supporters may term this as unpretentious behaviour.
 Perhaps, voters could have forgiven Palin, the winner of the Miss Wasilla pageant for not knowing what lie beyond the American shores but the crowd booed her when, at a public rally, she said that the state of North West Hampshire is in the Northwest of Americas. Modi so far has been spared this public ignominy.
 A closer look at their campaign and one gets a feeling that perhaps the fates of Palin and Modi are intertwined. Days after being nominated for the Presidential elections, the Republican supporters were shocked that Palin’s unwed daughter was five months pregnant. Palin, who by then had projected herself as ‘Bible-believing Christian,’ ultimately lost out on the traditional conservative Republican base. Modi, too, is now embroiled in a snooping scandal as his aide Amit Shah has managed to score a self goal against his ‘saheb’.  
 In the midst of this jamboree these down-to-earth leaders and their supporters forget that the voter cannot be fooled, or at least for long. So, when Palin described that the Iraq War is ‘a task that is from God,’ voters knew that she was making no sense. Unfortunately for his supporters, Modi is catching up with Palin.

After historical blunders such as calling Gandhi Mohanlal instead of Mohandas, and claiming that Nehru did not attend Patel’s funeral, Modi is now treading on more difficult terrain. In a Jodhpur rally, Modi claimed that he may not be as educated as the country’s finance minister but he knew that buying gold is not leading to inflation. His first lecture in economics may have got a thunderous applause in the rally but he might have lost the faith of voters who till then would have bought into his image as the deliverer of Gujarat’s vibrant economy.
 It is time that Modi should learn from the mistakes which Palin committed. After all he would not like to be remembered as Palin, who finally had to be told that there was no tradition of concession speeches by running mates, and that she would not be speaking. Not anymore.  
Manu Joseph’s resignation: The perils of editorial surrender
Manu Joseph, my former boss at Open Magazine, announced yesterday that he had quit the magazine. While he did not state his reasons, they are evident to all those who have been associated with the magazine. I was sacked from the magazine in November, and while Manu had opposed the decision he had let matters rest at that. But in the three years we had worked together we had managed to put together a reasonable body of stories, including most importantly, the Radia Tapes. This became possible, in great measure, because Manu allowed a considerable degree of independence to those working for the magazine. Manu Joseph. Image courtesy IBNLive Manu Joseph. Image courtesy IBNLive Shortly after I left, he had sent out a mail, in fact, it was the last mail to be forwarded to my account before it was terminated, stating: Just to keep you informed -- we have shortlisted candidates to head politics and news, and are in talks. Naturally, the next political editor of Open will be someone who fits in the magazine, someone who reflects its vibrant, credible, unbiased and what is widely known as 'secular' character. I had long conversations with Sanjiv Goenka from here and we updated each other on matters concerning the magazine. People expect high standards from us, so let's keep going.
On January 6, after months of speculation, PR Ramesh, a journalist considered close to general secretary of the BJP Arun Jaitley, joined the magazine as managing editor. Manu had opposed this decision and he chose to resign once it was forced upon him. I personally feel Manu has himself largely to blame for the tame end of his term at Open. Evidently if the management can sack a political editor without the editor’s consent they can appoint a managing editor without the editor’s consent. Manu had already conceded the journalistic principle, now he had only been negotiating for personal pride. He was not even granted that. Given that I am legally contesting my own termination with the Open management I do not want to belabour the point. All that really matters in this episode is that the reason an owner can bypass an editor in this fashion is that over several decades editors in the Indian media have been willing to let their position be undermined, and the few editors such as Manu, who recently made their mark, have been unwilling to stand up to pressure when it really matters. Surprisingly, as I have found out in the course of mounting my legal case, the law does provide a reasonable degree of safeguards for an editor, and, in fact, every journalist. Unless a journalist has undermined his or her own case by gross misbehavior or obvious professional mistakes the management cannot fire a journalist without stating a clear and defensible reason. Neither can any management enforce the provisions of any contract on a permanent employee that do not subscribe at the minimum to the standards set out in the Working Journalist Act. An editor thus is protected against the whim of a management and in the worst case is assured of six months of full wages. Despite these safeguards, the reason that editors so rarely take on the management or ownership is simple, they need another owner or management to give them their next job. I realized how successful some editors have been in this pursuit only in the course of a television program I was part of a couple of years ago. After the Radia Tapes, published as they had been without the knowledge of the owner or the publisher, some of us at Open were required to appear on television to defend our story. I found myself on Headlines Today, part of a show where Vir Sanghvi made an appearance, characteristically from a balcony in a hotel somewhere in southeast Asia, and refused to take any questions. After Sanghvi, who first became editor of Sunday in 1986, spoke, a discussion followed involving Prabhu Chawla, who also figured prominently on the tapes and had been editorial director of India Today since 1986; MJ Akbar, who became editor of Sunday in 1976, and N Ram, who first became editor of Frontline in 1991. Some of the discussion centred on the state of journalism in the country and how things had been allowed to reach their current state. I did then think that the answer to this most crucial of questions lay around me. Every person in the room had already been an editor by the time I began my career in journalism in the early 1990s. Not all of them were equally culpable, but between them they had a century worth of cumulative experience of editorship. I have found over much of my time in journalism that owners preferred to have editors who had already shown a degree of pliability in their previous jobs. This keeps the editors' jobs circulating among a pool of largely pliant journalists. While all of the usual reasons hold – the ownership patterns in media, the lack of transparency in funding, the linkages between owners and politicians – for the current crisis in journalism, it also remains true that journalists entering the profession today have to make their compromises with ownership and management at a much earlier stage of their career because they have been largely deprived of the protective shield of a good editor. For a brief period of time a Tarun Tejpal had created the illusion that this could change, we all know how that has turned out. In any case the journalistic story at Tehelka had already run its course long before the current episode. Now as things unravel at Open, we can add one more cautionary tales, or perhaps a footnote, to the long list of journalistic disasters that unfold when editors forego their responsibilities. That still leaves unanswered the question of how a young journalist today goes about being true to the profession.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: A. Patrawala Advocate <>
Date: Tue, Jan 7, 2014 at 10:00 PM
Subject: Fwd: Offensive comment deleted
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: The Times of India <>
Date: 7 January 2014 14:07
Subject: Offensive comment deleted

Dear Reader,
Your comment has been taken off the website as our user community did not approve of it. We encourage you to participate in conversations on the site while refraining from posting obscene, defamatory, or inflammatory comments and not indulging in personal attacks, name calling or inciting hatred against any community.
Comment Removed: Modi has brought the Indian democracy to the level of Hall Mark of corruption, be it the Constitution or rule of law. System be it legislature, executive or judiciary have utterly failed to curb the historical menace of Modi culminating into the dire frustration and helplessness of the common man.
Best wishes,
Team TOI
A. Patrawala
Advocate Supreme Court,
G-3&4, Vighneshvar Estate,
Surat-395001   Gujarat   India

Modi critic loses job in Sun TV: Activists
Posted 08 Jan 2014
Political and human rights activists have strongly condemned Sun TV for stopping a popular Tamil talk show anchored by political analyst Veerapandian for the last 17 years, succumbing to pressure from the BJP.

They allege that Sun TV had taken the decision to stop the program following a letter from the BJP’s state office secretary Sarvothaman to its MD on the 23rd of last month stating that no BJP representative would take part in Veerapandian’s programs on the channel.
A joint statement issued by a group of journalists, writers and activists stated, “A few weeks ago Veerapandian participated in a meeting in Chennai wherein a Human Rights organization released its fact finding report on the Muzaffarnagar riots.

“While speaking on the occasion Veerapandian made certain critical remarks on the BJP and its Prime Ministerial Candidate Narendera Modi. Some persons had uploaded his speech in the social media.”
Below is the link where the interview can be heard

They said that in his letter Sarvothaman had stated that ”Veerapandian’s speech was divisive and could create problems between two groups, and his programs on Sun TV has never been impartial.”

They alleged that the BJP leader had also requested for action to be taken against Veerapandian.

The statement further added that “consequently from last Saturday, Sun TV has stopped telecasting Veerapandian’s programs,” and appealed to Sun TV to allow Veerapandian “to resume his duties as an anchor person.”

“India is a Democratic Republic. To express one’s opinions freely and without fear is one of the basic rights accorded to its citizens in the constitution. This right is fundamental to all citizens of India including Press and Media people,” the statement said.

Following are the signatories to the statement:

K. Veeramani, President, Dravidar Kazhagam
M. Sudarsana Nachiyappan, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry
Tha. Pandian State Secretary, CPI
Gnanadesigan State President, TNCC
S. Peter Alphonse, Ex. Member of Parliament
Thol. Thirumavalavan, MP and President, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi
M.H. Jawahirullah MLA and Legislative Party Leader, Manithaneya Makkal Katchi
K. M. Kader Mohideen Ex. MP and General Secretary, Indian Union Muslim League
Viduthalai Rajendran, General Secretary, Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam
Senthamilan. Seeman, Chief Coordinator, Naam Thamizhar Katchi
Suba. Veerapandian, President, Dravida Iyakka Thamilar Peravai
Tamil Selvan, State Secretary, Progressive Writers & Artist Association
Peter Fernando, Archbishop of Madurai
Kaviko Abdul Rahman, Poet & Writer
Henri Thiphange, Executive Director, Peoples' Watch
A. Marx, Human Right Activist
Kavingnar Manushya Puthiran, Publisher
Thirumurugan Gandhi, Coordinator, May 17 Movement
J.S. Rifayee, President, Tamilnadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam
Abdul Rahman, Member of Parliament, Vellore Constituency
Kovai Ku. Ramakritinan, General Secretary, Thanthai Periyar Thi.Ka
M. Ezra Sargunam, Bishop,Evangelical Church of India and Founder, Indhiya Samuga Neethi Iyakkam
Pe. Maniyarasan, President, Tamildesa Podhu Udamai Katchi
A. Kumaresan, Cheif Editor, Theekhadir
Devasagayam, Bishop CSI, Chennai
Gnani, Writer & Journalist
V. Suresh, National General Secretary, People's Union for Civil Liberties
Ko. Sugumaran, Makkal Urimai Kootamaippu
TSS Mani, Journalist
Senthil, Coordinator, Save Tamils Movement
- TWL Bureau

We rest our Case Part One

We rest our Case                                         Part One
Teesta Setalvad
In the court of public opinion, we believe we must be fair, not conceal facts and most especially use language of the civilized whom we still believe to be the majority in this precious and beloved country. Hatred and Venom are for the Oppressor, the Powerful those who envison themselves to be above the law. Above all venom is for those who cannot involve themselves in seasoned and reasoned argument, those who believe in the red hot haze of angry reaction cause by vile and bile, when the real matter at hand is (successfully and sinisterly) forgotten.
Supporters of the Man who Dreams of being prime minister, prefer terms like “bitch” when they speak to opponents of a man we believe is not just deeply antithetical to the values of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s Constitution  (brought up as he has within the walls of the hate encompassed sangh) but also deeply contemptuous of the rule of law, the bedrock of a civilized democracy. While I have always used terms like mass murderer to describe the collusive inaction of a man who presided, cynically over a brutal massacre, abusive personal epithets are not my preferred style. Our response then to the last set of vile and baseless allegations is to put certain facts in the public domain.
A former employee of our organization, was discontinued from services because of his suddenly developing connections to powerful accused in the Naroda Gaam and Naroda Patiya cases and the organizations like the VHP to whom they belonged, way back in January 2008. He stays mum for a curious 35 months until he, starts shopping for multiple forums to hurl allegations. Four trial Courts, Commissions, the public domain. Worse, in all this, he is aided by an overzealous Gujarat police that could not protect innocent lives of the minority in 2002 (2000 were killed in vile reprisal killings following the tragic burning alive of 59 persons in the train at Godhtra station) to mayh somehow, get arrested. That he is aided since 2010, in the law Courts and in real life, aided by powerful functionaries of the same political dispensation who are threatened by the struggle for justice for the survivors of 2002, becomes clear from their visible support. (remember intrepid criminal lawyer, Ram Jethmalani, a la Manu Sharma fame, who appeared for the man opposing us in the Supreme Court (2012) even making vile allegations against the Court itself ?) and and Lekhi openly defending him at a recent press conference (are we at all surprised?)

The Trial Courts within Gujarat have exonerated us of the vile allegations made by the man and used strong words against this (his) interference. After convicting 31 persons to life imprisonment in the Sardarpura mass massacre case on 9.11.2011, the vicious and malafide application seeking criminal action against us by this stooge of the government was rejected and in a separate order, om 20.10.2010, the Court rejected it and issued a show-cause notice to the applicant under section 340(1) of the CRPC in respect of the offence made under section 177 of the I.P.C. with reference to section 195(1) of the CRPC returnable on or before 27.12.2010. Calling him a busybody with vested interests, the Court held that “From the plain reading of the application and from the above facts and circumstances, it apparently becomes clear that the present application has no sanctity for the on-going process of justice and he has no respect for the truth and, therefore, he cannot be relied upon for just decision of the case. From the contents of the application itself, credibility of the applicant is unreliable and by examining such applicant as court witness, court cannot become part of mockery of administration of justice and the try by the applicant to allow this application, would also amount to 3 mockery of administration of justice. So, considering the conduct of the applicant and contents of the application, it appears that the applicant is coming with an intention to achieve some unknown goal either to his previous employer or to help the accused with an intention to gain undesirable result in the case

Signifiantly in the main judgment delivered on the same day i.e. 9.11.2011, the Learned Sessions judge also gave a finding that there has been no tutoring of witnesses by Teesta Setalvad. (Paras 56-57 of the Judgement).
Sardarpura Judgement (9.11.2011 ) Paras 56 & 57 “56. It is submitted on behalf of accused that, eyewitness are tutored by Smt.Teesta Setalvad. The interest of Teesta Setalvad and her organization in the present case is obvious. The witnesses have specifically denied that, Teesta Setalvad has told them as to what evidence was to be given in a case. Considering the evidence and fact in this regard when we consider this fact mere discussion about the case would not necessarily indicate tutoring. It is not an accepted proposition that, the witnesses are never to be contacted by any one or spoken to about the matter regarding which they are to depose. A number of things can be told to the witnesses such as not to be nervous, carefully listen to the question put to them, state the facts before the Court without fear, therefore it does not appear any objectionable morally or legally. Tutoring a witness is quite different from guiding him as to his behaviour. In the present case, the injured witnesses were in such a state of mind that without the active support of someone they might not have come before the court to give evidence at all. The encouragement and the advice if provided by Citizen for Peace and Justice that cannot be considered as tutoring and simply because of that, we cannot infer that the witnesses are tutored. From the matter it transpires that Citizen for Justice and Peace have made allegations before the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India against the State authorities but on that strength it cannot be said that, NGOs. have worked with bad motives. If they had fought for truth what was believed by them as truth. It does not mean that they have tutored the witnesses to falsely identify the accused in the Court.
“57. In this regard when we consider the evidence, witness could be tutored only by a person who knew the facts. It is difficult for a person who was not present at the time of occurrence to tutor an occurrence witness and if at all this can be done, it would be based on the records of the case, which does not seen to have been happened in the present case. Further, more the happenings and the manner in which in the present case took place, is also not much in dispute, so the aspect of tutoring would be confined to the identification only. It is not easy to tutor one to identify another as victims and accused are previously known to each other but not known to tutoring persons. Tutoring of this type would require the persons tutoring, the concerned accused and the concerned witness to be together for a reasonable period or one or more occasion. Further, tutoring in such cases would be in consonance with police record or prosecution case which does not appear to be happened in this case. Further, it is also important to be considered that, before identification in the Court by the witness accused were asked to sit in the Court as per their own choice, they were not forced to sit at serial number given to them in Charge sheet or any other fix order and their names were never loudly being called out in the court in the presence of witnesses. The identification of accused have taken place under the observation of the Court. So the court can view the actions/reactions of the witnesses. All precautions were taken by the Court while identification of accused were carried out in the Court room. Further, precautions were also taken by the Court whether witness could see the persons sitting in the Court room. Similarly accused were given liberty to sit in the court in any manner, anywhere.”

There have been similar exonerations of any vicious allegations against us in the Naroda Patiya case judgement (2012) and earlier in the Supreme Court registrar General BM Gupta’s report.

But what do the stooges of the Man who would be PM have for the opinions of the Courts, the rule of law? They prefer the law of the jungle, mob fury, abusive diatribes, and irresponsible reportage on websites funded by their supine and ambitious supporters. As we head for India’s most crucial election to date, Indians will decide the fate of not just individuals who have been so vilely targeted but the future of Indian Democracy itself.

In Hope…