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L'Affaire Teesta Setalvad

Preoccupation with elections-related work seems to have resulted in my missing the disturbing news stories about the NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace and Teesta Setalvad being charged with "cooking up macabre tales of killings". [For example, here and here].

There has been a lot of heat generated in various mailing lists and discussion forums in cyberspace and lots of readers have written in enquiring about the issue. So far, the only prominent and substantive engagement with these newsreports seems to have been in the following blog by Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the Indian Express:

If true, she has not only done deep disservice to the victims of the Gujarat riots; she has also undermined the credibility of so-called secular interlocutors. It confirms the suspicion many have, that often those speaking in the name of secularism do not subscribe to the very values they claim to be fighting for: truth, justice, impartiality and the rule of law. Their secularism is in the service of beating down opponents rather than discovering the truth. "Tutoring witnesses", concocting horror stories in a politically charged situation is a serious crime; of a piece with what the supposedly "bad" guys do. After all, their politics depends upon falsely whipped-up paranoia, tampering with the system of justice, engaging in a pornography of violence and having scant regard for the truth. The fact that this is done in the name of victims, for a supposedly just cause, does not excuse it. It makes it worse.

One couldn't agree more with what he goes on to say, with the caveat "if true"; as he adds at the very outset. I find that Citizens For Justice and Peace and SAHMAT have responded to these news items as "irresponsible reportage" and dismissed them as "baseless"

An impression being created in a section of the media that the former CBI director R K Raghvan who led the SIT has "told" the court that Teesta Setalvad "cooked up macabre tales of wanton killing" is mischievious [sic]. Only the Supreme Court, the amicus curiae and the Gujarat government have access to the report. The SIT has not filed any other document in court to which the media has access nor was Mr. Raghvan in the Court. It is therefore obvious that the media is only uncritically reporting what the Gujarat government's lawyer said in the note liberally distributed to the press outside the Court.

Full response from Citizens For Justice and Peace and SAHMAT

Post Script: Dhananjay Mahapatra has responded to the CJP response in Times of India: 'Report based on SIT findings'

My report was based on the SIT report and not any document circulated by the Gujarat government, as suggested by CJP. Whether any section of the media has the report or not is irrelevant as TOI has access to the report.

More here

This despite its claims, actually leaves raises more questions than it answers. It does not, for example, have any citation or quote from the SIT report about anyone having "cooked up macabre tales of wanton killing". Witnesses resiling in such cases does not imply that the SIT has indicted CJP or Teesta Setalwad. Nevertheless, these are very serious charges and it would therefore be in the larger interest of truth and justice if the SIT report were made public so it could be ascertained with some clarity as to what exactly and how grave the charges made really are. In the absence of that, the least we can do is to wait for the SC to comment.

Preoccupation with elections-related work seems to have resulted in my missing the disturbing news stories about the NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace and Teesta Setalvad being charged with "cooking up macabre tales of killings". [For example, here and here].

There has been a lot of heat generated in various mailing lists and discussion forums in cyberspace and lots of readers have written in enquiring about the issue. So far, the only prominent and substantive engagement with these newsreports seems to have been in the following blog by Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the Indian Express:

If true, she has not only done deep disservice to the victims of the Gujarat riots; she has also undermined the credibility of so-called secular interlocutors. It confirms the suspicion many have, that often those speaking in the name of secularism do not subscribe to the very values they claim to be fighting for: truth, justice, impartiality and the rule of law. Their secularism is in the service of beating down opponents rather than discovering the truth. "Tutoring witnesses", concocting horror stories in a politically charged situation is a serious crime; of a piece with what the supposedly "bad" guys do. After all, their politics depends upon falsely whipped-up paranoia, tampering with the system of justice, engaging in a pornography of violence and having scant regard for the truth. The fact that this is done in the name of victims, for a supposedly just cause, does not excuse it. It makes it worse.

One couldn't agree more with what he goes on to say, with the caveat "if true"; as he adds at the very outset. I find that Citizens For Justice and Peace and SAHMAT have responded to these news items as "irresponsible reportage" and dismissed them as "baseless"

An impression being created in a section of the media that the former CBI director R K Raghvan who led the SIT has "told" the court that Teesta Setalvad "cooked up macabre tales of wanton killing" is mischievious [sic]. Only the Supreme Court, the amicus curiae and the Gujarat government have access to the report. The SIT has not filed any other document in court to which the media has access nor was Mr. Raghvan in the Court. It is therefore obvious that the media is only uncritically reporting what the Gujarat government's lawyer said in the note liberally distributed to the press outside the Court.

Full response from Citizens For Justice and Peace and SAHMAT

Post Script: Dhananjay Mahapatra has responded to the CJP response in Times of India: 'Report based on SIT findings'

My report was based on the SIT report and not any document circulated by the Gujarat government, as suggested by CJP. Whether any section of the media has the report or not is irrelevant as TOI has access to the report.

More here

This despite its claims, actually leaves raises more questions than it answers. It does not, for example, have any citation or quote from the SIT report about anyone having "cooked up macabre tales of wanton killing". Witnesses resiling in such cases does not imply that the SIT has indicted CJP or Teesta Setalwad. Nevertheless, these are very serious charges and it would therefore be in the larger interest of truth and justice if the SIT report were made public so it could be ascertained with some clarity as to what exactly and how grave the charges made really are. In the absence of that, the least we can do is to wait for the SC to comment.

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