59 Hindus were returning from a pilgrimage in Ayodhya when on February 27, 2002; their train bogies were set to fire. Men – young and old, women, and children were burnt alive. Teesta Setalvad a self-proclaimed Secularist told Washingon Post (published on February 28, 2002). The people were returning from Ayodhya after pilgrimage a full 10 years after the Babri Masjid was demolished.
‘Let us not forget the provocation. These people were not going for a benign assembly. They were indulging in blatant and unlawful mobilisation to build a temple and deliberately provoke the Muslims in India.’
Argument: If you are a Hindu and on a pilgrimage to Ayodhya then you are fair game. Even when you are a one year old. Worship in Ayodhya is a sin for which you could be killed at any point.
It is like someone saying something similar of some Muslims returning from say Haj on a train.
2002-2004 – Best Bakery Case
In November 2004, this lady Teesta Setalvad was to resurface again when a “victim” of Gujarat riots – Zaheera – was to accuse her of coercing her and her family at knifepoint to press charges against the accused. There was a lot of drama where in the end, Zaheera got one year in prison for perjury in the murder, after being found guilty by the court of lying. She had changed her statement about the happenings in the case. The Supreme Court at that time acquitted Teesta of the charges and put Zaheera behind the bars.
Cut to 2009
She may have been acquitted by the Supreme Court for being right on Zaheera, but a report from the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Government of India now puts her back in the dock and also brings up a feeling – “Was the Supreme Court correct in Best Bakery?” The question that one grapples is – Was Zaheera bribed by Teesta or BJP Legislator? Was Tehelka “used” to help cooking up Zaheera’s case as well??
Teesta Setalvad Cooked and Spiced up Gujarat cases
The SIT is led by former CBI Director RK Raghavan and is comprised of former DGP CB Satpathy and three senior IPS officers — Geetha Johri, Shivanand Jha and Ashish Bhatia. It had been asked to do the enquiry into post-Godhra riot incidents in Godhra, Gulbarg Society, Naroda Gaon, Naroda Patiya and Sardarpura.
Mukul Rohatgi, Senior Advocate for Gujarat, read out portions of the report in the Supreme Court to bring out the instances of how Teesta and her friends had cooked up and spiced up cases and tutored the “victims” to make false cases.
Pointing out a specific instance, the SIT report stated how the evidence of 22 witnesses was “suspect” owing to the identical submissions made in their affidavits submitted to the court. On enquiry, the SIT found that all the 22 affidavits were drafted, typed and printed from the same computer, giving sufficient grounds to believe they were “tutored”. When the SIT questioned those who signed the affidavits, it was shocked to learn that these complainants were not even aware of the incidents.
Referring to another instance that exposed the Citizens for Justice and Peace’s much ‘trumpeted’ charges, Rohtagi said the SIT investigation found untrue allegation about a gangrape of a pregnant woman Kauser Bano, whose stomach was allegedly pierced by sword and her foetus killed.
Even the instance of dumping of bodies into a well at Naroda Patiya and a charge of the police allegedly shielding accused persons in murder of a British national was found to be untrue, Rohtagi said.
Teesta’s typical self-righteous reply
As is her wont, Teesta then used her blog called “Communalism Watch” which is under self-righteously named South Asia Citizens Web to say that the statement represented in the report – which originally appeared in Times of India – was not part of the SIT report but part of the statement made by the Gujarat Government. Implying that it was just gimmick. 
Another NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace – which is run by Teesta (again notice the implied self-righteousness) – said that the Gujarat Advocate made a “populist speech”.
TOI Reply to Teesta
To this blatant campaign against the reporter who brought out the story, Dhananjay Mahapatra of TOI, replied back in TOI itself.
He, for one, clearly states that Times of India has the access to the SIT report. And then he goes on to list the specific instances of the SIT report which clearly characterize Teesta as one who cooked up and spiced up cases for her advantage regarding the Gujarat Riots.
These are the specific instances which Mahapatra mentions:
- Page 9 of the SIT report on the Gulbarga Society carnage on February 28, 2002, says: ‘‘Insistence of 19 witnesses to take on record their signed statements which according to them were prepared by Smt Teesta Setalvad and advocate Tirmiji’’ — the reference here is to witnesses giving signed computerised statements which were not accepted by the investigating officer (IO) as under Section 161 the officer is required to write the statement of witnesses after interrogating them personally.
- The SIT report says on page 10, ‘‘All of them had brought with them ready-made statements prepared on computer and requested IO to take them on record. IO explained to them that according to law they had to be questioned and examined and their statements reduced in writing by the IO.’’ It goes on to say, ‘‘On questioning them in respect of the typed statements, all 3 of them stated that the computerised prepared statements were given to them by Smt Teesta Setalvad and advocate Tirmiji and that they had merely signed and initialed on such prepared statements.’’
- The report goes on to say that ‘‘there are discrepancies between the prepared statements and statements recorded by the IO. In respect of 6 witnesses, there are contradictory statements relating to the names of the accused they were linking with (the) crime.’’
- Page 11 says, when ‘‘questioned about the discrepancies’’, the six witnesses ‘‘stated that they had prepared the statements and not Setalvad and advocate Tirmiji.’’ In other words, the latter witnesses changed their version about who had prepared their signed statements.
- The report also says (page 8) the allegation about the then Ahmedabad police commissioner C P Pandey visiting Gulbarga Society at 10.30am and assuring police protection to Muslims but not following it up was wrong as ‘‘he was proved to have gone to Sola Civil Hospital to take care of the dead bodies of Sabarmati Express arson victims.’’
- The report also cites some instances of police dereliction of duty, such as by senior police inspector K G Erda of Maghani Nagar PS who was found to be ‘‘falsely creating the record’’ and ‘‘allowing the destruction of evidence in order to screen offenders.’’ It also found the pre-SIT IO guilty of ‘‘preparing slipshod inquest reports,’’ etc. In short, my report was based on the actual SIT report.
Is Secularism Religious Bigotry by another name?
Looking at the history and the questionable (although legal) acquittal of Teesta and the circumstances of that case and then the evidence that she and others who create high sounding and moralistic organizations, ostensibly to promote “Secularism” – were cooking stuff up all the time!
One cannot help but feel that they are bigots who want to work the media and law to a certain end, and we are obviously confronted with a valid question – What is Secularism?.. Specially the one that we, the Indians, are being thrust down our throat??
Recently, I remarked about pseudo-secularism without defining it in a conversation with an American friend, who wants to learn more about India and things affecting it and issues of South Asia. She asked me what I meant by Pseudo-secularism. I was trying to come up with my take on that phrase, until I came across the latest on Teesta, a person who – ever since I heard her Godhra/Kar Sevak remarks – has come to personify this phrase in its entirety.
The most common characteristics of Pseudo-Secularists are:
1. Selective Amnesia: They are quick to jump on some crimes (Gujarat Riots) but would completely ignore and even abett other far worse crimes (Sikh massacres in 1984).
2. Skewed definition of Religious Tolerance: While it is ok to hit someone for his beliefs (BJP in Gujarat), they would not care about beliefs of others even when their crime was bigger (Communists in Nandigram).
3. They can resort to lies and fabrication to make their point as THEY believe it is. (Self explanatory in view of the story above).
4. Sound Bytes and no positive work: I have maintained that India cannot progress unless the Muslims progress. And the way they can progress is by providing Secular and Employment-oriented mass education to the community. For all the noise you hear from Teestas or Rahul Boses or Arundhati Roys or Shabana Azmis – how many go around marching or pressurizing the Governments and Minority Leaders for better and secular education?? So, one is faced with the question – are they just after sound bytes or are they in it for real?
1. Gujarat riot trial witness ‘lied’
2. I am satisfied: Teesta Setalvad
3. ‘Guj govt’s, not an SIT report’
4. Teesta’s Rebuttal to Times of India report, dated April 14, 2009
5. ‘Report based on SIT findings’
6. Gujarat riot myths busted
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