TEESTA Setalvad, the notorious anti-Hindu propagandist masquerading as a human rights activist, has at long last been trapped in the web she relentlessly spun to malign the Hindu society and the popular Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi. Her cash-rich NGO ‘Citizens for Justice and Peace’ (CJP), had manufactured countless affidavits on behalf of victims and “witnesses” of the post-Godhra riots to carry forward its vicious campaign that demonised Gujarat, insulted the state judiciary and persuaded higher courts to transfer riots-related cases outside Gujarat. Her dubious role in tutoring witnesses and her persistent efforts to derail the judicial process has been brought to light by the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) in its status reports to the court, her erstwhile close associate and former field coordinator of CJP, Raees Khan Pathan, and one of the accused in the post-Godhra riots, Shashi Kant Patil. On a petition from Khan, the Special Trial Court hearing the Gulberg Society rioting case has ordered the SIT to probe the charges against Setalvad for tutoring witnesses and filing false affidavits. The stage has, thus, been set to bring the infamous social activist to justice.
What persuaded Khan, once her Man Friday, to part company with her is not very clear. May be he had no option but to distance himself from the NGO after he was accused of fabricating affidavits. May be they fought over sharing of the booty or may be his conscience pricked and he took a decision to tell the truth. Whatever the case, the net result is he has thoroughly exposed the notorious social activists’ lies and canards. He first complained to the Commissioner of Police accusing Teesta of hacking her email ID. Later he filed an affidavit with the Nanavati Commission and requested that he be examined as a witness. His latest salvo was to file an affidavit in the special court to make identical allegations against her for manufacturing false affidavits and tutoring witnesses to give false evidence and submitting that her false allegations could mislead the courts and cause prosecution of innocent citizens.
In his affidavit filed before the Nanavati Commission probing roasting alive of 58 karsevaks travelling by Sabarmati Express at Godhra in 2002 and the subsequent riots, Khan had demanded action against Teesta for misleading courts and forcing witnesses to file false affidavits. He had also alleged that she had strong links with the Congress party in which she had acquired a lot of clout by her politically motivated campaign against the BJP. To prove that her priority was to demonise the government and the administration and not to help the victims of the riots, Khan disclosed that she paid through him Rs 50,000 to RS 1,00,000 to doctored witnesses while the victims of the riots were paid only Rs 5,000 each. The question being asked in legal and political circles is the source of the NGO’s funds. Was the money raised locally or was it funded by petro-dollars? Did she receive huge funds from Islamist outfits? It would be in the interest of justice and fair play that the sources of CJP’s funding is probed.
While insisting that his role was limited to receiving affidavits from the NGO by emails, getting them signed by victims and “witnesses” and getting them notorised before their submission to the court concerned or to the Commission, Khan maintains that he had no authority to modify affidavits prepared by Setalvad. However, he has made startling revelations about Setalvad’s modus operandi. In most cases, he revealed, witnesses were not able to name rioters. Setalvad would advise them to provide names of their enemies in the locality telling them this was an opportunity to fix them. Further, Khan confessed he used to prepare lists of influential people in affected localities gathering information about their background and political affiliations and criminal record, if any, to enable her to fix politically inconvenient people. He also revealed that on her instructions, he had kept the “witnesses” of the infamous Best Bakery Case in Mariam Apartments in Bhendi Bazar of Mumbai and stated that these witnesses were tutored by Teesta and that nobody else was allowed to meet them.
Shashi Kant Patil, an accused in the Narodiya Patiya case, who is rotting in jail since 2002 on the basis of affidavits filed by CJP, stumbled upon a mine of information contained in status reports filed by the SIT in the apex court that implicates Setalvad in the perjury case. In one particular case, 22 identical affidavits were filed by witnesses. Asked to explain, the witnesses said they had been made to sign on the affidavits by Setalvad and that they were not aware of their contents. In yet another case pertaining to an incident in Naroda Gaon where an alleged “victim” of rape filed an affidavit and provided graphic account of her agony and injustices. The “victim” in her statement to the SIT denied being raped and disclosed that Teesta had taken her signatures on the affidavit without disclosing its contents. The “eye witness”, one Nannomiyan Rasoolmiyan Malek, accused the social activist of tampering with his statement and including incorrect version of the incident in the affidavit ignoring his objections. That there is credible evidence to show that the witness was paid Rs one lakh by the NGO establishes the nexus between the NGO and the witness. As if to add to the infamy of Setalvad, the SIT revealed that a case highlighted by Teesta Setalvad of a pregnant woman Kauser Bano’s womb being ripped open was found to be concocted as the medical examination of the victim found its foetus intact. Quoting the above events, Patil complained that the constant attempts of the social activist in stalling smooth conduct of investigation and trial had resulted in the accused (Patil) being in jail for a period of eight years without trial. It is in this background that Patil urged the court to initiate perjury proceedings against Teesta under Sections 191-195 of the IPC.
Interestingly, the apex court took a serious view of a complaint by the SIT that Setalvad had interfered with the trail by threatening a public prosecutor, R C Kodekar, for opposing an application of one Salim Sheikh for stay of trial. The court ordered that no one barring members of the SIT would approach PP. Finding that her malicious campaign had been punctured by the SIT, the NGO complained against the composition of the SIT and asked that a Gujarat-cadre Officer Ashish Bhatia be dropped. The apex court snubeed the social activist for doubting the integrity of the officer and said it had full confidence in the SIT Chairman and the amicus curiae. Setalvad’s time is up. There is evidence to show that she and her NGO made concerted efforts to influence the course of justice. Her NGO and the “liberal” brigade that blindly supported her have lost whatever little credibility they had. She should be brought to justice for perjury without further delay. Further, all riot-related cases be suspended till the perjury case against Setalvad is settled.