New Delhi: Teesta Setalvad had been into controversies in more ways than one about the 2002 Gujarat riots.
In 2004 November, an eye witness in the Best Bakery case of Vadodara, Zaheera Sheikh, charged her with pressurising her.
She is now amid yet another row as the Supreme Court has taken cognisance of the Gujarat police the complaint in the Zakia Jafri case, wherein Setalvad is charged with forgery, giving false evidence, conspiracy and fabricating records.
The complaint by the Gujarat police also names Retd IPS Officer R B Sreekumar and imprisoned former DIG (Gujarat) Sanjeev Bhatt. Sreekumar and Teesta have been arrested.
The Supreme Court has also said, “As a matter of fact, all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law”. So, the law has caught up with these elements.
In 2016, a three-member panel set up by the Ministry of HRD comprising Supreme Court lawyer Abhijeet Bhattacharjee, the then Gujrat Central University Vice-Chancellor SK Bari and a senior official from the HRD ministry had concluded in their report that Teesta Setalvad and her organisation had tried to ‘Mix religion with politics’ and attempted to spread religious disharmony through their ‘learning material’.
The reference and reading material was sanctioned by the then UPA government when Kapil Sibal was the HRD minister. The then UPA government had given a grant of Rs 1.4 crores to Setalvad’s trust, which she was accused of embezzling.
Teesta’s case is that of an opportunist individual who cleverly exploited the given situation, people’s nightmare and made the most from the muddled water. In 2003, she took an extraordinary interest in presenting Zaheera Sheikh at the Mumbai Press Club, wherein Zaheera demanded retail of the Best Bakery case of Vadodara outside Gujarat.
The entire legal case often appeared much murkier in the later stage. In 2004 yet again, a special court in Mumbai was informed by prosecutor Manjula Rao that Zaheera’s brother Nafitullah had given the slip and ran away from a guest house. So, he could not depose before the court.
There were also reports that Zaheera’s mother had asked for money from Teesta. An eyewitness, Raes Pathan, was appearing before a special court in Mumbai and said that he was deposed in the case because of Teesta.
On June 25, 2022, BJP spokesman Sambit Patra claimed Teesta Setalvad “tutored the witnesses”. He also said that the money collected in the name of helping victims was used for personal gain.
In fact, the funds abuse case against Teesta was registered on complaints of her former aide Raees Pathan. He had reportedly claimed that Teesta’s Sabrang Trust’s publications spread ‘dissatisfaction’ among minorities, especially Muslims.
The ‘curriculum’ they prepared under the Khoj project contained narratives of the Babri Masjid demolition and supposed saffronisation taking over the entire country.