New Delhi, July 30: Civil society activists have slammed what they described as the "hounding" of Teesta Setalvad and husband Javed Anand, fearing the couple "could be eliminated" by a "dispensation that can go to any extent to silence her".
"Teesta and Javed can, perhaps, also be eliminated. The present dispensation can go to any extent to silence her," senior advocate Kamini Jaiswal said at a meeting on Monday that civil society campaigners held on the couple accused by the CBI of financial offences. They were last week granted interim bail by Bombay High Court till August 10.
Teesta, a co-petitioner in a 2002 riot case against then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and others, has termed the CBI's charge about violations of foreign donation laws a "political vendetta". Through her NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace, Teesta has been taking up the cases of the riot victims, one of which hadled to the conviction of former state minister Maya Kodnani.
At the Monday meeting, Jaiswal referred another case of financial irregularities filed against the couple by Gujarat police.
"How this complaint became the means to get into their accounts and make the bizarre allegations that Teesta and others are not cooperating is not known. Gujarat police decided not to file their chargesheet. They just want to humiliate, harass, torture and silence her," Jaiswal said at the meeting, which was dubbed a "public hearing" on Teesta and lasted nearly four hours.
Harsh Mander, special commissioner to the Supreme Court on cases related to the right to food law, said "the whole government machinery has been engaged in harassing and intimidating" the couple. "Is the government trying to say that look, these are consequences you will face if you dare raise your voice against us?" Mander asked.
Journalist Siddharth Varadarajan pointed out that Baba Ramdev and RSS chief Mohanrao Bhagwat had been given Z-plus security, but a Gujarat judge, Jyotsna Yagnik, who convicted 38 people in riot cases, has been denied the same despite threats.
"NIA special public prosecutor (in the Malegaon blasts) Rohini Salian is being browbeaten, Justice Jyotsna Yagnik is under threat and they want to jail Teesta. Join the dots and see how fast the judiciary and the legal process are being derailed. And in this context, see the attack on Teesta," Varadarajan said.
Activist Aruna Roy said the government wanted to "break Teesta's spirit" as she had gone beyond mere activism. "It is easier to protest on the streets, than to fight it out legally in courts under difficult circumstances. She is not giving up. The government wants to break her spirit."
Senior lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan echoed the view. ""If we lose this fight and Teesta is allowed to be finished off, then nothing will be left of our democracy. Everybody is on trial here."