Teesta Setalvad today, Zulfikar Ali tomorrow.
Schoolteacher Zulfikar Ali was one of many ordinary citizens who took part in a rally to condemn the arrest of Teesta Setalvad and Mohammed Zubair and the assault on rights activists in the country.
“The arrests are a warning that the ruling regime will target those opposed to their ideology. That includes everybody believing in the idea of a secular and democratic India. I am one of them. No one is safe,” said Ali, 52, a teacher of English at Ganeshpur High School in Howrah’s Syampur II Block.
Choton Das of Bandimukti Committee, another participant, said the protection of democratic and basic human rights of people was the responsibility of the judiciary.
“Unfortunately, some of the recent judgments have not been in keeping with that responsibility. Till date, there has been no direction to arrest a hatemonger like (suspended BJP leader) Nupur Sharma. But police have been so prompt in arresting Teesta Setalvad, a rights crusader. Setalvad’s fault seems to be her long battle, powered by research and facts, to show the real picture of the Gujarat genocide,” said Das.
Over 300 lawyers, academics and rights activists have jointly written to Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana seeking a clarification from the Supreme Court that the recent Gulberg Society massacre case judgment “was not intended to have any adverse consequences whatsoever on Teesta Setalvad, R.B. Sreekumar and others”.
AltNews co-founder Mohammed Zubair was arrested last Monday on charges of hurting religious sentiments and promoting enmity with reference to a tweet he had posted in 2018. The arrest came weeks after he called out Sharma’s derogatory comments against Prophet Mohammed.
Saturday’s rally, held under the banner of the Bengal chapter of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, started from Tipu Sultan Mosque and walked till Y Channel in Esplanade.
The marchers braved rain and shouted slogans against the Narendra Modi regime.
Ali Firdos, who works with the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, was one of the participants. The Metiabruz resident said the jingoistic TV debates were the “biggest threat” to national integrity.
“In my workplace, among colleagues from different faiths, I never feel discriminated against. But in my Muslim-majority neighbourhood, there is a genuine sense of resentment against the state of affairs in the country. Every time a TV debate demonises our community, some more people are further alienated,” he said.
People like Firdos and Zulfikar are not part of any political party or religious platform. They found out about the rally on WhatsApp or Facebook and joined it because they wanted to protest against the “institutionalised assault on people who speak for the oppressed”.
Shadab Masum, one of the organisers of the rally, said that India was in the grip of a “subverted system”.
“Those who openly speak of shooting people are roaming freely. Calls of genocide are being given from so-called religious gatherings. But people who give voice to the oppressed and marginalised are being arrested,” said Masum.