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By Gaurav Sharma
Human rights activist Setalvad and her spouse Javed Anand have landed in the dock for allegedly embezzling funds from their NGO and using them for their personal use.
Apart from accusing Teesta of invoking reimbursements for hairstyling expenditure incurred during “visits to Rome and Pakistan”, the Gujarat government has also accused her of the insidious charge of tampering with evidence to hinder investigation into the misappropriation of funds.
The startling charges were made by the state police while contesting Teesta Setalvad’s plea for anticipatory bail against cheating allegations made by former residents, who were also victims of riots in the 2002 Gulberg Society massacre. The hearing was related to a First Information Report which had been filed against her by the Ahmedabad Crime Branch last year in view of the fraud accusation.
A week ago, the CBI had fueled the heavy fire against Teesta Setalvad by filing cases of criminal conspiracy and receiving illegal foreign funding, charges which Teesta out-rightly denied. The CBI barraged through her premises in spite of the anti-communal stalwart agreeing to co-operate with the investigations.
Intriguingly, the CBI raid and local police charges took place barely a day before the appeals by those convicted for the Naroda Patia Massacre case and just two weeks before the final hearing of Zakia Jafri’s petition against the closure report of SIT, a report which had cleared Prime Minister Narendra Modi of criminal liability in the 2002 Gujarat riots.
To answer the question, we have to look at what Teesta Setalvad stands for because the ire of the authorities is deeply connected with her persona as protector of victims of communal riots, specifically the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Zakia Jafri and the Gulberg Society Case
On 28 February 2002, the Gulberg society, a predominantly Muslim neighborhood in Chamanpura, Ahmedabad was attacked by a Hindu mob. Taking cognizance of the brewing violence, the residents who belonged to upper-middle-class Muslim business families, took refuge in Congress MP Ehsan Jafri.
In 2006, Zakia Jafri, the widow of Ehsan Jafri took the bold step of filing a complaint against the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi and a host of other ministers and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leaders such as Praveen Togadia and Jaideep Patel alleging complicity, aiding and abetting in the riots.
This is the time when the contentious argument that several policemen and bureaucrats were instructed not to listen to the pleas for helping Muslims being attacked during the riots were spelled out into the public sphere.
Although Zakia had to undergo an arduous journey of more than 2 years before her complaint could see the light of the day (the local and the high court refused to entertain her plea, before the SC directed a Special Investigation Team(SIT) to look into the charges), she managed to set the ball rolling for bringing the collusion of the state machinery with the Gujarat riots into public glare and legal scrutiny.
Teesta–Zakia’s source of strength
At the heart of Zakia Jafri’s fight for justice lies the Citizens for Peace and Justice(CJP), an organization formed in the aftermath of the Gujarat riots for providing legal aid to its victims.
Teesta Setalvad is the secretary of the non-governmental organization and was instrumental in providing legal support to Zakia. Her organization served as co-petitioner in seeking criminal trial of Narendra Modi and other officials for complicity in the riots. It has successfully secured 117 convictions in the case so far, including those of Dr. Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi.(Bail orders have now been issued by the court in regard to the two controversial leaders)closure report of the Zakia Jafri case said that Ehsan Jafri was killed because he had provoked a mob that was hell bent on taking revenge from Muslims for the Godhra riots, Zakia while working in tandem with Teesta Setalvad filed a Criminal Revision Application and thereby managed to extend the hearing of the case to 27 July 2015.
And so when the sudden counter-filing of complaints against Teesta Setalvad by the Centre uncannily lies on the same timescale as that of the hearing of Zakia Jafri’s review petition, should it not raise suspicious eyebrows?
It ought to.
Case Against Teesta
The allegations of cheating residents of Gulberg society basically contend that the money which was received from foreign donations was not utilized for the intended purpose. However, Teesta Setalvad had specified the nature of the donations and the purpose for which they were used in 2013
Teesta Setalvad’s other establishment, the Sabrang Trust, had proposed to raise money through donations for purchasing properties from residents of Gulberg society at market rates, a proposition which the residents happily accepted. But as the market rates began to escalate rapidly the idea was given up altogether in 2012.
As the sweeping development in real-estate spiraled-up, the Gulberg society was informed of the rising land prices following which a resolution was passed allowing the owners to sell the flats. However, such a dynamic plan could not last for more than six months due to the obduracy of the Gujarat government to make use of an archaic law to prevent the citizens of a community from selling their property to people outside the community.
Again, the decision to extend the application of the aforementioned law to communally fragile places such as Gulberg Society and Naroda Patiya came close on the heels of Zakia Jafri filing her review petition and the Gulberg Society resolution.
Moreover, underscoring the conspiratorial nature of allegations leveled against Teesta, the authorized representatives had released an affidavit, unequivocally denying any conflict with her NGO.
Relating to questions of foreign funding, Teesta Setalvad alleges that the Ahmedabad Crime Branch manipulated their bank accounts to arrive at exaggerated figures of Rs 2.62 crores and Rs 1.15 crores for the foreign funding of the Sabrang trust and CJP respectively.
The BJP on its part denies any wrongdoing.
BJP’s misplaced belief
The closure report which the SIT filed before the Ahmedabad Metropolitan Magistrate NS Bhatt, cleared Modi of criminal liability in the Gujarat riots. Modi devotees hailed the pronouncement as a “clean chit”, a self-concocted fallacy.
Raju Ramachandran, the amicus curae appointed by the Supreme Court to monitor the development of the investigations, though concurred with most of the SIT findings but as a matter of fact concluded that Narendra Modi should be sent to trial.
Tehelka scooped up the report of the amicus curae and chronicled his extensive findings which elucidated different sections under which Narendra Modi was implicated. It went on further to argue that “SIT’s repeated insistence on dropping all charges against Modi was highly questionable and even a perhaps a matter of investigation by itself”.
Arguing against the SIT’s assertion there was no prosecutable evidence against Modi, Ramachandran concluded the report by saying: “There may not be overwhelming evidence but there is “some” evidence. The only logical step that an agency could take under these circumstances is to prosecute the accused on the basis of the evidence thrown up during the investigation.”
The unprecedented support that Teesta Setalvad has received from eminent professors, academicians, artists and activists from all over the country is a testimony to the veneration that Teesta Setalvad commands as a defender of human rights.
On the other hand, Narendra Modi, ever since coming into power has unleashed a crackdown on international NGO’s and global charities.
Greenpeace has been accused of interfering in the domestic policies of the nation even as the Ford Foundation has been put on watchlist while being dubbed as “anti-India”.
Greenpeace India’s funds were frozen and restrictions were placed on the movement of some of its workers campaigning against issues that included nuclear power and coal-mining, areas that Modi considers critical for India’s economic growth.
On the other hand, the Ford foundation got caught in the clampdown after it came to light that Anna Hazare’s India against corruption(IAC) got a boost from the foundation, with Arvind Kejriwal’s NGO, Kabir receiving abou $400,000.
The scrutiny intensified over allegations that $250,000 had been granted to Teesta Setalvad’s NGOs between 2009 and 2013 by the Ford foundation.
Subsequently, Teesta was also implicated for supporting “anti-India forces” and a case was registered against her for violating Foreign Contribution Regulation Act and for criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code.
Meanwhile, Teesta Setalvad has argued that her arrangements with the foundation were “permissible under the law” even as the CBI has hawkishly sought her arrest.
In this regard, it would be pertinent to highlight the fact the CBI itself carries a dubious reputation, particularly when the SC has previously called it a “caged parrot”, a reference to it being precociously prone to political influence.
As the case takes its course, Teesta Setalvad’s image has been tarnished with monikers such as “five-star activist” and her efforts to bring justice to the victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots have been stymied.
While there is no doubt that the veracity of charges leveled against Teesta Setalvad should be decided in the country’s courts, the aura of Modi as a pro-development leader has metamorphosed into a defensive personality too uptight to accept a genuine critique of his governance modus operandi.
Hackers have stolen crypto tokens worth $120 million from Blockchain-based decentralised finance (DeFi) platform BadgerDAO. Several crypto wallets were drained before the platform could stop the cyber attack. In a tweet, Badger said it has received reports of unauthorised withdrawals of user funds. "As Badger engineers investigate this, all smart contracts have been paused to prevent further withdrawals. Our investigation is ongoing and we will release further information as soon as possible," the company said late on Thursday.
According to the blockchain security and data analytics Peckshield, the various tokens stolen in the attack are worth about $120 million, reports The Verge. According to reports, someone inserted a malicious script in the user interface (UI) of their website. Badger has retained data forensics experts Chainalysis to explore the full scale of the incident and authorities in both the US and Canada have been informed. "Badger is cooperating fully with external investigations as well as proceeding with its own," it said. DeFi is a collective term for financial products and services that are open, decentralised and accessible to anyone. DeFi products open up financial services to anyone with an internet connection and they are largely owned and maintained by their users. While the attack didn't reveal specific flaws within Blockchain tech itself, it managed to exploit the older "web 2.0" technology that most users need to use to perform transactions, according to reports. (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: crypto wallets, BadgerDAO, decentralised finance, Blockchain, 120 million, crypto tokens, Hackers)
A total of 120 top Bollywood and other celebrities are expected to attend the wedding of film stars Katrina Kaif and Vicky Kaushal which is scheduled on December 9 in Rajasthan, said Rajendra Kishan, the District Collector (DC) of Sawai Madhopur district of the state on Friday. The District Collector told mediapersons: "These 120 guests shall follow all COVID-19 protocols and fully vaccinated guests will get entry in the much-hyped celebrity wedding."
Kishan said that the organisers have been asked to strictly follow all Covid-19 protocols. Also, those who are not vaccinated, will not be allowed without the negative RT-PCR test report, he added. "We have been informed by organisers that a total of 120 guests are invited to the wedding and the events will take place between December 7 to December 10," he added.
Earlier at 10.30 a.m., Kishan called a meeting which was attended by administrative, police and forest department officials, hotel and event managers to ensure adequate arrangements for crowd control, smooth regulation of traffic, and law and order situation amid the VIP movement. The wedding venue Fort Barwara, that has been converted into a heritage hotel, is situated in the panchayat samiti Chauth Ka Barwara. The venue is around 22 km away from Sawai Madhopur and is around 174 km from Jaipur. Sawai Madhopur district is famous for the Ranthambore National Tiger Reserve and as per reports, the guests are likely to be taken for a tiger safari. (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: Rajasthan, December 9, Vicky Kaushal, Katrina Kaif, film stars, celebrities, Bollywood, Katrina-Vicky)
The National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), which confirmed the first two cases of the Omicron variant in Bengaluru on Thursday, is continuously monitoring the situation in four cities - Bengaluru, Hyderabad, New Delhi, and Pune. The NCBS is a part of a consortium of national laboratories performing genomic surveillance across four city clusters. The consortium was established four months ago with support from The Rockefeller Foundation's Pandemic Prevention Institute, and is led by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad.
Dr Rakesh Mishra at the CCMB said on Friday that the consortium is continuously monitoring the situation in all the four cities and has upscaled its efforts to sequence as many samples as possible Apart from the CCMB and the NCBS, the consortium includes CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology - IGIB in New Delhi and the Pune Knowledge Cluster, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune, and CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory in Pune.
The first case of the Omicron variant was detected in South Africa and reported to the World Health Organization on November 24. | Unsplash
The consortium is focused on upscaling genomic surveillance as part of national efforts led by the INSACOG - Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium - to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. The consortium intensified its sequencing efforts after the World Health Organisation announced Omicron as a Variant of Concern. Such an intensified effort enabled the Bengaluru team at the NCBS, a member laboratory of INSACOG, in collaboration with Strand Life Sciences and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), to detect, rapidly sequence and verify the existence of the omicron variant in samples from two Covid-19 infected individuals.
They hope this will aid in a rapid response to contain the spread of variants of concern. Prof Satyajit Mayor from the NCBS conveyed the information to local and national authorities, and the Indian government released a statement on December 2, all within four days of receiving the samples. Both SARS-CoV-2 genomes have also been uploaded to the global repository for SARS-CoV-2 sequences, GISAID, so that they can be publicly available to the scientific community, the NCBS said. (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: Hyderabad, New Delhi, Pune, Bengaluru, The National Centre for Biological Sciences, Situation, NCBS, Omicron)