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Baseless reports in the Indian media alleging that social activist Teesta Setalvad and CPJ exaggerated the violence during Gujarat pogrom of 2002

Official Statements by Citizens For Peace and Justice and SAHMAT

by Citizens for Justice and Peace, Sahmat, 14 April 2009

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1.

Citizens For Justice and Peace

Mumbai, April 14, 2009

CJP’s Rebuttal on Media Coverage of Supreme Court Proceedings, April 13, 2009

The report in sections of the national media dated April 14, 2009, alleging that NGOs, Teesta etc misled the apex court and exaggerated the violence in Gujarat in 2002 are clear example of irresponsible reportage. Intentionally or otherwise, the distorted report damages the reputation of a citizens’ group that has been recognized nationally and internationally for working assiduously to ensure justice to the victims of mass violence whether in case of the Gujarat carnage (2002), or the bomb blasts in Mumbai (2006 and 2008) or the communal carnage in Kandhamal district, Orissa (2008), irrespective of the caste or creed of the victims or the perpetrators.

The fact is that neither Sri Raghavan, nor any other SIT member was present at the apex court to “tell” it anything. These reports could only be referring to a contention made in a four page note circulated by Ms Hemantika Wahi for the Gujarat Government.. It was NOT a note prepared by SIT.

The detailed report of SIT submitted to the Supreme Court on March 6, 2007 has not been available for study either to National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the petitioners in this case, or the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) who have intervened in this critical matter or to any in the media. Any reference to it is hence hearsay and it may amount to contempt of court to write about a report which the Court has specifically not made public.

In its written note that the Gujarat state circulated in court yesterday, the state has given its brief comments on the SIT report. In para four of this note the Gujarat government note refers to alleged statements made by some witnesses in the Gulberg case before SIT that name accused other than those named by them in the written statements that were (according to the state of Gujarat) given to them by Teesta Setalvad and advocates. This is the version of the Gujarat state. Besides this, Mukhul Rohatgi tried to make a populist speech in court saying that incidents like the Kauser Bano case etc never happened. The Supreme Court disregarded this argument and did not allow Mr.Rohatgi to read anything from the report. The court went on to state that they were not interested in personal allegations and only ensuring that, like in the course of the Zahira Shaikh case, the trials are fair, the truth comes out and the course of justice is served.

It is necessary to recalled that in the course of the Best Bakery trial, too, the Gujarat government had tried to divert the court’s attention by engineering charges against Teesta Setalvad, secretary CJP and by implication the NGO. On Setalvad’s application to the apex court for a full fledged inquiry the report of the Registrar of the apex court exonerated Setalvad and the NGO completely.

As reported by the rest of the national media, on Monday, ignoring Sri Rohatgi’s bid to side-step the main issues, the three-member bench of the Supreme Court remained focused on the modalities of setting up designated courts for the trial of the accused in the post-Godhra riot cases in Gujarat. Instead of highlighting the court proceedings, Sri Mahapatra chose to spice up his report focusing not on the deliberations or the intentions of the apex court but to promote the case of the Gujarat government.

The moot question is whether or not 2,500 persons were killed in a ghastly perpetrated massacre following the tragic burning alive of 59 persons on the Sabarmati express; whether or not ex parliamentarian Ahsan Jafri was mutilated before being burnt alive, whether the bodies of the missing dead (over 220) have not been found or returned for dignified burial after seven long years? All the national media was witness to this national tragedy.

In the interests of fair reportage and to ensure that the reputation of a citizens group committed to equity and justice is not deliberately vitiated before the trials commence, the media should carry this rebuttal in full. A failure to do so will result in the columns of a national newspaper being used to distort facts, shape public perception and seek to influence the outcome of due process of law and justice to the victims of mass murder.

(Statement by Citizens for Justice and Peace, Mumbai, April 14, 2009, Mumbai)

We wish also that the following issues

Pertinent issues ignored in these reports:

The arrests of minister Dr Maya Kodnani and Dr Jaideep Patel in the past weeks were on the basis of SIT re-investigations. Twelve FIRs filed by witnesses naming these accused in 2002 had been clubbed into a magnum FIR by the Ahmedabad crime branch that had dropped the names of these powerful accused;

The arrests of investigating officer KG Erda in the Gulberg case and of other policemen in the other cases over the past months has meant the claims of witness survivors and legal rights groups, prima facie, are valid;

That this was one of the issues why the apex court has chosen to appoint SIT, the full scale subversion of the process of justice, from the removal of names of accused who’s names appeared in earlier statements simply because they enjoyed political patronage; the appointment of prosecutors with allegiances to the BJP and VHP which meant instead of promoting fair trial they sided with the politically powerful and protected accused;

More pertinently the tragic slaying of pregnant Kauser Bano at Naroda Patiya after slitting her womb was reported in Deccan Herald,(April 17, 2004) and The Indian Express, (March 23, 2005) among others apart from finding place in innumerable reports including the one authored by the Concerned Citizens Tribunal-Crimes Against Humanity 2002 headed by two Supreme Court judges, Justices Krishna Iyer and PB Sawant. Similarly the British national case was similarly documented apart from being covered in The Pioneer, March 3, 2002 and The Hindu, April 23, 2002.

Trustees:

Teesta Setalvad, I.M. Kadri, Arvind Krishnaswamy, Javed Akhtar, Cyrus Guzder, Alyque Padamsee, Anil Dharker, Nandan Maluste, Javed Anand, Rahul Bose, Cedric Prakash

2.

SAHMAT
- 8 Vithalbhai Patel House
- Rafi Marg, New Delhi
- Tel: 2371 1276, 2335 1424
- E mail: sahmat(at)vsnl.com

14.4.2009

Press Statement on Tendentious Reporting in Media

We are deeply disturbed by the tendentious reports in the media of the Supreme Court proceedings on April 13 dealing with the SIT report on the Gujarat carnage of 2002.

This unhealthy trend in the media reporting is going to seriously compromise the credibility of the media and undermine "freedom of expression" enjoyed by the media which we all cherish.

An impression being created in a section of the media that the former CBI director R K Raghvan who led the SIT has "told" the court that Teesta Setalvad "cooked up macabre tales of wanton killing" is mischievious. Only the Supreme Court, the amicus curiae and the Gujarat government have access to the report. The SIT has not filed any other document in court to which the media has access nor was Mr. Raghvan in the Court. It is therefore obvious that the media is only uncritically reporting what the Gujarat government’s lawyer said in the note liberally distributed to the press outside the Court.

While the Supreme Court observed that there was no room for allegations and counter allegations at this late stage, the media coverage has brazenly flouted this observation by reporting the totally baseless allegations against social activist Teesta Setalvad and the organisation she represents Citizen for Justice and Peace on the basis of the Gujarat government’s note circulated in the Court. This is all the more reprehensible because Teesta Setalvad and Citizen for Justice and Peace have neither been given a copy of the SIT report nor has their response been sought in the matter.

The proceedings in the Supreme Court related to the response of the Gujarat government and the amicus curiae Shri Harish Salve to the SIT report. The very fact that the Supreme Court had to set up the SIT to correct the miscarriage of justice due to the tardy investigation by the state of Gujarat was highlighted in the court’s observation that but for the SIT investigation many more accused, who were freshly added, would not have been brought to book. It was the untiring efforts of Teesta Setalvad and the CJP and the National Human Rights Commission that persuaded the Supreme Court to set up the SIT and on the basis of its findings further arrests have been made of persons who held administrative and ministerial positions in the government of Gujarat.

M.K.Raina
- for
- SAHMAT