The Gujarat riots of 2002 will remain a blot in India’s history. However, the riots were not the first ones in the history of independent India, for which people of all religious groups have had to suffer. 2002 introduced us to ‘activist’ Teesta Setalvad and her NGO Sabrang. To the gullible citizen, she first appeared to be a good-natured activist out to help the displaced victims of the Gujarat riots. However, her NGO was soon under the scanner, and even though over the years there were serious charges levelled against her, the UPA government went on to award her with a Padma Shri in 2007.
Teesta Setalvad has been playing with her Karma for far too long. In November 2010, Teesta Setalvad was accused of pressuring Zaheera Sheikh, the key witness in the Best Bakery case. Zaheera was booked for perjury later on. Couple of years later, former CBI director, R K Raghavan who was heading an SIT formed to probe into PM Modi’s role in 2002 riots, charged Teesta of “cooking up macabre tales of killings”.
Teesta Setalvad led NGO-Police-Opposition-Media nexus hounded PM Modi for 12 years straight. Disgraced Gujarat cop Sanjiv Bhatt filed an affidavit to the Supreme Court stating the then chief minister Narendra Modi had given a free hand to the Hindus after the Godhra Incident. Sanjiv Bhatt filed the affidavit on 14 April 2011, good 9 years after the 2002 Gujarat riots. Supreme Court in its ruling mentioned that Petitioner (Bhatt) was in touch with an activist (Teesta Setalvad) and was deliberating upon what was to be stated before Justice Nanavati Commission. Supreme Court further mentioned that Teesta appears to have planted ghost questions in lead and crosses were prepared and sent to Bhatt.
But Karma has a surprising way of taking care of situations
In a recent development, Teesta Setalvad has been booked for allegedly securing central government funds worth Rs. 1.4 crores fraudulently between 2010 and 2013. The case filed against Setalvad and the Sabrang trustees by the Ahmedabad Crime Branch on Friday night is on the basis of a complaint lodged by her former close associate Raees Khan Pathan.
According to the complainant, Setalvad’s NGO, which was given the grant for educational purposes, also distributed printed material that could have caused communal disharmony. This is not the first time that Setalvad has been accused of doing so. She is infamous for sharing a picture of Hindu Goddess Kali morphed into that of an ISIS terrorist, a couple of years ago.
“We had received a complaint alleging that Setalvad and the trustees of her NGO, Sabrang Trust, used fraudulent means to get funds of Rs. 1.4 crore from the Union HRD Ministry between 2010 and 2013. Based on that, we registered an FIR against her and the trustees of the NGO,” said Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) Rajdeepsinh Zala.
Mr. Pathan had alleged that Setalvad and the Sabrang Trust tried to “mix religion with politics”, and spread disharmony through the curricular material prepared for the erstwhile UPA government, which had given it a grant of about Rs. 1.4 crore.
Mr. Pathan had alleged that a large amount from the HRD funding was used between 2008 and 2014 on the ‘Khoj’ project of the Sabrang Trust, under the scheme of ‘National Policy on Education’ in Maharashtra and Gujarat as well as on the ‘Peace Building and conflict resolution’ project. The project was launched by Setalvad’s NGO in some districts of Maharashtra and Gujarat.
“Large amounts were also transferred as donation from Sabrang trust to Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), another NGO of Teesta Setalvad which too was used for various activities such as payments of salary to office staff in Gujarat, travelling expenses of riot victims in Gujarat, advocate fees and on various campaigns launched in Gujarat against the state government,” Mr. Pathan’s complaint had alleged.
Setalvad’s irregularities have begun to surface over the past years. And with no ‘protection’ like she received from the erstwhile UPA government, the FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) registration of the Sabrang Trust was cancelled in 2016.
An on-site inspection was conducted of books, accounts and records at its Juhu Tara office in 2015. On 9th September, the FCRA registration was suspended and a show cause notice was issued to Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand. Even though the supporters of Setalvad continue to call it ‘vendetta’ and continue to vilify Prime Minister Modi, they overlook the fact that Modi has been absolved of all charges by the Supreme Court of India.
It should also be mentioned that the topmost court of India has rejected Setalvad and her husband’s pleas against the freezing of their bank accounts, in a case of alleged misappropriation of funds received by their NGOs for the 2002 Gujarat riot victims.
While activism is necessary for a democracy and the rehabilitation of riot victims is integral to the duties of a nation, this entire campaign to frame one man was destined to fall apart. Setalvad would have done justice to the people with the funds at her disposal. However, her sole objective seems to have been the witch-hunting that Prime Minister Modi was subjected to. The law will take its own course and one can only hope other fraudulent NGOs are exposed soon.
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