Teesta Setalvad and Fr. Cedric Prakash
threatened by "Hindu" fanatics

The landmark judgment of the Supreme Court shifting the Best Bakery Case out of Gujarat to Maharashtra and demanding a retrial has definitely raised the hackles for those responsible for the violence and mayhem in February/March 2002.

"Prashant", the Centre for Human Rights Justice and Peace on the Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad was already a place of hectic activity the morning (Monday 12th April) the judgment was delivered, since two meetings were being held simultaneously. The first one was being conducted by Teesta Setalvad and Shishobha Bhave of the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation (CDR), New Delhi where about 25 leaders from all communities from different parts of Gujarat were participating. The other meeting was organized by Meera and Rafi Malek of the Centre for Development (CFD), Ahmedabad which brought together another 30 youths from the Dalit and Muslim communities. This Centre was also receiving threatening calls apparently from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

The Bombay based Citizens' for Justice and Peace (CJP) is a co-petitioner in the Best Bakery Case. Ms. Teesta Setalvad is the Convenor of the CJP and Fr. Cedric Prakash is a member of the group. In the wake of the Best Bakery judgment, Ms. Setalvad was contacted by some of the electronic media and by 11.30 am. atleast one News Channel reported her interview directly from Ahmedabad with her comments on the judgment. Around 12.30 p.m., two men literally forced their way into the "Prashant" premises and demanded the whereabouts of Ms. Setalvad. When Fr. Prakash appeared on the scene, in a very abusive manner they wanted to know who he was and when he revealed his identity as the Director of "Prashant", their immediate retort was "we shall see to both of you !". Fr. Prakash requested them to sit down and asked for their names. At first they were reluctant and then the key person said that he was "Dr. Atul". When his surname was asked for, he said that his name was "Dr. Atul Vaidya". When this name was communicated to Teesta who could see the faces of the two gentlemen, she and some others present immediately recognized them as Dr. Atul Vaidya and Mr. Bharat Teli both primary accused in the Gulbarg Society massacre, Chamanpur which saw the brutal murder of the former Member of Parliament Mr. Eshan Jaffri.

Once this was known, Fr. Prakash immediately began alerting the police since he sensed trouble. Realizing that some one was being called in, the duo made a hasty exit from the premises of "Prashant" but not before hurling a string of abuses at Fr. Prakash and Ms. Setalvad saying that they will see to the end of them. Since the police was alerted, a whole posse of policemen came to "Prashant" within the next 30 mins., began their routine enquiries and started preparing the FIRs, naming Dr. Atul and Bharat. Some time later, a group of 10 young men between the ages of 18 and 30 came to "Prashant" and asked to see Fr. Prakash and Ms. Setalvad., Fr. Prakash went out to meet them and when he revealed his identity, they wanted to know why he was making propaganda against the Hindus with Ms. Setalvad and they also wanted to meet her they said. When asked for their identities, they said they were "youth social workers from Memnagar". However, once they saw that the area surrounding "Prashant" was swarmed with policemen, they slowly made their exit.

Later in the evening, Ms. Setalvad returned to Bombay. As of now, Fr. Prakash and the "Prashant" Centre have been provided with a round-the-clock police security. However, this is not the first time that either Fr. Prakash or Ms. Setalvad are being threatened by Hindu fanatics.

The Hindu, April 13, 2004
Protection for Teesta Setalvad meeting
By Manas Dasgupta

AHMEDABAD, APRIL 12. A huge posse of policemen guarded the office of a voluntary organisation, Prashant, here, where the social activist, Teesta Setalvad, convener of the Citizens for Justice and Peace, was holding meetings today.

Police were summoned after activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad - at least two of them principal accused in the Gulmarg Society communal riot case in which 39 people including a former Congress member of Parliament, Ehsan Jafri, were burnt alive - came to the office and allegedly threatened Ms. Setalvad and the director of Prashant, Fr. Cedric Prakash.

It happened soon after the television channels flashed the news of the Supreme Court having ordered a re-trial of the Best Bakery case of Vadodara to be held outside Gujarat - in Maharashtra.

The visit to the city by Ms. Setalvad, whose organisation had moved the Supreme Court on behalf of the victims of the Best Bakery incident, was co-incidental.

Ms. Setalvad told mediapersons, that her visit to hold a meeting of the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation, floated by Rajmohan Gandhi, had been planned weeks ago. She came to know of the Supreme Court verdict only after coming here, through her lawyer in Delhi.

According to Fr. Prakash, even as she was holding the meeting, two persons who, on being questioned, identified themselves as Atul Vaidya and Bharat Teli, and demanded to see Ms. Setalvad.

They told Fr. Prakash that they wanted to ``teach her some lessons for her anti-Hindu canard and defaming Gujarat outside the State''. Ms. Setalvad when told, however, immediately identified the two as the principal accused in the Gulmarg case, which was also before the Supreme Court for a decision on whether the trial should be held outside the State along with nine other major communal carnage cases including the Godhra train carnage, which sparked the riots in the State. As the duo were making calls on their mobiles apparently to mobilise people, Fr. Prakash informed police.

A dozen youths had assembled there demanding to see Ms. Setalvad but left after a strong posse of policemen arrived there.

Fr. Prakash filed a police complaint against Dr. Vaidya and Bharat Teli, who were later picked up for questioning.

Ms. Setalvad said that ever since she took up the cases of the Gujarat riot victims, she had been provided police protection whenever she visited Gujarat but it was found missing today.

About the Supreme Court order on the Best Bakery case, she said she was ``very happy and satisfied.''

The main complainant in the case, Zahira Sheikh, who had now shifted to Mumbai, has also telephonically told her about her happiness.

She hoped that today's judgment would also have a bearing on the case coming up before the Supreme Court on April 21 seeking a trial of the Godhra, Gulmarg Society, Naroda, Sardarpura, Ode and other major communal carnage cases outside the State.

Ms. Setalvad declined to comment whether the verdict had ``exposed'' the Narendra Modi BJP Government in the State.

``It is for you to judge,'' she said but added it certainly was a ``very severe indictment on the State Government.''

India Committee of the Netherlands / Landelijke India Werkgroep- April 13, 2004