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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.''

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