'Is seeking justice illegal?' 'Against Modi's undeclared emergency,' 'Raise your voice in defense of secular India' – these were some of the banners that dotted Mumbai's Dadar railway station on Monday, 27 June, a day after the journalist-activist Teesta Setalvad was arrested by the Gujarat Crime Branch.
Hundreds gathered around the station, waving All India Youth Federation (AIYF) flags and carrying Communist Party of India banners, to protest Setalvad's, as well as Sanjiv Rajendra Bhatt and RB Sreekumar's arrest.
Speaking to The Quint, Dolphy Dsouza, convenor, Police Reforms Watch said,
"The whole issue that we need to look at is justice. The victims are in no place to defend themselves, it has to be spirited citizens taking up that responsibility at a great risk to defend the voiceless over a period of time, like Teesta did. Our appeal is only one – if you want to have the due process of law, don't make the process itself a punishment. It's important that they release these people and investigate if they have to."
Here are some glimpses from the protest:
Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), Students' Federation of India (SFI), and Centre of Trade Unions (CTU) were among the groups that joined the agitation on Monday.
Chants of 'Shah teri dadagiri nahi chalegi' (Shah's hooliganism will not be tolerated) and 'Modi sarkar haye haye' reverberated across the station.
Another protester, activist Amrita Bhattacharya, said, "I'm here to stand in solidarity with Teesta. And I think every Indian needs to do that today."
The activist-journalist was picked up and detained from her residence in Mumbai's Juhu on Saturday, and brought to Ahmedabad, from where she was arrested the next day.
Freedom Fighter & JP Cohort Among Protesters
Dawood Khan, a freedom fighter and a member of the cohort of former activist-political leader Jayaprakash Narayan, said that he wanted India to be more democratic, but the government was taking the country in the opposite direction.
Voicing his support for Setalvad, he said, "Teesta ne zaalim ko zaalim kaha. Anyaay ko anyaay kaha. Uski ye sazaa mili (Teesta called out an oppressor for oppressing people, and raised the issue of injustice when it was taking place. And this is the punishment she got)."
Demonstrations in Kolkata, Bengaluru
On Sunday, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) had also organised a citizen's rally in Kolkata, pressing for Setalvad's immediate release.
In a press release, the Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) stated that it condemned the arrest of Setalvad, "who fought relentlessly for justice for the victims of the 2002 Gujarat violence."
"Her arrest is an ominous threat to all democratic minded citizens not to dare to question the role of the State or the government under whose regime communal violence takes place," it added.
Meanwhile, citizen groups and activists in Bengaluru also took to the streets to protest the arrest.
Basis of Setalvad's Arrest
Setalvad, along with Sanjiv Rajendra Bhatt and RB Sreekumar, has been charged with forgery, fabricating evidence, and criminal conspiracy.
The FIR, lodged at the Ahmedabad crime branch, came after the Supreme Court upheld the magistrate's decision to accept the final report submitted by the SIT in the 2002 Gujarat riots case, sustaining the clean chit given to then-Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and others.