Different voices

The comparison between Teesta Setalvad and Gandhi is far-fetched and in poor taste ("The surgical strikes on Teesta Setalvad continue with the Bari report, and we should all be ashamed"). The two belong to different universes. I think most of the charges against her are true and she is a great manipulator. – Ashok Bhagat


Ever since the BJP government, led by Modi as prime minister, came to power, we have seen an increasing number of people being charged with sedition and anti-nationalism, we have seen a prolonged tussle between the judiciary and the government and now, a committee headed by a Gujarat official takes forward the fight between Modi and Teesta Setalvad.

It’s ironic that the government accuses her of encouraging divisiveness. One can only live in peace in the country if we bow down to Modi and his government, else we should be prepared to face harassment and punishment.

If our democratic system votes for someone who cannot tolerate criticism or opposition, why doesn’t the Govt amend out Constitution to disallow dissent! – SN Iyer


This is a one-sided article supporting someone who does not even have a clean record. – Dayal


It’s time we start worrying about the direction in which India is going, and more importantly, about the safety and wellbeing of women, especially activists, like Teesta Setalvad. It is also time to worry about the integrity of committees of inquiry.

This article has sounded a much-needed alarm and we need to raise our our voices in support of one of the most fearless and dogged struggles against communalism. Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand, to my mind, symbolise courage, integrity and commitment of a high order.

My husband and I, have known Teesta and Javed for over two decades. We have worked closely with, and admired their consistent efforts to spread awareness and encourage discussion and debate to build on our understanding and interpretation of a pluralistic and tolerant society.

The growing spectre of communalism, of using religion as a means of spreading divisiveness and hatred – and a tool for electoral gains – is one that many of us have watched, warned against and worked to counter.

Teesta, Javed, Sabrang, Khoj and many others, have struggled to raise these concerns, and ensured that they are heard far and wide, and supported this with meticulous data, facts and research. This is what makes them such a threat. Apoorvanand's comparison with Gandhi and the similarities of their positions ring uncomfortably true.

I applaud you my friends, Teesta and Javed, for your utter fearlessness in standing up to one of the most powerful and systematic attacks. – Lalita Ramdas


It’s ridiculous to link Gandhi to a woman who uses funds from her trust for personal expenses.

I wonder why you are not equally critical of the work she started post Godhra after the Supreme Court and SIT established no wrong doing. The hypocrisy is unwarranted. – V Ramakrishnan


It's shameful that the writer is comparing Teesta Setalvad to Gandhi. She is most communal. She has not spoken up against atrocities on Hindus by Muslims and terrorism. She kept her mouth shut during the Uri attack. She is anti-national and is working to destabilise our country. – Ashok Gulati


The report indicting Teesta Setalvad is a result of the communal biases of Gujarat Vice Chancellor Proffesor Bari, whose attitude towards the activist appears to reflect the current biases of the ruling party against her.

On the basis of self-serving and partisan political and intellectual views the professor finds her guilty of "promoting enmity" under sections of the Indian Penal Code which are relatively new and were drafted to punish those who commit the office of creating animosity between groups of people. The inquisitive professor has every right to differ from a secular activist, but he clearly fails to prove his case without bias, and in keeping with the law.

It's not surprising that Teesta has been added to the list of so-called anti-nationals. For example, she gave evidence before the US Commission on International Religious Freedom in Washington, DC on the Gujarat riots in 2002. She also met officials and politicians interested in human rights issues, distributing issues of Communal Combat which had horrific photographs of the riots. This is not hearsay. I was there with her, and saw the shock on the faces of those who heard and saw the evidence.

Actually, Bari's tendentious report has got it wrong. Teesta, and others like her, have made the fierce struggle against communalism part of the active interpretation of the Preamble of the Constitution where "secularism" has been cited. Secularism is a core value in the Constitution. By upholding it, Teesta is upholding Constitutional values, far from violating the law.

When Teesta is lampooned and vilified, it is not only she who should respond, but all secular democrats who should defend the core values of the freedom struggle, which the people that Bari admires and who set up this wordy but wholly misconstrued inquiry. They reflect the disruptive and sectarian values of the Hindu right wing, which like the RSS was absent in the national movement. Teesta comes from a well-known family active in the freedom struggle.

The most disquieting aspect of the Bari Report are its biases. As an academic for 40 years and a human rights activist for almost the same period, I am used to such reports having drafted critiques of them. It is important to note that Bari is a vice chancellor of a university in Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's state. Vice chancellors are often political appointees. We in JNU, also a central university, are fully aware of this having a pro-ruling party vice chancellor. But the moot question is: how does Bari become competent to judge Teesta Setalvad? Which academic discipline empowers him? Who were the experts who he consulted? Which other reports on human rights, communal and legal issues did the learned VC consult?

There are evidently going to be more reports of this ilk. But these will not deter the likes of Teesta. She has seen and fought a lot of supposed academic calumny, as have secularists throughout this country, and abroad who have faced and will continue to face. But Teesta will continue her struggle and efforts, and their related struggles and interventions. The Bari report has exposed itself. It is contentious, untenable and a work of calumny. It exposes communal, racist, sectarian values in brazen violation of the Constitution. Sorry, professor Bari. You are on the wrong ship, which is sinking even more after your questionable efforts. – Kamal Chenoy