Activist Teesta Setalvad on Sunday said that the state has rarely been held accountable during instances of targeted violence in India.
“State accountability happens rarely in our country,” Setalvad said while delivering the Girish Patel Smarnanjali Lecture in Ahmedabad. “How many people have been punished in [the riots of] 1984, 1992 and 2002?”
She also said that survivors of such violence, along with citizens who support them, have to undergo several difficulties to ensure punishment is meted out to those involved in the crimes.
The Mumbai-based activist was arrested on June 26 for allegedly committing forgery and fabricating evidence in a case related to the 2002 Gujarat riots. She was granted interim bail on September 4 by the Supreme Court.
The activist is the founder of the Citizens for Justice and Peace organisation that helps riot victims get justice.
In Sunday’s speech, Setalvad also said that there has been a history of validating or felicitating those responsible for carrying out violence in India. “They are even supported by the ruling government,” she added.
Recently, 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano rape and murder case were released from a Godhra jail on August 15 after the Gujarat government approved their application under its remission policy.
On the same day, the convicts were greeted with sweets by their relatives after their release. The convicts were also felicitated by a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
In her speech, Setalvad said that every violent event is often fueled by multiple instances of hate speech.
“Before [any] violence, the stone is cast only after a buildup happens,” she said. “And this happens often with hate speeches and hate-filled writing, which goes on for months. And today, with social media, it [hate speech] has gone to another level.”
She added: “Every year there are acts of violence at certain dates and every year it is given a new reason. When a politician incites violence it is understandable but when a common person attacks someone it means the poison has spread quite deeply.”