Who is harassing Teesta Setalvad and why : Sabrang's Official Statement on latest false FIR

Who is harassing Teesta Setalvad and why : Sabrang's Official Statement on latest false FIR...

Who is harassing Teesta Setalvad and why : Sabrang's Official Statement on latest false FIR

CJP Secretary Teesta Setalvad is being attacked once again, this time with a barrage of false allegations pertaining to her education NGO KHOJ. Rais Khan, a disgruntled ex-employee of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), has filed an FIR against Setalvad alleging that Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand used fraudulent means to get funds to the tune of Rs 1.4 crores from the Ministry of Human Resource Development under the UPA Government. However, CJP would like to state that these are baseless and false allegations.

Khan's plans fell flat when the court granted transit bail till May 2 to both, Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand, two key functionaries of both CJP as well as Sabrang Trust. We welcome the transit bail and stand by the integrity of both Setalvad and Anand.

We also deplore the near desperate measures adopted to by the Crime Branch of the Gujarat Police to harass, intimidate and threaten the personal freedoms of both Setalvad and Anand. We believe that this latest attempt, in which too the original complainant was a former employee of CJP, Rais Khan Pathan is nothing short of a coercive method to prevent Setalvad from going on a long planned trip for human rights lectures abroad. Setalvad has been invited to Canada by Sikhs of Indian Origin to commemorate the 100 years of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Setalvad's great grandfather, Chimanlal Setalvad was part of the Committee that cross examined and interrogated General Dyer after the massacre. Thereafter, Teesta Setalvad is scheduled to deliver lectures at Harvard and several other cities of the United States.

 A Brief Background of how Rais Khan has been harassing Setalvad

Khan has, since 2010, thirty two months after he was discontinued from services of field coordinator of CJP, a renumerative post where rental accommodation was also provided, literally been forum shopping and at the root of several malicious and false cases against first Setalvad alone, then both Anand and Setalvad. Setalvad was first targeted in 2004 through wings of the Gujarat state who induced star witness, Zahira Shaikh. A Supreme Court appointed Registrar General report completely exonerated Setalvad and CJP of baseless charges and found Zahira guilty of inducement by influential politicians. She was sentenced to one year simple imprisonment in 2006. Allegations against Setalvad have ranged from kidnapping to perjury now financial embezzlement.

Clearly, today Khan who enjoys the patronage of the regime in Delhi having been appointed to the Central Wakf Board also has senior counsel closely associated with the ruling party appearing for him. Since September 2010 his forum shopping has meant him approaching five trial courts specially hearing the Gujarat 2002 cases, the Nanavaty Shah Commission, the SIT and now the Crime Branch of the Gujarat police. In two judgments, in the Sardarpura matter and the Naroda Patiya matter, the judgments have passed remarks against Khan labelling his conduct as interference in the administration of justice.

Clearly the path-breaking work by CJP, spearheaded by its Secretary, Setalvad that has ensured the conviction of 172 persons -- 124 of which to life imprisonment-- is the single most significant reason for her being singled out by a vindictive regime. The continued historical legal battle in the form of the Zakia Jafri case too, is a serious thorn in the flesh for the powers that be.

Khan has now, in a new FIR, made a series of baseless allegations suggesting Setalvad and Anand got this funds for their education NGO KHOJ under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, but the funds so obtained were utilised for personal purposes. The complaint also states the fund were used for creating and distributing printed materials that could cause communal disharmony. Khan first tried to get CBI, then MHRD to lodge this complaint. When that did not work, his allies in the crime branch have come to his aid.

So far, Teesta Setalvad, a human rights defenders with three decades of courageous work behind her, has had to seek anticipatory bail in false criminal cases eight times already. Curtailing her personal freedoms and threatened incarceration is clearly the preferred way of this regime. Anand too, has now been falsely implicated three times.

Now, CJP would like to set the record straight by presenting a summary of the facts of the case:

In 1994, Setalvad and Anand started a programme for school children which was christened as ‘KHOJ: Education for a Plural India’. As a project of Sabrang Trust, the KHOJ innovative educational modules evolved by them have been successfully implemented in both privately run and civic corporation-run schools in Mumbai and elsewhere in Maharashtra over the years.

Prior permission for a team of KHOJ teachers to run these classes in the Mumbai Municipal Corporation run schools, for example, was granted by the BMC’s Education Officer, year after year. KHOJ has been active since 1994 and has been working on the crucial area of Education Policy related to Democratization of the Social Studies and History Syllabus and Text-books.

Teesta Setalvad’s work in the field of education has been widely recognized and she was appointed to the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) Committee (CABE is a board constituted by the Parliament) in 2004 and served on the board till the year 2014. Teesta Setalvad was appointed as a member of the CABE on ‘Regulatory Mechanisms for Textbooks and Parallel Textbooks Taught in Schools outside the Government System’.

The terms of reference (TOR) of the Committee were:

To study and report on textbooks in government schools not using the CBSE syllabus;

To study the textbooks and curriculum of schools outside the government system, including those run by religious and social organizations;

To suggest an appropriate regulatory mechanism for institutionalizing the issue of preparation of textbooks and curricular material.

In the course of their work, Setalvad came to know about the grant by the Ministry of Human Resource Development for Scheme of Assistance under Innovation and Experimental Education Programmes (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan). On behalf of Sabrang Trust, Setalvad submitted the proposal for grant from the Ministry of Human Resource Development to the then Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Human Resource Development Ms. Anita Bhatnagar on 8th March 2010. The said proposal was in the prescribed form along with the necessary Application Form.

Sabrang Trust sought 100% grant from the Ministry of Human Resource Development for a period of three years i.e. 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12. Through the infusion of the grant in the said project the Trust sought in order to reach out to 6000 students in 75 schools, which would include the 2000 students in 33 schools across Maharashtra where KHOJ classes were already being conducted. The said Application Form also laid down the budgetary details of the Trust’s spending on the said project for the fiscal year 2009-10 and the total estimated expenditure for the fiscal year 2010-11. The total amount of grant requested for the fiscal year 2010-11 stood at Rs. 1,00,55,400/- (Rupees One Crore Fifty Five Thousand Four Hundred only).

After Sabrang’s proposal was examined and scrutinised, the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of School Education & Literacy released the first installment of the grant for the first year of the approved project amounting to Rs. 58,72,500/- by a letter dated 03.02.2011. A Joint Evaluation Team (JET) comprising of Ms. Venita Kaul (Member, Grant-in-Aid Committee), Mr. A. K. Tewari (Government of India Representative) and Mr. Nandan Nangare (State of Maharashtra Representative) under-took and evaluation of the project’s progress on 09-10.02.2012. This was favourable and some changes were suggested which were accepted by Sabrang.

Under the said scheme, 16 teachers were employed during the duration of the project. The said project benefited 192 schools through direct teaching and teacher training programmes. 10 Libraries were setup across Maharashtra and most of the books for the libraries were procured from Government publishing houses. An online project was set up, the same is still in existence 7 short films were made and one book was conceptualized and published as curriculum for 5th standard students. Through this curriculum which was a child centric pedagogy India’s constitutional values and pluralism were imparted to around 6000 students across the State of Maharashtra.

In fact, the JET said,

 Overall, the objectives and efforts under the KHOJ project are undoubtedly laudable since not only do they cater to the need to promote secularism and peace education, which should be a priority, but also since there is hardly any effort otherwise in mainstream schools to address these aspects. How crucial it is to reach out to the children especially of the urban poor from the slum areas comes across very strongly in the anecdotes shared by KHOJ teachers with the JET.”

Over the period of three years the Ministry of Human Resource Development released grants worth Rs. 1,42,23,797/- (inclusive of bank interest) of which the Trust utilized a total of Rs.1,36,31,686/- and the un-used funds which amounted to Rs. 5,91,871/- was duly returned to the Ministry of Human Resource Development in 12.06.2014. The Ministry of Human Resource Development released grants worth Rs. 58,72,500/, Rs. 26,66,570/- and Rs. 54,20,848/- in the fiscal years 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 respectively and the Applicants furnished relevant utilization certificates.

The entire procedure was above board an in line with the law. CJP therefore requests the media to check their facts before reporting on the case. CJP would also like to warn readers against some outright hateful articles in some publications. We have nothing to hide and all facts have been laid clearly in this statement.

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