Peace Meetings or National Security Threat? CBI’s Contradictory FIR Against Teesta Setalvad

NEW DELHI: Questions remain over whether the CBI’s charges against her are grounded in facts, as a court in Mumbai gets ready to hear activist Teesta Setalvad’s petition seeking protection from arrest. The basic charge, on the basis of which the CBI has registered an FIR or police complaint, is that her organisation Sabrang Communication had received Rs 1.5 crore from the Ford Foundation without any legal clearance.

Peace Meetings or National Security Threat? CBI’s Contradictory FIR Against Teesta Setalvad :

But according to the CBI’s FIR, accessed by NDTV, accuses Ms. Setalvad’s organisation of not just violating foreign exchange laws, but also threatening national security. It says Sabrang’s activities constitute an ‘interference towards the internal security of India” and “prejudicially affecting harmony between communities”

Peace Meetings or National Security Threat? CBI's Contradictory FIR Against Teesta Setalvad

Peace Meetings or National Security Threat? CBI’s Contradictory FIR Against Teesta Setalvad

And at the same time, the FIR appears to contradict itself, saying the organisation’s activities were to: “Organise public meetings for peace”, “Educate lawyers on misuse of criminal law”, “create strong civil society voices to engender peace” and “media advocacy on sensitive reporting on communities”. It is unclear how such activities could be construed as a threat to national security or as an attempt to spark communal tension.

The CBI, in its application arguing against the grant of bail to Ms. Setalvad, expands on the same theme, saying that her organisation is involved in a “deep seated conspiracy” for which the agency needs to carry out “sustained custodial interrogation” in ‘isolation”. The activist’s lawyers have pointed out that such demands are normally made in cases where the charges are of terrorism, not financial impropriety.

Several human rights groups, political parties and lawyers have criticised the government for its heavy-handed action against Ms. Setalvad, which they say suggests the setting of political scores. The activist has been involved for years in fighting the cases of the victims of the 2002 riots in Gujarat.