Some of the victims of the 2002 Gulbarg Society riot case, some of whom are main witnesses in the case, have questioned why activist Teesta Setalvad is being provided with security cover by the Central Industrial Security Forces (CISF). The cover was sanctioned to her by the previous UPA government in 2005, but has not been scrapped by the present NDA government, which came to power in 2014.
These Gulbarg Society victims, who helped the court in identifying the perpetrators of the riots, have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh seeking the reasons for continuing providing security to Setalvad, who is guarded by CISF commandos, despite she not being a witness in any of the cases. However, since they have not received any reply from the PM yet, they are planning to seek an appointment with the PM and the HM. This newspaper has accessed the letter sent by the witnesses.
One of the main witnesses, Imtiyaz Khan, who identified the 23 accused in the case, said that he, along with four other witnesses, have already approached the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and the Chief Minister of Gujarat seeking grounds as to why was Setalvad, along with five of her associates, were being guarded by the CISF since 2005.
Khan told this newspaper: “We had written a letter to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister in July 2014 seeking their intervention in the injustice that was done to us by the previous Congress government. Apart from Setalvad, people close to her, including Raees Khan Pathan, Tanvir Jafri, M.M. Tirmizi, who is an advocate in the Gujarat High Court, S.M. Vora, who is an advocate in the Ahmedabad Sessions Court, and Zakia Jafri are being provided security by the CISF. Not one of them has given any statements in the court in the Gulbarg Society case that might have helped the court to identify the perpetrators of the riot, then why are they being given security?”
The letter reads (grammar/spelling not changed): “…she had taken the CISF black commando protection during the year of 2005 after applied before Central govt. of Congress and so in her house which situated at Juhu Tara road, Mumbai, 5 to 6 commandos already found on duty for her.”
The letter adds, “The above five person are with Mrs. Setalvad are not eyewitness in the Gulbarg society murder they were not given any statement as a witness before the hon’ble court, although they taken the CISF protection. Further they should not receive any threatened from anyone and also they did not filed any case about the threatened in the court although they are taking the security of CISF protection with Ak47 rifles.”
Officers in the Ministry of Home Affairs stated that the security cover provided to any individual is subject to a vulnerability assessment of that particular individual, which is periodically carried out by the security agencies.
The victims of the Gulbarg Society riot, who have approached the PM, include Sahid Khan, Mohammad Sharif, Naseerudin Sheikh, Rasid Khan and Feroz Khan Pathan, apart from Imtiyaz Khan.
According to Feroz Khan Pathan, Setalvad is guarded by six commandos from CISF. “While we, who gave evidence in the riot case, have been provided with one unarmed constable each from the Gujarat police, who comes for one hour daily, Setalvad and her other associates are being guarded by CISF commandos and Gujarat state police constables. Apart from the commandos, she has also been given a pilot vehicle, which she uses while commuting. Despite not being a witness, she has been given the security cover of AK-47 wielding commandos. But the real victims and people like us, who have helped the court in catching the perpetrators, have been ignored,” he said.
“Since we have not received any response to our letter, we will seek time to meet the PM as to why the Central government continues to provide security to Teesta Setalvad,” he concluded.