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The Quint: Zubair, Teesta, Bhima Koregaon ‘Evidence’: Why are India’s Institutions Silent?

How much longer before the cloud hanging over India’s democratic record today morphs into a shroud?
Seema Chishti
Published: 28 Jun 2022, 3:21 PM IST

Excerpt: India has prided itself on its record of an independent judiciary and an evolved network of institutions that safeguard democracy. It has maintained that a human rights commission and a ‘vibrant’ and free press distinguish it from other banana republics that several post-colonial states rapidly turned into. India can remain a democracy only if institutions are responsive to executive overreach and say they believe in weighing in on the side of citizens to make sure that Constitutional promises of a free and fair application of laws are honoured. If all their decisions consistently have just one beneficiary, the State, giving it the ability to use the law as an executive tool for securing political victories, India is actively failing in fulfilling the promise.

So, what have all the institutions concerned done in the light of reports of police being connected with planting evidence? Effectively, nothing. In a case of supreme indifference, the courts, the media, the NHRC, and even opposition parties, have not batted an eyelid.

Coincidentally, barely ten days after the publication of this serious report, the Supreme Court in a petition by Zakia Jafri, the wife of late Congress MP and trade unionist Ehsan Jafri, who was murdered along with 67 others in the communal violence in Gujarat in 2002, upheld the investigation conducted by the Special Investigation Team (SIT). But, in addition to praising the SIT, the court found it fit to disparage and criminalise the actions of those knocking on its doors.

The Gujarat ATS acted within hours of a Supreme Court Ober-dicta; the order pointedly called for those asking for justice to be “in the dock” instead. By almost actively creating conditions for the Gujarat ATS to swoop down on activist-journalist Teesta Setalvad’s house, a thick red line in institutional response has been crossed. Arresting documenter/fact-checking journalist and Alt News’ Mohammad Zubair, who relentlessly exposes fakeries and hate machines, is the latest travesty. In contrast, those spewing hate are allowed to go scot-free.

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Indian Civil Watch International (ICWI) is a non-sectarian left diasporic membership-based organization that represents the diversity of India’s people and anchors a transnational network to building radical democracy in India.