For the record Teesta isn’t my friend. In fact, I have never met her, never spoke to her, hardly heard her ever speak, but only have read about her mostly through the headlines. Recent headlines were something on the lines of
- CBI raids Teesta’s Setalvad’s residence
- Fund embezzlement case: Temporary relief for Teesta
- Teesta Setalvad given 2-week interim relief
- Teesta Setalvad gets relief from Bombay HC
- Activist Teesta Setalvad denied anticipatory bail
- Teesta Setalvad is being framed by the govt
- Cops say Teesta pocketed crores, bought booze, shoes
- Teesta victim of witch-hunt
- Teesta victim of political persecution
The headlines and the breaking news make it extremely difficult to see the human side of anything, at an individual level or at a personal level.
Like I said, I don’t claim to know Teesta on a personal basis, but I do know Zakia Jaffri, whose case Teesta has been fighting in the courts. Ammi, as I call her, lost her husband, quite literally, his body was never to be found. His body was never to be found (read very slowly word by word what it means to not find the body even though he was killed right infront of them) such was the brutality. The Gulbarg Society where Ammi lived was burned down killing almost everyone in the society.
One a cold winter day, I met Ammi at her daughter’s house in Delaware and learnt about the cold & calculated brutality first hand. Ammi spoke low and very slow but she was mentally strong. She was resolute in fighting for justice, not just for her husband, but also for all the people and their families from Gulbarg society. Not once did she or her daughter say this was a fight for one religion over the other, on the contrary, they stressed how important this fight always since this was a fight for justice. Despite everything that Ammi had to endure, she still feels, they had been extremely fortunate when compared to hundreds of thousands of families living in the relief camps, who may not even get a chance to put up this fight.
The relief camps, as the name suggests, were supposed to provide relief on a temporary basis. Juhupura ‘relief’ camps have become the permanent home for the victims of the Gulbarg Society and needless to say there is no relief either. If they continue to live under such extraneous conditions, when and how would they ever get a chance to move on, live in the current and think about their future?
The fight for justice is not just to see the criminals behind the bars, but also justice for the victims and their families in these ‘relief ‘ camps. Ammi is hopeful, Ammi is resolute, Ammi is determined, Ammi is optimistic and the reason for her conviction and belief is Teesta Setalvad, and she has been so for the past 14 years. This is how I know Teesta.
The day this hope, this optimism, the conviction and the belief dies, that will mark the beginning the end of the hope, optimism, conviction and the belief in the judiciary as well. And if Teesta is able to keep this alive, then all power to her.
On this day of friendship day, I wish Teesta a very happy friendship day for she has been the lone friend fighting for justice and I sincerely hope not just her but many of us can help join in efforts to bring justice.