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Protest at Jantar Mantar against arrest of Teesta Setalvad; Cong leaders take part

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New Delhi, Jun 27: Around 300 protesters staged a dharna at Jantar Mantar on Monday against the arrest of activist Teesta Setalvad by the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad.

The group, comprising students, teachers, activists and civil society members, called the arrest of the activist a "pre-planned conspiracy" and an attempt to "silence" other activists. The protest was joined by Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh and Ajay Maken.

Teesta Setalvad

They demanded the release of the activist, who is accused of "criminal conspiracy, forgery and placing false evidence in court to frame innocent people" in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Congress leader Maken said his party stood by the trio and demanded their release at the earliest. Activist Shabnam Hashmi told PTI, "We think it's a pre-planned conspiracy because there is no way that the Supreme Court comes out with a judgment on June 25 and the same day an FIR was lodged and Teesta was arrested.... We strongly condemn it."

Hashmi said the arrest was an attempt by the government to "silence" and "frighten" other activists in the country. "We know that they're giving a signal to all the activists who have been raising their voice. This is an attempt to silence and frighten them but this country is not going to be frightened," she said.

She demanded that the trio be released and the FIR quashed. The FIR against Setalvad, Sreekumar and Bhatt was registered on Saturday, a day after the Supreme Court dismissed a petition challenging the clean chit given by the SIT to the then chief minister Narendra Modi and others in the 2002 riots cases. Questioning the arrests, All India Students' Association (AISA) president N Sai Balaji asked, "If the fight against injustice is being criminalised, what message are they giving out? That we cannot speak against communal riots? That no one can stand with the victims?

Meanwhile, a court in Ahmedabad on Sunday remanded social activist Teesta Setalvad and former state director general of police RB Sreekumar in police custody till July 2.

The prosecution had sought a 14-day remand of Setalvad and Sreekumar. The court of metropolitan magistrate SP Patel sent Setalvad and Sreekumar, both arrested in connection with an FIR lodged on Saturday by the city crime branch, to police custody till July 2, said public prosecutor Mitesh Amin.

Setalvad had accused the police of roughing her up and bruising her arm when she was picked up on Saturday by the Gujarat Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) personnel from her Mumbai home. She was brought here and handed over to the city crime branch on Sunday.

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