Several riot victims from Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society have pledged their full support to the Mumbai-based human rights activist and founder of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) Teesta Setalvad, alleging that the Gujarat government was harassing her because she fought for justice for them.
Interacting with mediapersons at the premises of NGO Prashant (Tranquility) run by Fr Cedric Prakash, the victims said that whatever relief they had got so far was because of the support and backing of Setalvad.
Naeemuddin Ibrahim Sheikh, who lost his mother and brother-in-law during attack on Naroda Patiya that witnessed killing of a total of 109 persons, said that none of his relatives, many of them wealthy and settled in the United States (US and) Europe, came to his help.
“None of them even took trouble to inquire about me and my family. It is only Teesta Setalvad who came to our help. I don’t know what would have happened to the victims had Setalvad not extended her help to us,” he stated.
Another victim, Shakilabano Ansari, who lost her mother, two brothers and their wives, said that it was surprising that the riot accused were getting released on bail and were roaming around freely. The state government was victimising Setalvad simply because she helped the Muslim riot victims.
“What was our fault? Why were we attacked? Because we happened to be Muslim?,” she asked.
She said she would always stand like a rock with Setalvad who helped the victims when no body was there to help them.
“Instead of punishing the riot accused, the Gujarat police are raising objections on Setalvad so that no one else in future came to the defence of the victimised,” said Ansari.
Abdul Majeed Usmanbhai Sheikh, who lost eight of his family members, including three daughters, three sons, wife and mother, in Naroda Patiya riots, alleged that he as a BJP worker pleaded with former minister Dr Mayaben Kodnani to prevent rioters from attacking the mosque but she asked the people to attack Muslims and their properties.
“I provided evidence in the court against her and that resulted in his conviction,” claimed Sheikh. He appreciated Setalvad for the “heroic role” she played in assisting the victims in the legal battle.
Sairaben Sheikh, who lost four members of her family in the Gulberg Society, including her son, said that she did not know how to lodge an FIR or a court case. Nor did they have money for a legal fight in the case.
“It was Setalvad who gave us moral and material support and motivated us to fight the case in the court,”, said Sairaben.
“We will never abandon Teesta Setalvad,” she asserted.
A Parsi by faith, Rupa Mody, a resident of Gulberg Society, who lost her minor son Azhar during attack on the Gulberg Society in which former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was also killed along with 62 others, said: “No amount of harassment from the state government could weaken our resolve to fight for justice.”