7 in the series JatiIndia: A Flag of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future
For more than a quarter century, journalist/activist Teesta Setalvad has worked tirelessly to ensure that India’s Constitution serves the people. Her most well-known work involved exposing, through her group Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), the atrocities committed by Hindutva extremists in Gujarat in 2002. As part of its work seeking justice for the victims of that pogrom, CJP has continued its efforts to have criminal charges filed against Prime Minister Modi for his role in encouraging the atrocities in his then-role as Gujarat Chief Minister.
Now Teesta and her husband/coworker Javed Anand are being brought up on charges themselves for allegedly violating the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). The charges, forcefully denied by Teesta and Javed, were clearly meant as retaliation for their pursuit of justice for Gujarat, among other grassroots issues.
The usual actions taken against those accused of FCRA violations are not criminal charges but revocation of licenses to receive foreign funds and, potentially, fines. Indeed, two of Teesta’s organizations were among 20,000 NGOs, largely human-rights groups, who had their licenses revoked in 2015-16. Another prominent Modi critic who lost her license, Shabnam Hashmi, told The Telegraph, “This government’s actions are second only to Emergency-era intolerance. We have no other option but to fight it out.
That sweeping persecution of rights groups has now been followed by this month’s harsher prosecution targeting Teesta and Javed. Modi’s men cannot be allowed to get away with burying the past, with punishing those who have exposed his crimes. Proud patriots, go out there on the streets—not just on Republic Day but every day—and wave those flags. No, not one symbolic flag, but many, each with a different face of exclusion at the heart of it, where the Ashoka Chakra used to be.
Let’s see a citizen-sea waving faces of citizen-exclusion. Faces of those who have paid and are continuing to pay the ultimate price for confronting power with truth at various times in the country’s history. Faces resisting religious and economic fundamentalism and asserting their human right to dignity, inclusion, equality and justice—the stuff we twice-borns take so much for granted.
In the country I call JatiIndia, numerous atrocities are committed daily. The time has come to replace monocrop patriotism with a more diverse one because there is no one symbolic flag in which to pack these atrocities in. Don’t buy into the maya that the state cares about each and every one of you equally. It doesn’t. The state is not there for you. Rather, it’s out to get you. Especially if your fight is a fight for justice and equality.
Note: In this JatiIndia flag, caste is represented by the victims of Modi and his Hindutva nationalists in Gujarat, the present by the face of the indomitable Teesta, and the future by the nation’s Constitution, which will remain with us, intact, thanks to the efforts of Teesta and many others like her. For more on the JatiIndia series and the heroes it features, please see this interview with Muslim Press.
Priti Gulati Cox (@PritiGCox) is an interdisciplinary artist and a local coordinator for the peace and justice organization CODEPINK. She lives in Salina, Kansas, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit caste, capitalism, climate to see more of her work.