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False Case Against Mallika Sarabhai

A letter From Mallika Sarabhai

My dear friends,

Over the last 20 months many of you have been aware of my stand against the anti muslim pogrom that happened in Gujarat. With many of you I have had personal conversations, and many of you know that I have had to go underground and that I and Darpana [The 60 year old performing arts institute in Ahmedabad, begun by Mrinalini Sarabhai, Mallika's mother.] have been harassed and threatened continuously, amongst other things to try and cow me down into withdrawing my public interest litigation about this in the supreme court and to stop me talking at a variety of fora about the continuing boycott of the muslims, the continuing lack of justice and other issues.

Those of you who are in India or who log onto Indian news portals are
already aware of their latest move, i.e. to frame a criminal case against me of fraud and intention to cheat, through a young woman who was a short term student of darpana's. I will not go into the case in detail just now - she is accusing me/Darpana of having promised her a united states visa and thereby a false dance tour ruse to illegally immigrate to the states; she also claims that when the visa was rejected I intimidated her and refused to return the money taken for tickets, visas and other charges. Without going into this further I want you to know only that there is not an iota of truth in it, that all monies for the cancelled dance tour, as per the contract with the students, were returned, as were their passports, and that this is a huge and apparently successful attempt to defame me and the institution and family, nationally, through the media. It is also a huge attempt at intimidation.

Under the Indian criminal law, once a first information report or FIR is accepted by the police, the police, if they so wish, can arrest you and throw you into jail till they produce you before a magistrate. Guilty till proved innocent. Given the high visibility of my name and the issue, my lawyers have asked me to apply for anticipatory bail, which I have, in the sessions court. There are tremendous pressures being brought on to the judiciary, for obvious reasons.

My detractors have planned this well. The court is on vacation and works only two hours a day. The backlog in the court is big so my bail hearing has taken 48 hours to be heard instead of 24. It will be heard in the next hour. If the sessions court rejects it, the courts are shut for four days for diwali, so the earliest we can apply in the high court is on Tuesday.

Meanwhile I have to be unavailable for arrest. Non-euphemistically, that means in hiding and on the run. Yet again.

I veer between despair and anger. Between wanting to be a martyr for truth if that is what my larger purpose in life is, and wanting to throw up my hands and say 'neither the country nor its people for whom I have spent 25 years working deserve me'.

This is a democratic country and they are doing this to one of the most known faces and voices. What of the millions of others?

I am trying to keep sane and sensible. All my colleagues at Darpana have been and continue to be wonderful and out in the open. And my brother and my daughter who are there in ahmedabad. And as happened before, the many idealistic 'friends', well-wishers and intellectual seekers of truth in Gujarat have deafened me by their silence.

Where there is smoke there is fire, I hear them saying. But isn't that a saying that is no longer valid? When dalits in a village get their eyes gouged out for daring to look at their betters, which is the smoke and which the fire? When young women get acid thrown at them because they refuse advances from men, which is the smoke and which the fire? When law courts say that rape could not have happened because the men are respectable and the woman but a tribal where is the smoke and where the fire? People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, I hear them saying. But is it inconceivable that some of us live in glass houses because we want to be transparent, because we want to make our lives open books?

I don't know if I will be able to write again or when. Nor what today holds. But I wanted you all to know that if I go down it shall be fighting for what I believe is true and right.

Mallika Sarabhai