An HRD Ministry panel has claimed that Teesta Setalvad and her Sabrang trust tried to “mix religion with politics” and spread disharmony while creating curricular material for the erstwhile UPA government which had given a grant of about Rs 1.4 crore.
The Committee’s finding that a prima facie case exists against her under section 153A and 153B of IPC for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion etc and imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration, has found favour with a top law officer.
“The report of the inquiry committee is exhaustive and deals with every aspect of the matter and that action as suggested in the said report may be undertaken in terms of fixing liabilities/lapses, action for inciting disharmony and hatred and also for recovery of the money as is stipulated in the scheme itself,” the opinion of the law officer, stated to have been received by the HRD Ministry, said.
He gave the opinion after going through the report of a three-member panel, set up by Ministry of Human Resources Development (HRD), which examined disbursal and utilisation of funds received by Setalvad for her project ‘Khoj’ under the scheme of ‘National Policy on Education’.
The three-member committee comprising Supreme Court lawyer Abhijit Bhattacharjee, Gujarat Central University Vice Chancellor S A Bari and a Ministry official Gaya Prasad set up by the Ministry examined the allegations levelled by Setalvad’s former close aide Rais Khan Pathan.
Pathan in his complaint has alleged that Sabrang Trust’s publications “spread dissatisfaction among the minorities in the country and project India in a poor light” and indulging in anti-national activities.
The finding assumes significance as Setalvad has moved the Supreme Court as an intervenor in ongoing hearing in which the seven-judge constitution bench is revisiting two-decade-old judgement holding that Hindutva is a “way of life” by seeking a direction for de-linking of politics from religion.
Holding that education has never been the agenda of the ‘Sabrang Trust’ in any of its documents, the report said Setalvad and her trust “appear to be trying to mix religion with politics in the classroom of young children most of whom do not appear to be from well-to-do background.
“And there lies the real problem and hurdle pertaining to its eligibility” for receiving the funds.
However, the Committee, which questioned the grant of money to the tune of Rs 2.05 crore, out of which Rs 1.39 crore was released as the trust was unable to utilise 50 per cent of the amount, said that one of the reasons for its ineligibility was that the documents of the trust suggested “brazen contempt of Supreme Court by Setalvad in her writing”.
She has been quoted as saying “we have been in existence today on our annals of judgement from the apex court giving a clean chit to the philosphy of ‘Hindutva’, describing it as a ‘way of life’.
The report said if this is not a fit case for an offence one wonders as to what is?
The committee, which examined the materials and documents submitted by Setalvad as Director of ‘Sabrang Trust’, said that the then officials of the Ministry failed to detect the “false declarations” of the trust as they may be under some sort of “compulsions” to clear the project which had not found favour with the NCERT and suggested action against them also.
The panel, which dissected that “a sizeable portion” of various written materials prepared by Setalvad for the trust/ ‘Khoj’ for teachers for the students of class V and VI contains “explosive literature” which reflects “hatred” and “venom” thereby falling fairly and squarely under section 153A and 153B of the IPC.
The report said that the committee is of firm view that there is a hiatus between the theory and practice of ‘Sabrang Trust’ as it is simply “whipping up identity politics” which is not conducive to the avowed purpose for which the trust has tried to impress upon in the application form.
The committee arrived at this finding by going through various documents of the trust that also clearly showed that the nature of pre-conceived notions on a subject of political agenda and holding Gujarat in low esteem, bordering on political criticism “thereby rendering it ineligible ab-initio (at the outset for funds)”.
It held that the public money given under the scheme of ‘Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan’ to the trust/’Khoj’ was “clearly found to be spreading disharmony, feeling of enmity, hatred and ill will etc.”.
The project ‘Khoj’ was launched by Setalvad’s NGO in some districts of Maharashtra.