Republic TV in a report has claimed that they have accessed an affidavit filed by the Gujrat police on May 21, 2018, that has made sensational allegations against Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand. The affidavit reportedly states that they were misusing their positions as members of the CABE (Central Advisory Board of Education), not only in taking illegal perks for personal benefit but also using the Khoj project literature to spread religious hatred and enmity between communities.
According to the report, in the year 2010 Teesta Setalvad’s Sabrang Trust pushed a curriculum for primary school children in Gujrat and Maharashtra. NCERT rejected it calling it venomous and divisive in nature. But the then HRD ministry headed by Kapil Sibal approved it. For close to 3 years between 2010 and 2013 thousands of children were reportedly taught the ‘venomous syllabus’.
Teesta Setalvad is currently embroiled in a funds embezzlement case involving the same NGO (Sabrang Trust). She has been charged with using the NGO’s funds for her personal benefit. But the Republic report claims that a more sinister issue is at the bottom of it. Sabrang Trust allegedly carried out communal brainwashing of primary school children under the Khoj project. According to the report, the literature proposed by the Khoj project contained narratives of the Babri Masjid demolition and supposed saffronisation taking over the entire country. A former official of the NCERT has confirmed to Republic under the condition of anonymity that even though the NCERT rejected it, Kapil Sibal bypassed the decision and approved the literature for textbooks of primary schools. The Sabrang Trust was assigned the project under the schemes of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.
A course module examined by Republic from the website of the Khoj project included a creative articulation exercise that asked children to describe ‘My Ideal Religion’ according to modern worldviews.
In 2016, a three-member panel set up by the Ministry of HRD comprising Supreme Court lawyer Abhijeet Bhattacharjee, the then Gujrat Central University Vice-Chancellor SK Bari and a senior official from the ministry had concluded in their report that Teesta Setalvad and her organisation had tried to ‘Mix religion with politics’ and attempted to spread religious disharmony through their curricular material which was sanctioned by the then UPA government. The then UPA government had also given a grant of Rs 1.4 crores to Setalvad’s trust which she is accused of embezzling.
The panel agreed that a prima facie case exists against her under sections 153A and 153 B for spreading religious disharmony. The panel also stated that education had never been the agenda of the Sabrang Trust in any of their documents and even questioned their eligibility for receiving the said grant and designing curriculum for children, most of whom are economically backward. The panel also opined that Setalvad was under brazen contempt of Supreme Court in her writing.
The panel stated that a sizable portion of the curricular material of the Khoj project contains explosive literature which reflects hatred and venom and that calls for the above-mentioned sections of the IPC. In their report the panel had also reportedly agreed on what the Republic TV report claims, that the Khoj project’s material was cleared by the HRD officials despite rejection by the NCERT, it included that there must have been some sort of ‘compulsion’ or suggested action against them to clear the project, hinting that the orders might have come from higher up.
It is notable here that the case against Setalvad was registered on complaints of her former aide Raees Pathan. Pathan had reportedly claimed in his complaint that Sabrang Trust’s publications spread dissatisfaction among the minorities in the country and also indulged in anti-national activities.
Setalvad is also under probe for alleged FCRA norms violations. She had earlier been booked for collecting funds meant for riot victims and diverting them for personal use, for misguiding and luring a key witness in the Best Bakery case and also for sharing objectionable pictures of Hindu Gods. She is currently fighting against arrest. Last week after a sessions court in Ahmedabad had rejected their bail plea, Teesta and her husband had moved to the Gujrat High Court. The Gujrat HC has yesterday extended their protection from arrest till June 13th.