Indian civil rights activist Teesta Setalvad, 60, belongs to an influential Gujarati family. M. C. Setalvad, India’s first attorney general, was her paternal grandfather. Even after hailing from a family with a strong legal tradition, she decided to pursue a career in journalism and worked with prominent Newspapers such as The Indian Express.
She married Javed Anand in 1983, and they actively run Sabrang Communications, highlighting the human rights violations in the country.
Teesta is the official spokesperson of this organisation. In 1997, Teesta started work on a project, Khoj (Quest), which aimed to rewrite sections of Indian school History and Social Studies textbooks to remove “anti-minority prejudices.”
Life and Activism
Her first brush with communal violence came when she covered the 1984 riots in Bhiwandi. After the communal riots in Mumbai in 1993, she and her husband left their usual occupations to launch Communalism Combat, a monthly journal which fosters communal harmony by fighting entities propounding communal violence.
On April 1, 2002, Teesta Setalvad and her husband founded an NGO called “Citizens for Justice and Peace (CPJ)” The NGO immediately started legal work to get justice for the survivors and victims of the 2002 Gujarat pogrom.
Teesta has received accolades for her activism and contributions to Human Rights. She is a prominent figure recognized at the National and international levels.
Circumstances of arrest
The police crackdown came a day after the Supreme Court upheld the clean chit given to then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and others in the 2002 riots case, endorsing the report of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court, which had filed a closure report against Narendra Modi and others.
Ahmedabad Police filed a first information report (FIR) against Teesta Setalvad, accusing her of various charges, including forgery, criminal conspiracy, and other relevant sections of the IPC.
The Gujarat ATS detained her at the Santa Cruz police station without any warrant or notice. She, on her part, lodged a complaint with Santacruz police station in Mumbai, claiming that the “arrest” was illegal and that she apprehended a threat to her life.
Charges and allegations
The police have booked Teesta Setalvad under SectionSection 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC, along with forgery and other relevant sections.
The police produced her before a court in Ahmedabad, which granted her remand till July 1. The Gujarat Police, on 26th June 2022, formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe her role in the case. On June 27, Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, expressed “deep concern” about the arrest of Teesta Setalvad.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that they are very concerned by the arrest and detention of Teesta Setalvad and two ex-police officers and call for their immediate release. They must not be persecuted for their activism and solidarity with the victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots.
The Supreme Court granted interim bail to Teesta Setalvad on 2nd September 2022.