25, Jul 2022 | CJP Team
Over 50 eminent citizens of Canada have written to the President of India, and the Chief Justice of India expressing concerns over the arrest of journalist, educationist and human rights defender Teesta Setalvad. On July 25, it has been a month since the day she was picked up from her Mumbai home by the police.
Signatories include writers Margaret Atwood, Elise Moser, Yves Engler and Rohinton Mistry, artists Gisele Amantea andFreda Guttman,former Director of Human Rights and Deputy Secretary General of the Council of EuropePeter Leuprecht,human rights lawyers Pearl Eliadis and Yavar Hameed, and Dr. Elaine Power, Professor, Queen’s University among others.
In their letters to the President of India, and Supreme Court Chief Justice RV Ramana, they refer to the arrest of Setalvad and former Gujarat Director General of Police (DGP) RB Sreekumar and say, “The circumstances surrounding their arrest and detention would indicate that due legal process and political activism have been troublingly conflated.” They go on to say, “Such actions threaten the international reputation of the country you head, which for decades has been respected as a secular, democratic republic guided and governed by the rule of law.”
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They ask for their urgent intervention “so that all charges against Ms. Setalvad and Mr. Sreekumar are dropped and they are released from custody forthwith.”
People and rights groups from across the world have come out in support of Setalvad previously as well. CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, had condemned the arrest of Teesta Setalvad and called on the government of India to stop targeting human rights defenders.“The arrest of human rights defender Teesta Setalvad is a clear tactic to intimidate and silence her for her activism around the Gujarat massacre, especially for justice and accountability. The authorities must halt the judicial harassment against her, drop the trumped-up charges and release her immediately and unconditionally,” said Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Asia Pacific researcher.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), had also condemned “the arbitrary arrest and detention of Teesta Setalvad, and of whistle-blowers Sanjiv Bhatt and R.B. Sreekumar,” and expressed their “utmost concern over the targeting and prosecution of Ms. Setalvad, as it is clearly aimed at punishing her for her work seeking justice for the victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots.”
They had urged Indian authorities to “Immediately and unconditionally release Teesta Setalvad, as well as Sanjiv Bhatt and R.B. Sreekumar, and put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against them, as well as all other human rights defenders in India.”
Human Rights Watch was one of the first groups to issue a statement Setalvad’s immediate release. “These arrests are clearly reprisals for pursuing justice for victims of the Gujarat riots and attempting to hold those who were in power accountable,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “No one can deny that the violence occurred, or that there needs to be justice, and yet the authorities have been pursuing criminal charges against Teesta Setalvad for years now in an attempt to silence her.”