Free Teesta Setalvad: India’s unequivocal demand Peaceful protests held nationwide to condemn the human rights defender’s arrest

27, Jun 2022 | CJP Team

In wake of Teesta Setalvad’s arrest, thousands of people have taken to the streets to demand justice for the human rights defender who was arrested on trumped-up charges after the Supreme Court dismissed the petition moved by Zakia Jafri demanding an investigation into the larger conspiracy behind the 2002 Gujarat violence.

In fact, support has poured in from across the world. Over 2,200 people from across the globe have signed a statement demanding the immediate release of journalist and human rights activist Teesta Setalvad and former DGP Gujarat police RB Sreekumar.

Leading signatories such as People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) General Secretary V. Suresh, National Association of People’s Movements (NAPM) Convenor Medha Patkar, former Navy Chief Admiral Ramdas, former Lucknow University Vice Chancellor Rooprekha Verma, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) founder Aruna Roy, Carnatic musician TM Krishna, actor and dancer Mallika Sarabhai, writer and scholar Shabnam Hashmi, poet Gauhar Raza, and thousands of others signed a statement condemning the government’s prosecution of the activist and former IPS officers.

CJP stands in solidarity with the human rights defenders targeted by a vindictive state. A healthy democracy needs voices of dissent. We also need human rights defenders and social activists to work tirelessly to uphold our shared values of equality, peace and justice. Join CJP now!

“The state has now used the observations made in the judgment to falsely and vindictively prosecute those who had struggled for justice even in the face of state callousness and complicity. It is truly an Orwellian situation of the lie becoming the truth, when those who fought to establish the truth of what happened in the Gujarat genocide of 2002 are being targeted,” they said in a statement released on June 27.

Taking a look at the FIR, signatories pointed out that the document marks the period of offence from January 1, 2002 to June 25, 2022. This means that every effort for justice for victims of 2002, be it petitions filed in the High Court, Supreme Court or the Magistrates’ court, is sought to be criminalised.

“The ordinary process of litigation to make the state accountable by establishing guilt of those accused of serious crimes is tarred with the criminal brush. We condemn this naked and brazen attempt to silence and criminalize those who stand for constitutional values and who have struggled against very difficult odds to try to achieve justice for the victims of 2002. We demand that this false and vindictive FIR be taken back unconditionally and Teesta Setalvad and others detained under this FIR be released immediately,” said signatories.

To walk the talk, the coalition of human rights activists called for pan-India protests on June 27, 2022. Members said that the demonstration also criticises the Supreme Court judgement in the Zakia Jafri case and the observations made against Setalvad, RB Sreekumar, Sanjiv Bhatt and others who fought for justice. They also appealed to the apex court to review its own judgement in the aforementioned case.

Several cities answered this call for demonstrations. Particularly, people in Bengaluru in Karnataka and Kolkata in West Bengal who have continued to hold demonstrations since Sunday.

Bengaluru

On Sunday morning, Bengaluru activists commenced a protest at Town Hall in solidarity with the two arrested. Videos show people, including a child, holding posters demanding “Justice for Teesta and Sajiv” and the Preamble of the Constitution.

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Earlier, the All India Lawyers Union (AILU) had expressed solidarity with Setalvad. On Monday, young lawyers held a protest outside the City Civil Court complex.

Lawyers hold protest in Bengaluru

Kolkata

In Kolkata, various progressive organizations gathered at Moulali and Rajabazar areas to condemn arrests. These demonstrations are part of a series of protests that began hours after Setalvad’s arrest.

On June 26, West Bengal’s Left Front organised a mass march in Kolkata demanding the immediate release of Setalvad and the former Gujarat State Director General of Police R. B. Sreekumar.

According to Newsclick, Left Front chairman Biman Bose, prominent actor Badsha Maitra, social activist Saira Shah Halim and other prominent personalities marched as well. The rally was led by CPM state-secretary Mohammad Salim.

Delhi

In Delhi, All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP)’s Ashok Chowdhary and Roma Malik, social activist and filmmaker Gauhar Raza, Professor Shamsul Islam, Democratic Teachers’ Front President Nandita Narain joined the activists and protesters gathered at Jantar Mantar to demand justice for Teesta Setalvad. There was heavy deployment of security forces including the CRF, RAF and Delhi police. On officer expressed surprise at the crowd gathered in support of the arrested amidst high humidity and heat.

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Regarding the whole incident Narain said, “We condemn this arrest. It is unprecedented that the petitioners have been told to be put in the dock by the court. Why are they saying they are motivated? To say this was a conspiracy means that no state process can be challenged? Where are our constitutional rights?”

Attendees chanted “Free all political prisoners” during the speeches by leaders and thinkers. Shamsul Islam also spoke about the judgement and pointed out that the verdict includes the words of the police. However, it does not name the person who wrote the judgement.

Meanwhile, Gauhar Raza said, “This [the arrests] is a message that if you stand with Muslims you will face the same action like Teesta has. The court and police are being seen standing with the killers.”

Varanasi

Varanasi’s Nagrik Samaj took answered the call for dissent amidst huge police force at Shastri Ghat. Senior people, academics, people from different walk, social activists, lawyers, media persons supported Teesta Setalvad. Women activists gave the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (ACJM) a memorandum of their demands.

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Although the protest ended early owing to pressure from security personnel, Senior Samajwadi Party leader Vijay Narayan Singh, Sunil Sahasrabuddhe, Professor R P Singh, Aflatoon, Lenin, Rajendra Chaudhary, Manish, Praval, farmer leader Ramjanam, Luxman Prasad, Advocate Abdullah, Abu Hashim and other social activists were present to show their support for Teesta Setalvad.

People gathered and sang songs of solidarity while a person held a poster with the words “I am Teesta”. CJP’s Varanasi Coordinator and social activist Muniza Khan said, “We demand the release of Setalvad and Sreekumar. Regarding the Supreme Court decision, we see for the first time that the petitioner herself is being questioned. We appeal to the court to reconsider this decision.”

Listen to her full statement here:

 

Mumbai

Activists in Mumbai gathered outside Dadar railway station demanding immediate release of Teesta Setalvad, RB Sreekumar and Sanjiv Bhatt. The protesters, including trade unionists, demanded that the ruling regime stop abusing their power.

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Other locations

A protest meeting was held in front of the Secretariat, Trivandrum, Kerala. It was organised by the Purogamana Kala Sahitya Sangham (Progressive Association of Arts and Letters).

 

More protests were observed in Jaipur, Ranchi, Ajmer, Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Lucknow, Allahabad, Chandigarh, Chennai, Dhulia, Raipur. etc.

Individual solidarity also came from Left Word Books publication Editor Vijay Prasad. Speaking about Setalvad’s book ‘Foot Soldier of the Constitution’, he focused on a comment by historian Romila Thapar who said she wished for more citizens like Setalvad.

“Today that citizen Teesta Setalvad is in prison. Free Teesta Setalvad,” said Prasad in his video.

 

Related:

Teesta Setalvad inspires art from behind bars

Chorus demanding justice for Teesta Setalvad grows louder!

Ahmedabad court remands Teesta Setalvad to police custody till July 1

Support pours in for Teesta Setalvad

Release Teesta Setalvad: Indian Human Rights groups and activists

Huge outpouring of solidarity and support for Teesta Setalvad

PRESS RELEASE: Teesta Setalvad roughed up as Gujarat ATS personnel barge into her home

I fear for my life: Teesta Setalvad allegedly roughed up by Gujarat ATS personnel

 

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