Free Teesta Setalvad: Support and demands for justice growing Journalists, activists and rights groups express solidarity with the human rights defender

28, Jun 2022 | CJP Team

It’s been just three days since activist and Citizens for Peace and Justice (CJP) secretary Teesta Setalvad was picked up from her Mumbai home and whisked away to Ahmedabad by a unit of the Gujarat Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) after a brief pit stop at the Santacruz Police Station. But displays of solidarity are growing stronger and statements of support are pouring in from different national and international quarters.

Support from Human Rights groups

The Working Group of Human Rights in India and the United Nations (WGHR) on June 27, 2022 expressed deep concern about the arrest of member Teesta Setalvad by the Government of India.

“It reflects an aggressive abuse of power and law by the State machinery, in grave breach of the rights and freedoms guaranteed to citizens under the Indian Constitution. This turn of events has also raised questions about the Government’s commitments to human rights and Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), not just domestically but also at the global level,” said the WGHR in a statement.

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!

Setalvad was picked up shortly after the Supreme Court judgement in the Zakia Jafri case endorsed action against people who allegedly brought about a malicious prosecution. But according to Setalvad, she wasn’t shown a copy of either the warrant or the First Information Report (FIR) until her lawyer arrived. Setalvad says she was roughed up by members of the Gujarat ATS when they barged into her home on June 25. Setalvad now stands accused of criminal conspiracy, forgery and giving or fabricating false evidence among other IPC sections. Two former police officers, RB Sreekumar and Sanjiv Bhatt have also been named as her co-conspirators in the FIR. While Bhatt is already in jail under trumped-up charges in a custodial death case, Sreekumar was arrested shortly after Setalvad was picked up.

Condemning this move, the WGHR hailed Setalvad for fighting tirelessly for victims of communal violence. The WGHR called the arrest a retaliation and reprisal for seeking accountability from those in positions of power and for standing with victims of the 2002 riots in Gujarat.

Many notable Indian activists 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 over 2,200 others signed a statement condemning the government’s prosecution of the activist and former IPS officers. They say, “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.”

The signatories pointed out that the FIR 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,” said the activists, adding, “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.

Previously, Elaine Pearson, the Acting Asia Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) had urged governments at the G-7 summit that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is attending at present to raise questions about Setalvad’s arrest.


Now Pearson has tweeted afresh demanding, “The Indian authorities should immediately release the prominent human rights activist Teesta Setalvad, drop all charges against her & stop their relentless attacks against her.


Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also issued a statement demanding that the charges against Setalvad be dropped immediately. “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, adding, “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.”

This is yet another example of international support for Setalvad after Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders demanded Setalvad’s release saying, “Teesta is a strong voice against hatred and discrimination. Defending human rights is not a crime.”

Similarly, international humanitarian organisation Amnesty’s India unit, that has itself faced persecution on trumped up pertaining to obtaining foreign funds, had also called Setalvad’s arrest “a direct reprisal against those who dare to question their human rights record,” and said, “It sends a chilling message to the civil society & further shrinks the space for dissent in the country.”

Meanwhile, Delhi University professor Apoorvanand has written a scathing piece about the entire sordid matter in The Wire, saying, “Between the outrage by the court against the trouble-makers and the arrest was an interview in which the home minister of the Union government of India names the organisation of Teesta Setalvad and indicates that some officials of the state worked to defame the then state government and the chief minister.” He further wrote, “It seems that the interview and the work on the first information report (FIR) by an officer of the Gujarat police naming Teesta, Sreekumar and Sanjiv Bhatt were going on simultaneously. What else explains the knock on the doors of Teesta and Sreekumar within hours of the airing of the interview.”

Support from groups and individuals opposing NRC-CAA

Dr. Hiren Gohain, a noted Assamese intellectual who has been at the forefront of the demand to scrap the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Assam has also come out in support of Teesta Setalvad given how CJP teams have been working tirelessly in Assam to provide legal and paralegal aid to Indian citizens in need in Assam.

CJP had not only helped over 12 lakh Indians fill out NRC application forms, we have also assisted over 50 people in getting released from detention centres during the Covid-19 pandemic in accordance with orders passed by the Supreme Court and the Gauhati High Court. Dr. Gohain has expressed “deep shock” at the “bewildering turn of events that have led to the shocking arrest of noted human rights activist Teesta Setalvad on fantastic charges of wilful and malicious pursuit of subverting  justice,implicating innocents in grave crimes to ruin their reputation with forgery and fraud,and exploiting sentiments of victims of spontaneous riots and violence.”

On the SC judgment itself, Dr. Gohain said, “Their lordships may well have concluded that the petition to set aside the earlier findings and start a fresh enquiry was devoid of merit.The matter should have ended there.But to go farther and denounce the petitioner of bad faith and malign motives is without precedent and rather ominous for the constitutional rights of citizens to seek redress for dangers and injuries to their rights to life and liberty.”

He further said, “Teesta Setalvad,who has a proven record of long, devoted and distinguished work in upholding human rights and securing justice forvictims of riots and communal violence,for which she was honoured with a ‘Padmashree’,does not appear to deserve such an ascription,far less arrest and detention under various sections of the IPC.”

The Joint Forum against NRC has also issued a statement condemning the arrest calling it a “naked act of political vendetta” and condemned how “the complainants are now being accused of conspiracy and being persecuted.” Hailing Teesta Setalvad for her “relentless crusade against perpetrators of the Gujarat pogrom of 2002”, they also praised “her role in defence of those incarcerated in detention centres and the vulnerable NRC-excluded people in Assam” calling it “inspiring”.

Journalists demand justice for Teesta Setalvad

Closer home, the Mumbai Press Club has condemned the human rights defender’s arrest saying that she has been made a scapegoat “in a chilling process of vendetta unleashed by the executive and the judiciary.” They have further said, “It is unacceptable that a person who has been fighting for civil justice should be accused of fabricating evidence and misleading the Special Investigation Team.” Calling for an end to the “politics of vengeance”, they have also demanded that all charges be dropped against Setalvad and she be released immediately.

In a joint statement, the National Alliance of Journalists (NAJ) and the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) condemned the “ugly and motivated, hasty arrest” of Setalvad. NAJ President S. K. Pande and DUJ General Secretary Sujata Modhak among others said, “The arrests smack of an increasingly visible undeclared Emergency that is increasingly becoming visible in continued attacks not only on the freedom of the press but on the democratic rights of citizens which are being bulldozed. Simultaneously, the police seem to be increasingly utilised in witch-hunting of selected persons.”

Similarly, the Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) pointed out that none of the provisions against the activist are cognisable. As such, the Gujarat ATS requires court permission and a warrant to arrest a person.

“The ATS’s dubious explanation at the time that Setalvad was not arrested but detained for questioning also holds no water. A 60-year-old activist with strong roots in the community, Setalvad is not a flight risk and should be questioned by female officers in her home as per law,” said the NWMI in a press statement.

It demanded that the police withdraw the FIR against Setalvad. Members called it an attempt to intimidate and silence citizens seeking to uncover the truth about the communal violence. They also expressed solidarity with Setalvad and called upon the Gujarat government to protect activists pursuing legal and legitimate means for justice instead of browbeating them.

Regarding the Zakia Jafri case itself, NWMI said the petitioners followed due process but the apex court took a long time to dismiss their petition. For this reason, the delay cannot be considered an abuse on the part of the petitioners. Instead, it pointed out how the court’s observation was utilised by the Gujarat police to put at risk all citizens pursuing claims against the government.

In an opinion piece for NDTV, journalist Sagarika Ghose wrote, “As India recalled the 1975 June day when Indira Gandhi’s police hauled dozens of Opposition politicians and journalists to jail, in a stark reminder, on the same day, India again saw state power bearing down on an individual citizen.” About the judgment itself, Ghose wrote, “The judgement delivered rather superfluous and disturbing obiter dicta or opinionated comments, beyond the remit of an evidence-based ruling,” adding, “The phrase “audacity to question” government functionaries is intriguing when the same court, in its Right to Privacy judgement in August 2017, held “those who are governed are entitled to question those who govern about the discharge of their constitutional duties.” Last week’s judgement seems to suggest that questioning government functionaries by victims of horrific communal violence is not an act of citizenship but of ‘audacity’.

Public meetings and protests

Meanwhile public meetings and peaceful protests were organized across the country on Monday June 27.

A meeting of socio-political organisations was called at Shastri Ghat in Varanasi at noon on June 27 by an organization called Nagrik Samaj. 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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


A similar meeting was called at 4 P.M in Patna at the Buddha Smriti Park by women’s rights groups.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Then at 5 P.M, a protest was held near the Hanuman Mandir outside Dadar railway station (East) by various activists and civil society members such as Prakash Reddy, Vidya Chawan, Adv. Mihir Desai, Vivek Monteiro, Milind Ranade, FerozeMithiborwala, Dolphy D’Souza, Varsha Vidya Vilas, Lara Jesani, Guddi, M A Khalid, Vishal Hiwale, Nuruddin Naik among others.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



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

Huge outpouring of solidarity and support for Teesta Setalvad

Free Teesta Setalvad: India’s unequivocal demand


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Go to Top
Nafrat Ka Naqsha 2023