Free Teesta Setalvad: Time to defend the Foot-soldier of the Constitution More activists and rights groups demand justice for the incarcerated activist

26, Jul 2022 | CJP Team

Journalist, educationist and human rights defender Teesta Setalvad titled her memoir Foot-soldier of the Constitution, an apt description of her body of work so far, given how she has dedicated her life to upholding and defending the rights and freedoms of all Indians. Therefore, it is no surprise that people from across the country are issuing statements of solidarity and demanding justice for her even a month after her incarceration.

The latest voices of support come from Kerala, where a group of writers, artists and film makers have issued a statement of solidarity saying, “We strongly condemn the arrest of Teesta and Sreekumar by picking up cues from the observations in a Supreme Court judgment (regarding the Gujarat massacre). The efforts of Teesta to protect communal harmony in Gujarat have been noted internationally. The nation honoured her by conferring Padma Shri. R B Sreekumar tried to expose official secrets that shed light on facts that ensured that culprits are brought before the law.” Signatories include film maker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Kerala Sahitya Akademi president K Satchidanandan, writers M Mukundan, N S Madhavan, Sarah Joseph, Vaisakhan, Kureepuzha Sreekumar, among others.

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!

In a piece titled Leaders should also bear responsibility for administrative lapses published in the Indian Express retired IPS officer Vibhuti Narayan Rai offers a rebuttal to a previous piece titled On Gujarat 2002, the wheel has come full circle by serving IPS officer Abhinav Kumar. While Kumar had contended that the top brass of the Gujarat administration could not be blamed for their failure to control the violence, Rai says, “Anybody who has even a little knowledge of the system of governance in India knows that it is always top driven.” This is significant with respect to the Zakia Jafri case that had aimed to hold accountable people who were in power in Gujarat at the time of the 2002 communal violence. The entire piece by Rai may be read here.

In a piece for The Tribune, sociologist Shiv Viswanath wrote, “For Teesta, the Constitution is a playground of new freedoms.” He lauded her for “struggling for 20 years to find and state the truth of a society” and said that because of her life-long commitment to human rights, “Teesta has to be a part of memory, not record.” He further says, “The human rights records of the Setalvad family from Independence to now are worth looking at as a testimony in its own right. It tells you about the traditions across generations of treating human rights with a different texture of respect.” The entire piece titled Fate of Human Rights in India may be read here.

Previously, another human rights defender – former Mumbai Police Commissioner Julio Ribeiro – in a piece titled Grieving for Teesta in The Tribune, had drawn attention to Setalvad’s work, and said, “Teesta went about her mission relentlessly and succeeded. The courts, especially the Supreme Court, saw the justice in her pleadings and helped the process of delivering it.” He also drew attention to her family’s track record in defending human rights, and said, “Teesta belongs to an eminent jurist clan known for its integrity and passion for justice.” The entire piece may be read here.

The Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR) Punjab has also strongly condemned the “unjustified and unfair arrest” and demanded Setalvad’s immediate release. “Teesta and her legal team supported ZakiaJaffri steadfastly throughout her entire legal fight. That is why she has been made special target and arrested. It is nothing but confirmation of reversal of legal justice system in which complainants are being treated as criminal, it is the same process as is being followed to bulldoze down without following any laid down legal procedures,” said the AFDR.


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