11, Jul 2022 | CJP Team
Voices of support are still pouring in for journalist, activist and educationist Teesta Setalvad, even as she continues to remain behind bars, in a trumped-up case foisted upon her by a vindictive regime.
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), has called her detention arbitrary and demanded urgent international intervention into the matter. In a statement released recently, itsaid that she was detained “in retaliation to her legal actions seeking truth, justice, and reparation for the victims of the 2002 Gujarat communal riots, a series of acts of religious violence targeting the Muslim community, which resulted in the killing of at least 2,000 individuals. Ms. Setalvad is the co-founder and Secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP).”
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The group also took umbrage to how she was treated during the entire ordeal, saying, “Ms. Setalvad has been arbitrarily detained since June 25, 2022. That day, officers of the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of the Gujarat police entered her house in Mumbai, Maharashtra State, and arbitrarily detained her without a warrant. She was physically attacked in her house by the ATS officers when she requested to have access to her lawyer and had a large bruise on her left hand as a result. Moreover, she was not shown the First Information Report (FIR) filed against her until her lawyer arrived, one hour later. Police subsequently took her to Santa Cruz police station in Mumbai, where she filed a complaint against her arbitrary detention and the police’s physical assault, and expressing fear for her life while in custody.”
“The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary arrest and detention of Teesta Setalvad, and of whistle-blowers Sanjiv Bhatt and R.B. Sreekumar, and expresses its 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,” said the group, mincing no words. It called for her immediate and unconditional release. The entire statement may be read here.
Human Rights Watch, has also appealed for Setalvad’s immediate release saying, “The Indian authorities should immediately release the prominent human rights activist Teesta Setalvad, drop all charges against her, and stop their relentless attacks against her.” “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.” The entire statement may be read here.
CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, had also condemned Setalvad’s arrest, and called on the government of India “to stop targeting human rights defenders. The arrest is the latest attempt by the Modi government to criminalise activists and undermine civic space in the country.”
“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 entire statement may be read here.
Earlier, the Constitutional Conduct Group (CCG), a group of former civil servants, has made an open statement on the Supreme Court order in the Zakia Jafri case, saying that they “are deeply anguished by some of the contents of that judgement and the arrests that have followed in its wake.”
As many as 92 people including former Mumbai top cop Julio Ribeiro, activist Aruna Roy, former secretary of the National Human Right Commission (NHRC) PSS Thomas, former Home Secretary GK Pillai, former Joint Commissioner of Police (Delhi) Maxwell Pereira were signatories to the statement.
The CCG said, “It is not just the dismissal of the appeal that has surprised people – an appeal may, after all, be allowed or dismissed by an appellate court; it is the gratuitous comments that the bench has pronounced on the appellants and the counsel and the supporters of the appellants.”
The group also minced no words in describing the shocking aftermath of the judgment, saying, “The immediate action of the state in arresting human rights lawyer Teesta Setalvad and former DGP, RB Sreekumar, as well as filing a fresh case against Sanjiv Bhatt, who is already in prison, clearly occurred because the Supreme Court told the State government authorities to put those who ‘kept the pot boiling’ ‘in the dock’, though these persons were neither the appellants nor the accused in the case.” The entire statement may be read here.
Furthermore, over 2,200 people from across the globe had 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 Roop Rekha 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.
“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.They further said, “We condemn this naked and brazen attempt to silence and criminalise 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.” The entire statement may be read here.
In fact, educationist Roop Rekha Verma, who is the former Vice Chancellor of the Lucknow University,issued another more personal statement saying, “I have known Teesta Setalvad for more than 30 years. She is a soulmate! An uncompromising fighter for human rights. A fearless champion of equal citizenship and rule of law. Teesta has always stood for liberal values, equal citizenship and composite culture. She has raised unequivocal voice against all forms of divisive and backward-looking conduct.”
She further said, “I know closely how she has risked her safety in order to get justice to the victims of violence irrespective of the victim’s caste or creed. Today, when she herself is the victim of injustice, I wish to declare that I stand with her. I support her cause of justice, rule of law and democratic values. I demand withdrawal of all cases fabricated against her.”