UN Official Condemns Detention of Teesta Setalvad, Demands Immediate Release

“Teesta is a strong voice against hatred and discrimination," the UN official said in a tweet.

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Mary Lawlor, the United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, took to Twitter on Sunday, 26 June, condemning the detention of activist-journalist Teesta Setalvad (now arrested) by the Crime Branch, Ahmedabad.

In her tweet, the UN official said: 

“Teesta is a strong voice against hatred and discrimination. Defending human rights is not a crime. I call for her release and an end to persecution by Indian state.”

Setalvad was detained by the Crime Branch in Mumbai on Saturday and taken to Ahmedabad later that night.

The action follows the Gujarat Police's first information report (FIR) which names Setalvad, Former Director General of Police of Gujarat RB Sreekumar, and suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt for alleged fabrication of evidence in the 2002 Gujarat riots case.


Along with the UN official, the Indian American Muslim Council, too, criticised the arrest of Setalvad and Sreekumar in a tweet. The council also strongly criticised the case against IPS Sanjeev Bhatt who is currently serving a life imprisonment sentence in connection with a 1990 custodial death case.

The council's tweet read:

"Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) strongly condemns the arrest of Human Rights activist Teesta Setalvad and former IPS officer RB Sreekumar by the Gujarat police for their activism seeking justice for the victims of 2002 Gujarat pogrom."

"IAMC also condemns the FIR by the Gujarat police against Sanjeev Bhatt the former IPS officer who was previously sentenced to life imprisonment. He had famously filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court detailing PM Modi’s complicity in the anti-Muslim violence," the tweet further read.

Council Accuses 'RSS Offshoots' of Organising the Riots

"Orchestrated by the Hindu right-wing offshoots of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), more than 2000 Muslims were burnt and butchered under the watch of the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was then the Chief Minister of the state," the IAMC tweeted.

The council further said, "In several high-profile cases related to the Gujarat pogrom, the perpetrators have either been acquitted by the infamous and compromised Special Investigations Team (SIT) or granted bail after being convicted."

The IAMC also said that the denial of justice to Muslim victims and the arrest of activists compounds the enormity of the crimes committed against them in 2002.

Ajit Sahi, the IAMC's advocacy director, claimed that India's democratic pillars have collapsed.

"India's judiciary now mirrors the judiciary of an authoritarian regime, and all the democratic pillars have collapsed, including the judiciary and the legislature."
IAMC advocacy director Ajit Sahi

Rasheed Ahmed, the executive director of the council, said that the retaliation against Teesta, RB Sreekumar, and Sanjiv Bhatt is a result of their constant fight against the government through their activism.

Gujarat Police reportedly wants to question Teesta Setalvad about her statements concering the violence at Ahmedabad's Gulberg Society post the Godhra train burning incident in 2002.

Her detention came soon after Home Minister Amit Shah accused her of giving "baseless" information related to the 2002 Gujarat riots to the police.


What Happened in Gujarat in 2002?

Over 59 people returning from Ayodhya died when a coach of the Sabarmati Express was set ablaze in Godhra, Gujarat on 27 February 2002.

The following day, on 28 February, 69 more died in Gulberg society after a mob set fire to homes. Former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was also hacked to died amidst the violence.

The Supreme Court on Friday, 24 June 2022, dismissed the allegations by Zakia Jafri, the wife of Ehsan Jafri, of a "larger conspiracy" against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other Gujarat officials.

The court, in its judgment, read that Setalvad, a co-petitioner in the case, had exploited the emotions of Zakia Jafri.

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