27 Indian Diaspora Groups Slam Arrests of Teesta Setalvad, Sreekumar, Zubair

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Suspension of all norms of justice and gross violation of human and civil rights represents a state of undeclared emergency in India, say diaspora groups

Press Release

WASHINGTON DC – Leading multi-faith and civil society organisations from the Indian diaspora around the world today unequivocally condemned the arrests of human rights defenders Teesta Setalvad and R. B. Sreekumar, as well as journalist Mohammed Zubair in India.

Ms. Setalvad and Sreekumar were both pivotal in bringing justice to the victims of the pogrom against Muslims in 2002 in Gujarat. Mohammed Zubair is the co-founder of fact-checking website AltNews.in. Their arrests by Indian police on trumped-up charges are clearly retribution for their activism and struggle for truth and justice, they said in a statement.

Teesta Setalvad’s NGO, Citizens for Justice and Peace, was established to help victims prosecute officials, including the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi, for the crimes of abetting the pogrom. She worked with Ms. Zakia Jafri, the widow of former Member of Parliament Ehsan Jafri, to pursue the case against Modi at the Supreme Court in 2013.

On February 28, 2002, Ehsan Jafri had provided shelter to Muslims at his home in Ahmedabad city from a mob of Hindu extremists. He made desperate calls to top Gujarat officials including Modi but to no avail. The mob set his housing complex on fire killing 69 people, including Jafri. His widow Zakia Jafri has maintained that Modi and top Gujarat officials conspired in that violence. On June 25, however, India’s Supreme Court dismissed the case and virtually accused Setalvad of hatching a “conspiracy” against Modi.

Hours later, Setalvad was arrested in Mumbai after Home Minister Amit Shah, Modi’s second-in-command, publicly accused her of fabricating evidence and coaching Zakia Jafri to provide false testimony. Setalvad’s arrest is unmistakably politically motivated, said the statement released by the global India diaspora organisations.

Former Director General of Gujarat Police R. B. Sreekumar, who testified that law enforcement officials were complicit in the pogrom, was also arrested on June 26. Former Indian Police Service Officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who is serving a life sentence on other trumped up charges, was also named in the First Information Report (FIR) against Sreekumar. Bhatt’s real crime was highlighting the role of those at the top during the Gujarat pogrom.

The arrest of Setalvad and Sreekumar shows the Supreme Court lacks independence. It sets a dangerous precedent that will discourage individuals from petitioning the Supreme Court with complaints against the Government, said the statement issued by the leading Indian diaspora organisations.

Zubair’s arrest is an assault on freedom of the press and, indeed, on citizens’ right to the truth. Zubair, who is a cofounder of the fact checking website AltNews.in, has played a key role in demolishing falsehoods spread by Hindu nationalists connected with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its ideological parent, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, said the statement. 

The arrests are a stark reminder that the US must actively and publicly combat India’s descent into fascism. As with other arrested activists including Anand Teltumbde, Javed Mohammed, Parveen Fatima and Umar Khalid, the government has arrested and is attempting to silence Setalvad, Sreekumar, Bhatt and Zubair, said the Diaspora groups. The statement has been issued by as many as 27 global Indian diaspora groups:

  1. Indian American Muslim Council, USA
  2. India Civil Watch International, USA
  3. Hindus for Human Rights, USA
  4. Dalit Solidarity Forum, USA
  5. Ambedkar King Study Circle, USA
  6. Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance, USA
  7. Aotearoa Alliance of Progressive Indians (AAPI), New Zealand
  8. Boston South Asian Coalition, USA
  9. Coalition Against Fascism in India, USA
  10. CERAS (Centre sur l’Asie du sud / South Asia Center), Canada
  11. Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation
  12.  (CARE), Aotearoa New Zealand
  13. The Humanism Project, Australia
  14. International Council of Indian Muslims, Worldwide
  15. India Justice Project, Berlin, Germany
  16. India Solidarity Germany, Germany
  17. Indian Solidarity Finland, Finland
  18. International Solidarity For Academic Freedom, Worldwide
  19. International Society for Peace and Justice, USA
  20. Scottish Indians for Justice, United Kingdom
  21. South Asian Diaspora Action Collective, Canada
  22. South Asia Solidarity Group, UK
  23. Justice for All, Canada
  24. Coalition of Seattle Indian Americans (CSIA), USA
  25. Council on Minority Rights in India (CMRI), USA
  26. Community Rights Council of Piscataway, USA
  27.          People Against Apartheid and Fascism, South Africa 

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