The call for her immediate release gained momentum across with human rights defenders and civil society activists coming forward to lend voice to her cause.
Zafar Aafaq | Clarion India
NEW DELHI – The arrest of Teesta Setalvad, the human rights activist and advocate of victims of the Gujarat riots, has sparked widespread outrage with a United Nations expert and global rights bodies calling for her “immediate release”.
Setalvad and two former top police officers, Director-General of Police (DIG) RB Sreekumar and jailed IPS officer Sajeev Bhat, were booked on Saturday in a case of alleged forgery and conspiracy to implicate innocent persons. The move came a day after the Supreme Court upheld the SIT’s clean chit to Narendra Modi in the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat that left approximately 2,000 people dead, most of them Muslims, when he was chief minister.
Setalvad was the co-petitioner in the case filed by Zakia Jafri, wife of Ehsan Jafri, a member of parliament (MP) who was killed along with 60 others when a Hindu mob stormed the Gulbarg Society where they lived. On Friday, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition while upholding the clean chit given to Modi by the SIT.
In its order, the apex court observed that “all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with the law.”
The police accused the trio of conspiracy and forgery to send innocent persons to jail. The FIR invoked different sections of the IPC including 194 (Giving or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction of capital offence); 211 (False charge of offence made with intent to injure); 218 (Public servant framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save a person from punishment or property from forfeiture); 468 (Forgery for purpose of cheating); 471 (Using as genuine a forged document or electronic record); Read with 120 B (Criminal Conspiracy).
However, senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan termed the case against Setalvad and others a mala fide act and said the remarks of the Supreme Court were “totally unwarranted”. He said that the petitioners approached the court on the basis of evidence.
The UN expert on human rights defenders Mary Lawlor “Deeply concerned by reports of #WHRD (Human Rights Defender) Teesta Setalvad being detained by Anti-Terrorism Squad of Gujarat police”. She called Setalvad a strong voice against hatred and discrimination and called for her immediate release.
Front Line Defenders, a human rights defender group, said they were “alarmed” by the action against Setalvad.
“Gujarat Anti-Terror police forcibly entered her home and detained her without basis. We call for her immediate release and an end to her legal persecution as punishment for her peaceful human rights work,” the group said.
Similarly, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders also expressed concern over Setalvad’s arrest calling for her “immediate release”.
Kavita Krishanan, a prominent civil liberties activist, said that the police action will have a chilling effect on civil society in India. She said that Modi and Amit Shah have resorted to “revenge action” against petitioners.
Former chairman of Delhi Minorities Commission Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan called RB Sreekumar an “upright” police officer “who was intelligence chief of Gujarat at the time of 2002 riots and had the courage to expose what he saw”. He contended that he was paying the “price for telling the truth”.
Meanwhile, some groups have called for demonstrations against the arrest of Setalvad and the police officers on Monday.