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Statement On The Arrest of Ms. Teesta Setelvad & Mr. R. B. Sreekumar In India

June 26, 2022

Justice For All is gravely concerned for the safety of well-known Indian Human Rights defender and lawyer, Teesta Setalvad. Ms. Setelvad worked tirelessly to bring justice for the victims of the 2002 genocidal pogroms against Muslims. 

In 2002, the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, overlooked a genocidal pogrom against Muslims in the state of Gujarat, where he was then the Chief Minister. That caused him to be banned from entry in the USA, Canada and UK for ten years until he acquired diplomatic immunity on becoming the Prime Minister of India.

Ms. Setelvad has been working diligently to get justice for the widow of Ahsan Jafri, a Muslim member of the Parliament who was killed in Gujarat pogram. Zakia Jafri, Ahsan Jafri’s wife had petitioned the Supreme Court of India, challenging the all-clear that was accorded to the then Chief Minister by a Special Investigation team. Ms. Setelvad is a co-petitioner in the case. On June 25, 2022, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition. However, the court went much further, and implied that petitioners had wasted the court’s time. Further, the judgment opined that all those involved in what it considered as “abuse of process” should face legal proceedings against them.

The day after this dismissal, the Gujarat Police raided the home of Ms. Setelvad, and arrested her. The First Information Report under which she was arrested accuses her of tutoring Ms. Jafri in relation to the petition filed. Setalvad and her NGO, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), have been at the forefront in the legal battle for the riots survivors, especially in the Gulbarg Society massacre case, where Ms. Jafri’s husband was murdered.

In addition to Ms. Setelvad, a retired senior police official, Mr. Sreekumar, who had alleged that law and order agencies were involved during the 2002 pogroms was arrested. Also named in the FIR, is Sanjiv Bhatt, a police official in the state of Gujarat in 2002, who had also filed affidavits against the then Chief Minister. Mr. Bhatt is currently in jail serving a life sentence for accusations that many experts believe were falsely brought against him. By using a large timeframe, from 2002 to 2022, of the accusations, the FIR essentially seeks to criminalize all affidavits and petitions that may have been filed by those named in that interval. This is highly irregular.

The circumstances of Ms. Setalvad and Mr. Sreekumar’s arrest are very suspect. India’s police and judiciary is considered by many experts as subservient to the government of Narendra Modi. Ms. Setelvad has been beaten and abused by police officials, and her safety should be of concern to all justice seeking people of the world.

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