Who is Teesta Setalvad? An activist who got arrested hours after Amit Shah slammed her on Gujarat riots!

Activist-journalist Teesta Setalvad was arrested on Saturday- June 25 in Gujarat by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS). Her arrest has made headlines across the nation as it has come hours after Union Home Minister Amit Shah has slammed her for the Gujarat riots and a day after the Supreme Court upheld the clean chit given to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by a Special Investigation Team (SIT), during the Gujarat riots in 2002, when Modi was the Chief Minister. 

The Gujarat ATS officials have arrested Setalvad in Mumbai and she was later taken to Ahmedabad. According to the FIR that has been filed against her, Setalvad and two former IPS officers have been booked for allegedly giving false information about the Gujarat riots. The former IPS officers who are booked in the case are Sanjiv Bhatt and RB Sreekumar. The arrest has spurred outrage from the fellow activists who flay the arrest as arbitrary detention.

As per the FIR, Setalvad, along with Zakia Jaffri, the wife of slain Congress MLA Eshan Jaffri, had moved several petitions to the Supreme Court alleging a larger conspiration in the Gujarat riots and they were also accused of giving false information to the Special Investigation Team (SIT), that was probing the riots. All the accused have been booked under sections 468 - forgery for purpose of cheating, 471- using forged documents as genuine, 194 - giving or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction of a capital offence and other relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code. 

The FIR said that the investigation has found that false information was given through the petitions. Based on the complaint, the Gujarat ATS sleuths had arrested Setalvad in Mumbai. She was arrested a day after the apex court has ruled out her pleas and upheld the clean chit given by the SIT to then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 63 others in the riots that happened after the Godhra incident, which killed 58 Hindu pilgrims. 

The riots were unleashed as violence against the minority Muslim population of Gujarat. Many brutal killings and rapes were reported in the state. The then Chief Minister Narendra Modi was accused of condoning the violence. However, in 2012, the SIT appointed by the Supreme Court cleared Modi from the charges and it also rejected the claims that the state government under Modi didn't do enough to prevent the riots. However, journalist Teesta Setalvad had sought a criminal trial against Narendra Modi and other involved government officials for alleged complicity in the Gujarat riots.

Setalvad and Zakia Jaffri had moved to the Supreme Court against the clean shit given to Modi by the SIT and they alleged a larger conspiracy in the Gujarat riots. However, after years of hearing, the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar has on Friday rejected her claims and upheld the clean shit to Modi by SIT. While upholding the clean shit, the apex court said that Setalvad exploited the emotions of petitioner Zakri Jaffri for her personal gain. 

In its ruling, the court said that Setalvad's antecedents must be examined as she is vindictively pursuing the case for her ulterior design by emotionally exploiting Zakia Jaffri, the real victim of the circumstances-- Zakia's husband Eshan was among the 68 people killed at the violence in Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002. The top court has further noted that there is a need for further investigation into Teesta Setalvad as she was using Zakia Jaffri's feelings in the case for her own benefit. The court ruling in favour of Prime Minister Modi has drawn huge attention. 

Following the verdict, an FIR was filed against Setalvad and two former IPS officers and the FIR further said, "The final report submitted by the SIT indicates that Teesta Setalvad had conjured, concocted, forged, and fabricated facts and documents or evidence including fabrication of documents by persons who were prospective witnesses of the complainant. It is not only a case of fabrication of documents, but also of influencing and tutoring the witnesses and making them depose on pre-typed affidavits.

Amit Shah's remarks: 

Her arrest has gained more spotlight as it has come hours after Union Home Minister Amit Shah's remarks against her on the Gujarat riots and he slammed that Setalvad gave baseless information to the police regarding the riots. In an interview with ANI on Saturday- June 25, Amit Shah said, "The affidavits of several victims (of the Gujarat riots) were signed by an NGO run by Teesta Setalvad, and the victims did not even know about this. Her NGO got support from the Union government run by the UPA. All this was done only to target Narendra Modi."

By citing that Narendra Modi bore the pain for several years, Amit Shah said, "Everyone knows Zakia Jaffri acted on someone else's behest." He claimed that despite the false allegations, the BJP had the trust of the people of Gujarat who kept voting for the party. "I have read the judgment very carefully. The judgement clearly mentions the name of Teesta Setalvad. The NGO that was being run by her - I don't remember the name of the NGO- had given baseless information about the riots to the police", Amit Shah added. 

Amit Shah has also dismissed allegations that BJP had influenced the SIT constituted to probe the case. He said, "The SIT was not constituted by us. It was by the Supreme Court. Neither did we select the officials, it was done by the Supreme Court after hearing from the NGO. The officers were not from the BJP-ruled states, they were from the Central government. By that time the Central government was UPA." He further said that Setalvad's NGO had submitted applications to the police stations against the BJP workers and they were sought as truth. 

Who is Teesta Setalvad? 

60-year-old Setalvad has been a notable civil rights activist and journalist. She has been serving as the Secretary of 'Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP)', an organization that is mainly fighting the Gujarat riots of 2002. Born into a Gujarati family, Teesta Setalvad was the daughter of Atul Setalvad, a Mumbai-based lawyer. Notably, Teesta's paternal grandfather MC Setalvad was India's first and longest-serving Attorney General. She has decided to pursue a career in journalism after reading the book 'All the President's men' which was presented to her by her father.

She had worked in various news agencies and she is married to Javed Anand, who is a minority rights activist. Along with her husband and a handful of people, Teesta Setalvad established an NGO 'Citizens for Justice and Peace' on April 1, 2002. The NGO began fighting against the alleged complicity of Narendra Modi in the Gujarat riots and she had a success when one of the cases linked with the riots was transferred to Maharashtra by the Supreme Court. However, in 2013, all the cases filed by the NGO were dismissed at all three levels of the judiciary. 

Notably, Teesta Setalvad authored the chapter 'When Guardians Betray: The Role of the Police' in the book 'Gujarat: The making of a tragedy', which is about the Gujarat riots. She also had invited allegations including the alleged tampering of witnesses and collecting donations from the victims of the Gujarat riots and using funds in a misappropriated way. She was also accused of violating the Foreign Contribution Regulations Act (FCRA) after receiving donations from the United States without government approval. 

After the Supreme Court's upholding of the clean shit given to Modi, Setalvad has now been arrested on the grounds that she had given false information about the riots. The case was filed in Gujarat and a Gujarat ATS team has arrived at Setalvad's residence in Mumbai's Juhu on Saturday and took her to Santacruz Police Station in Mumbai. She was later arrested and taken to Ahmedabad for further probe.