Explainer: Who is Teesta Satalvad? Why was she arrested?

In connection with spreading ‘misinformation’ about the 2002 Gujarat riots, which claimed hundreds of lives, whose burnt stench still lingers in a few colonies of Gujarat, Teesta Satalvad was detained by the state’s anti-terrorist police on June 25, in Mumbai.

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The government had stated to parliament that 2,500 people had been injured, 223 additional individuals were reported missing, and 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus had died.

An FIR was lodged against her by Darshansinh B. Barad, who is a police inspector in the Ahmedabad police’s crime branch. Along with Teesta, two others – IPS officers Sanjeev Bhatt and R.B. Sreekumar – have been named. While Bhatt is already serving a jail sentence for another case, Sreekumar was arrested with Teesta.

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The FIR states that Teesta along with Bhatt and Sreekumar ‘conspired, fabricated and spread fake and malicious information’ against several persons, including those working in the state government, that could possibly lead to punishment as high as capital punishment.

This development came hours after the Union Home Minister Amit Shah in an interview with news agency ANI accused her of spreading baseless information about the riots to the police, in the Gujarat riots case.

This also comes after the Supreme Court on June 24 dismissed the appeal filed by Zakia Jafri, wife of Congress leader Ehsan Jafri, who was brutally killed during the violence at Ahmedabad’s Gulberg Society in 2002, challenging the SIT’s clean chit to the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and others during the riots in the state.

The Supreme Court also stated that Teesta Setalvad exploited the emotions of petitioner Zakia Jafri.

The FIR cites various provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including 468 (forgery for the purpose of cheating), 471 (using as genuine a forged document or electronic records), 120(B) (criminal conspiracy), 194 (giving or fabricating false evidence with the intent to procure conviction of capital offence), and 211 (false charge of offence made to injure).

Who is Teesta Satalvad?

Teesta Satalvad is an activist and a journalist. She hails from a Gujarati family. Her grandfather MC Setalvad was independent India’s first Attorney General.

Setalvad’s career as a mainstream journalist started in 1983. She has worked with Mumbai editions of The Daily (India) and The Indian Express newspapers, and Business India magazine.

In 1993, she along with her husband quit their mainstream jobs and started a monthly magazine called the Communal Combat. She is a feminist and campaigns for the rights for Dalits, Muslims and women.

Citizens for Justice and Peace

Teesta is the Secretary and co-founder of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP). CJP is an organisation that advocates for the victims of the Gujarat riots of 2002. It was founded by her husband Javed Anand (a journalist). The NGO campaigns and fights for Minority Rights, Freedom of Expression, Criminal Justice Reforms and Child Rights and Education.

The NGO handles the Gulbarg Society incident in which Congressman Ehsan Jafri along with 68 people was brutally murdered by the mob of Hindutva. The Gujarat riots were in fact a trigger to the killing of 59 kar sevaks who were burnt alive in a Godhra train on February 27, 2002.

The NGO is seeking a criminal trial against the then chief minister and present Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with several other politicians and government officials for not doing much when the riots were happening.

In latest developments, the special investigation team (SIT) has given a clean chit to Narendra Modi in the Gulbarg Society incident.

Allegations against Teesta

It is alleged that Teesta and her husband Javed collected funds to the tune of Rs 6 crore to Rs 7 crore in the “name of riot victims”. They launched a fund collection drive-through advertisement owned by their magazine and used that money for personal interests.

Another allegation is that in 2009, Teesta accepted donations from a US-based Ford Foundation and violated foreign exchange laws.

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