Teesta Setalvad is an Indian journalist and civil rights activist. She believes in seeking justice through her occupation. Her battle for justice is not easy but she never backed out. Teesta is the secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CPJ). It is an organisation formed in Gujarat to bring justice for victims of communal violence. The organisation’s mission is to expose the political figures that were a part of the violent act by seeking a criminal trial of them. The courageous task is led by this journalist and has been successful with four such cases.
Teesta Setalvad was born on 9th February 1962 in a Gujarati family. Her father Atul Setalvad was a lawyer in Mumbai and her grandfather M.C. Setalvad was the first attorney general of India. The family was well settled in the city.
Her whole education has taken place in Mumbai. Initially she was to become a lawyer and joined a college to study law but dropped out. Next she decided to pursue journalism, a career she immensely respects. She graduated with a degree in Philosophy from Bombay University in 1983. That’s when she started her career and achieved milestones.
She met Javed Anand at ‘The Daily’, Mumbai based newspaper in 1983. They got married in 1987 and had two children, daughter Tamara and son Jibran.
Besides from her activism, she is also a feminist. She has contributed in many organisations supporting women including ‘Woman in Media Committee’. Also she wants equal rights for Muslims, Dalits and minorities.
Communal Combat and CJP
Just after she graduated, she began working for a newspaper called ‘The Daily’. She also reported for ‘Indian Express’ and ‘Business India’. The career for journalism wasn’t normal for her. She along with her husband Javed Anand resigned from their job at ‘The Daily’ and started their own magazine ‘Communal Combat’.
This magazine printed about advocacy. The couple wanted to start this venture for understanding the subject better and to research on it. Then in year 2002 along with other personalities such as Javed Akthar, Vijay Tendulkar, they started an NGO called CJP abbreviated for ‘Citizens for Justice and Peace’ which fights against communal violence. Setalvad came across such a case when she covered a report for 1984 riots in Gujarat. This gave her an initiative to ask for justice. The NGO tried its best to be successful in their mission but the game is far from over. Till the date, their appeals have not been considered. In this corrupt nation, people like Teesta have come and gone but this woman is still standing with her agenda.
Mustered the Courage to Stand against False
She has been trying to do the wrong right but as it is against the government, she has suffered numerous problems. She accused the government officials of Gujarat and also Narendra Modi our Prime Minister, of dividing people on the basis of religion and turning them against each other. It all started with the riots occurred in Gujarat in 2002. Followed by the incident came the ‘Godhra Train Tragedy’, things got heated up when Teesta alleged Narendra Modi of instructing major police officials to kill people. She along with her NGO has opened a petition called ‘Zakri Jafri-CJP Petition’ which is to gain support for the criminal trial of all the accused people.
This reached the Supreme Court and was deeply investigated but in the end was proven false. Her allegations were falsified and dismissed saying that the journalist has cooked up accusations just to gain publicity. But she is a stubborn woman and knows what is right. As she is in an open battle against the government, the road is very difficult. Instead of helping her, people have been accusing her of doing the wrong.
Allegations were made against her saying she created her own witnesses for the incidents. The witnesses said that they saw many crimes happening during the riots. Later it was found that all of them were tutored by Teesta Setalvad. It didn’t end there; she is accused of looting people in the name of donations for the people who suffered in the riots. It was said that she didn’t use the funding properly. Next thing, Sarang Communications which is owned by her husband Javed Anand was convicted of violating the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA).
The problems have been flooding her way to success and she is there on self-motivation. Some of the journalists believe in her vision and support her. In her defence, the journalists have suggested that she is being framed by the Gujarat government to cover up their wrong doers.
Many are with her and many are not, many have deprived her and many are motivating her, she is on a level where no ordinary person can reach.
News and Awards
Being the Journalist she was supposed to make news but she became news. For both journalism and activism, she has received awards and recognition. Till now she has taken over the media for her works. Her achievements are listed below:
- PUCL Journalism for Human Rights Award in 1993
- Chameli Devi Jain Award for outstanding Woman journalist (1993)
- Maharana Mewar Foundation’s Hakim Khan Sur Award in 1999
- Human Rights Award of the Dalit Liberation Education Trust (2000)
- Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award (2002)
- In 2002, she wrote an article for the book ‘Gujarat: A Making of a Tragedy’. The title of the article is ‘When Guardians Betray’.
- Nuremberg International Human Rights Award (2003)
- Defender of Democracy Award (2004)
- M.A. Thomas National Human Rights Award from the Vigil India Movement (2004)
- Nani A Palkhivala Award, given by a trust run by the Tata Group (2006)
- Padma Shri Award by the Government of India in 2007
- FIMA Excellence Award in 2009 given by the Federation of Indian Muslim Associations in Kuwait
Quotes by Teesta Setalvad
“We are trying to establish a chain of command responsibility. Our task is to show that an individual in the position of power could be administratively or criminally culpable.”
“We will study the judgement, we definitely believe that this is the case of criminal conspiracy and we will exercise our right of appeal in it.”
“Who says a politically important interview to address all development and facts?”
She came in as an armour for those who suffered injustice. She has fallen prey to injustice herself yet she never stopped. People have made decisions to call her Heroine or the villain. She is a well discussed personality who has a strong character. Teesta is a together lady and has become an example for many.
Written By: Rituparna Desai