New judicial harassment of human rights defender Teesta Setalvad
On 15 April 2015, human rights defender Ms Teesta Setalvad released a statement detailing her full co-operation with an investigation launched by Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) Unit after members of the Gujarat Government wrote to the Minister of Home Affairs Mr Rajnath Singh, demanding further probes into the accounts of her NGO Sabrang Trust.
Teesta Setalvad is a journalist and founder of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) and Sabrang Trust. Sabrang Trust was established after the 1992-1993 communal violence in Mumbai, and works to promote communal harmony. CJP was established in April 2002, in the immediate aftermath of the communal violence of the Gujarat riots, to provide legal aid to the survivors of the riots. The organisation has been instrumental in obtaining the 117 convictions against perpetrators of the violence.
According to Gujarat’s Minister of State, Mr Rajnikant Patel, the state government contacted the Home Minister requesting the inquiry into the Setalvad’s Sabrang Trust on the basis of their belief that foreign funds sent to her NGO, in particular by the US-based Ford Foundation, were misused in order “to create communal disharmony” within the state of Gujarat, and carrying out “anti-national propaganda” abroad. Following the letter from the Gujarat Government to the Home Minister, senior officers from the FCRA monitoring unit visited the registered offices of the Sabrang Trust, along with those of Citizens for Justice and Peace. With the full co-operation of Teesta Setalvad and her staff, the inspection team carried out a detailed investigation into the records of both NGOs from 6-8 April 2015, during which hundreds of copies of original accounts and records were provided upon request to the investigation unit.
The intensified investigation into Teesta Setalvad and the work of her NGOs comes in the build up to her anticipatory bail plea, which shall be heard by a 3 member bench of the Supreme Court on 21 April 2015, in relation to legal proceedings pending against her and her spouse, Mr Javed Anand, based on allegations of embezzling funds intended for the construction of a memorial to the victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots.