Teesta Setalvad Biography

Indian Journalist and Civil Rights Activist, Teesta Setalvad was born on 9th February 1962 in a Gujarati Hindu family and has turned 58 this year. She took birth in the house of her father Atul Setalvad and mother Sita Setalvad in Mumbai. She belongs to a sophisticated family as her father was a Mumbai based lawyer and her paternal grandfather M.C. Setalvad was India’s first attorney general. She has always been ardent towards bringing social and political integrity in the society.

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Despite coming from the legal heritage, Teesta was determined to pursue her career in Journalism when she read a book named ‘All the President’s Men’ brought by her father. Eventually, she did law for two years, left out and completed her Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from Bombay University in 1983. Then she began her career as a Journalist. She worked for the Mumbai editions – The Daily (India), The Indian Express Newspapers and Business India magazine.

Teesta holds the position of secretary of CJP (Citizens for Justice and Peace), an organisation established to battle for justice for the victims of communal violence in the state of Gujarat in 2002.

Teesta Setalvad Cibil Right Activist Career

This advocacy of Teesta Setalvad seeking justice for Gujarat victims has put her into frequent legal conflicts with the Gujarat government, primarily under then chief minister Narendra Modi and under Chief Minister Anandiben Patel and its officials. She is looking for criminal trials of Modi and 62 other politicians and government officials for alleged complicity in the Gujarat riots of 2002. Nobody’s names are registered in the FIRs but four of the incriminated had been chargesheeted and two of them named Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi have been detained. The Gujarat High Court had vindicated Maya Godnani in April 2018.

She encountered the first communal violence when she took the coverage of 1984 riots in 1984. Her voyage as a mainstream journalist was ephemeral. Later, she and her husband left their jobs and instigated Communalism Combat, an advocacy magazine.

Setalvad and her husband allianced with others like father Cedric Prakash, Anil Dharker (a journalist), Alyque Padamsee, Javed Akhtar, Vijay Tendulkar and Rahul bose (All film and theatre personalities) established a NGO called ‘Citizens for Justice and Peace on 1st April, 2002. She took out a rally for rights and privileges of Dalits, Muslims and Women. She is the official spokesperson of Sabrang Communications organisation which struggles for human rights.

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Setalvad’s application is still pending against the Special Investigation Team who found no proof against Modi in the Ehsan Jafri case. Ehsan Jafri case is the part of the Gulberg society case in which 69 people were assassinated during the 2002 riots. Setalvad and his trusts have registered 68 cases on behalf of the 2002 Gujarat violence sufferers who have acquired the judgement of 117 people.

Teesta is a stalwart feminist who fights for the rights and privileges of Dalits, Muslims and women. She established the organisation named ‘Women in the Media Committee’ who looks out to gather women journalists to lift job-related concerns and spread awareness of gender sensitivity in writing and reporting on matters concerning women. 

Apart from the journalist work, she had headed the project ‘Khoj: Education for A pluralistic India’. She is also a member of the Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy. She is the General Secretary of People’s Union for Human Rights. 

On 10th June, 2002, Teesta gave evidence at the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom against the BJP-led Gujarat government’s role in the post-Godhra communal violence. 

Teesta has originated the institution called Journalists Against Communalism. 

Teesta Setalvad Personal Life

Teesta Setalvad got married to journalist turned minority rights activist Javed Anand. He is the founder of Mumbai-based Sabrang Communications in 1983. Both of them together co-edit the monthly Communalism Combat magazine being published since 1993. The couple is blessed with two children – one daughter named Tamara and one son named Jibran. 

Teesta has been conferred with many accolades for her extraordinary role as an activist and journalist. In 1993, she received PUCL Journalism for Human Rights Award and Chameli Devi Jain Award for Outstanding Women Media Person. She was bestowed with Maharana Mewar Foundation’s Hakim Khan Sur Award (jointly with Javed Anand) in 1999, Human Rights Award of the Dalit Liberation Education Trust in 2000, the 2002 Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award given by the Congress party, the 2003 Nuremberg International Human Rights Award, the 2004 Defender of Democracy Award given by Parliamentarians for Global Action, 2004 M.A. Thomas National Human Rights Award from the Vigil India Movement, the 2006 Nani A. Palkhivala Award given by a trust run by the Tata Group and Matoshree Bhimabai Ambedkar Award in 2007. She has garnered Padma Shri in 2007 awarded for Public Affairs in Maharashtra by the Government of India and 2009 FIMA Excellence Award – given by Federation of Indian Muslim Associations in Kuwait. Evangelical group ‘Pax Christi’ has also awarded her as Pax Christi International Peace Award.

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