Indien: Teesta Setalvad

Teesta Setalvad, an activist for communal harmony, has made the headlines for her unceasing efforts to bring to book the defenders of the faith responsible for the brutal murders in Gujarat in 2002.

— Teesta Setalvad

Teesta Setalvad is an activist for communal harmony who has made headlines in India for her valiant efforts to bring to justice those responsible for brutal crimes against women in the Gujarat pogrom in 2002. For more than a decade, Setalvad has worked tirelessly to put the spotlight on human rights' violations in communal situations through her research work, and by organizing interventions such as citizens' inquiries, meetings, and other forms of advocacy, and legal intervention.

Teesta Setalvad began to focus on communal issues when India was in the grip of deep religious conflicts and tensions. The country's cultural plurality was being questioned and threatened by resurgent religious fundamentalism. Teesta, originally a mainstream journalist, decided to respond to the challenge by publishing Communalism Combat, a publication that stood for tolerance and communal amity, and intervened in various ways during communal irruptions. Engagement with these issues came naturally to Teesta. Her father is a legal luminary, an expert in jurisprudence, and an authority on constitutional law; her husband is also a journalist and activist working for communal harmony. Teesta works on conflict amelioration, communal harmony and tolerance, and human rights issues in conflict situations. She also analyzes mechanisms that endanger peace, and documents both violations of human rights and communitarian peacemaking efforts. Furthermore, she negotiates on communal issues, organizes interventions such as citizens' inquiries, meetings, and other forms of advocacy, and seeks legal redress for human rights' abuses. These aspects of her work coalesced after the communal killings in Gujarat in 2002. Teesta's role in trying to nail the guilty earned her widespread respect. She exposed atrocities that had been suppressed and supported victims muted by choice or force. This was particularly evident in the case of Zahira Sheikh, witness in the Best Bakery case, one of the most horrific incidents of communal murder.

Communalism Combat