Indian activist accuses govt of 'vendetta'

Ms Teesta Setalvad, a critic of PM Modi, is being probed over claims of illegal funding.
Ms Teesta Setalvad, a critic of PM Modi, is being probed over claims of illegal funding.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MUMBAI • A long-time critic of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi over religious riots 13 years ago says an investigation into allegations that she received illegal funding is a "vendetta" designed to silence her.

Activist Teesta Setalvad said she was being targeted by the government because of her fierce criticism of Mr Modi following deadly violence in Gujarat state in 2002 when he was chief minister.

"It's nothing short of a vendetta because, even if it were to be seen as an offence, it's an economic offence if at all, and it should be examined by the courts," she said.

India's Central Bureau of Investigation registered a case against Ms Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand on July 8 and raided their home and offices a week later.

The agency is looking into whether Ms Setalvad's non-governmental organisation Sabrang received funding from the US-based Ford Foundation without government permission.

In a statement, it said the sum involved was over 10 million rupees (S$214,300) and that it began its investigation after a complaint from India's Ministry of Home Affairs.

Ms Setalvad described the raid as "an abuse of state power" timed to prevent her from helping the widow of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri in her legal battle over his killing in the riots.

Ms Jafri is challenging a 2013 court decision that cleared Mr Modi and other high-ranking Gujarat officials of any responsibility for the riots which left some 2,000 people dead, most of them Muslims.

Her husband was among scores of Muslims burnt alive when a Hindu mob torched a housing colony in Ahmedabad that became known as the Gulbarg Society massacre.

Ms Setalvad has campaigned for victims of the riots through Sabrang and her other organisation Citizens for Justice and Peace.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2015, with the headline 'Indian activist accuses govt of 'vendetta''. Print Edition | Subscribe