Teesta Sitalwad: arrest of an activist who is descendant of a legendary family.

Teesta Sitalwad has been arrested last week by Anti-terror squad (ATS) of Maharashtra from her residence in Juhu, Mumbai. Her arrest was such a big event that the United Nation spokesperson expressed concern and in reply a spokesperson of Foreign Affairs of Government of India had to issue following statement:

Foreign Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said that we have seen a comment regarding legal action against Teesta Setalvad and two other persons by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The comments are completely inappropriate and set an example of interference in the independent judicial system of India. Bagchi further said that India works strictly against violation of law as per judicial procedures. Labeling such legal actions as harassment for the sake of activism is misleading and unacceptable.

The question arises as to who is Teesta Sitalwad?

She was destined to be a lawyer, like her father and grandfather but she left law and passed out as a journalist. He credentials as a journalist remained foggy but after 2002 she emerged as a professional public interest litigant. Her case would eventually land up in Supreme Court before a particular judge and she would get some relief or the other. Few years back she was arrested on the charge of misappropriation of money from Charities created for victims of 2002 riots in Gujarat but she was released on bail as it was granted on an alleged phone call from Kapil Sibal.

The Sitalwad Family:

Like many in lime lights of the media, the Sitalwad Family has an illustrious past.

Her great great great grandfather, Ambashankar Setalvad (1782–1853) worked for the East India Company.

Her great great grandfather Harilal Ambashankar Setalvad (1821–1899) was awarded the title of Rao Sahib by the British for his loyalty to the crown and in the process he made substantial wealth.

‘Sir’ Chimanlal Harilal Setalvad (1864–1947) was one of the
member of Hunter Commission which gave ‘clean chit’ to Reginald Dyer for Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in 1919. He was awarded title of ‘Sir’ in 1919 & appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (KCIE) in 1924 by the British. He was also a family friend of Jawaharlal Nehru.


Motilal Chimanlal Setalvad (1884–1974) was India’s first & longest serving Attorney General (1950–1963).  He helped Nehru in imposing a tax on salt from retrospective effect in the name of cess. Courts had struck it down. (Remember slat agitation of Gandhi called Dandi March?) He also helped Nehru in keeping Rowllet Act in Constitution of India as article 22 by strongly defending it in courts.

Atul Motilal Setalvad (1933–2010) was a left leaning  Mumbai based lawyer with a rather not so illustrious a career but had left behind aan ancestoral home in Juhu, Mumbai which has a personal garden of 3 acres. Nobody, even the richest men of India namely Ambani and Adani enjoy this luxury in the heart of Mumbai.

Teesta Javed Setalvad (1962– ) is a journalist cum activist who married Javed Anand who is also an activist cum journalist. Presently she is under arrest for forging affidavits, manipulating litigation and abuse of legal process for 16 long years. The matter is under investigation.

Few other British loyalists:

Sitalwad is not alone. The British left behind their loyalists who shifted loyalty to the Nehru family immediately after 1947 and their descendants continue to do so thereafter.

Kunj Bihari Thapar gave a saropa to Governor Dyer who was the Governor of Punjab when Jalainwalan Bagh massacre took place. His illustrious descendants include General Thapar who lost 1962 war to China. Romilla Thapar and Karan Thapar are the other descendants continuing the legacy of Raj.

Khuswant Singh was press secretary of Nehru who was fired after a picture of Lady Mountbatten in night gown kissing good bye to Nehru in London, appeared in Newspapers. His father Sir Sobha Singh became a British loyalist who was awarded acres of land in and around Delhi at throw away prices after he testified against Bhagat Singh and B.K.Dutt, the freedom fighters in courts to ensure their hanging till death. Khuswant Singh defended his father as he spoke the truth.

There are many such illustrious British loyalists who joined Nehru and his descendants in doing what the British did to India namely LOOT away wealth. British looted 45 trillion dollars. So much so they refused to pay what they owed for war supplies in 1947. It was about 2 billion pounds. Nehru never mentioned it.

Arrest of Teesta could be a trend setter that these dynasts in media who represent British legacy of personal loyalty and not merit may soon become a thing of past. It is important that this happens as meritocracy is not possible with dynasties of loyalists.

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