Teesta Setalvad inspires art from behind bars

Digital media activists and artists creatively express solidarity, demand Teesta Setalvad’s immediate release

Digital Media
Image Courtesy:deccanherald.com

News of activist and journalist Teesta Setalvad’s remand to police custody till July 1, 2022 has not dampened the spirits of Indian youth, especially digital artists and activists who are voicing their dissent using their art that is taking social media, especially Instagram by storm!

Alongside statements by international rights leaders and politicians, the artwork highlights how civil dissent strengthens, even when prominent leaders are put behind bars.

On June 24, the Supreme Court dismissed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by Congress MP Ehsan Jafri’s widow Zakia Jafri. Her husband was brutally killed during the communal violence that broke out in Gulberg Society in 2002. Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) through Secretary Setalvad was the second petitioner. Setalvad was picked up from her Mumbai home by the Gujarat ATS on June 25, and this sparked a creative protest by artists.

Youth artist Bhawna (Nabhawna) posted an artwork with the slogans “Humne suna Hai ki jinko chuna hai who kehne lage hain poochna mana hai” (We heard that those chosen to power say you cannot ask questions) and “Free Teesta Setalvad” around the activist. The former is a quote scrawled across the Delhi Bus Rapid Transit area’s walls in the national capital.

In the caption Bhawna says, “Detention of human rights activist Teesta Setalvad of CJP India is a direct attack on dissent and those who dare to question the authorities.”

Further, speaking to SabrangIndia about the sudden arrest, the enraged artist says, “To see the government targeting the human rights activists so ruthlessly, makes one question how much space is left for dissent in this country. The arrest is vile and ridiculous on so many grounds that it has left me speechless… This move is only to plant fear in the minds of people who are doing human rights work and trying to save whatever semblance of democracy we have left. They want us to be silent so they can do their work seamlessly.”

Another simple yet hard-hitting artwork came from Siddhesh Gautam also known as Bakeryprasad on Instagram. The picture shows Setalvad smiling, standing in front of a background flooded with the words “Free Teesta Setalvad” with a caption demanding the same. Within 19 hours, the artwork garnered 1,071 likes.

Earlier, Gautam had conversed with the 60-year-old on CJP India’s Instagram Live about interfaith/ intercaste unions, Special Marriage Act and anti-conversion laws in different Indian states.

Aside from known artists, Marxist meme pages are also voicing support for the veteran rights leader using the hashtag “Stand With Teesta Setalvad”. With 68 likes, the ‘Anilmarxistsangam’ page on Instagram quotes Gujarat Vadgam MLA Jignesh Mevani’s tweet condemning Setalvad’s arrest.


There’s a political digital artist ‘Deemuk’ who as per their bio is a “Chronicler of social, cultural and political events”. Their posts dipped in red express their strong political opinions on various socio-political instances, more recently specific to India. The latest post is a headshot of Setalvad with the words “The Free Voice” in block letters across the bottom.

Many such creations are flooding social media. Hours after the arrest, Smish Designs and artist Saman posted artworks for Setalvad. Both artists talked about how their interaction with the Teesta Setalvad, recalling how the 60-year-old activist had influenced their life.



Ahmedabad court remands Teesta Setalvad to police custody till July 1
Support pours in for Teesta Setalvad
Release Teesta Setalvad: Indian Human Rights groups and activists
PRESS RELEASE: Teesta Setalvad roughed up as Gujarat ATS personnel barge into her home
I fear for my life: Teesta Setalvad allegedly roughed up by Gujarat ATS personnel



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