"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu.

UBC confers honorary degree on Teesta Setalvad Featured

Gurpreet Singh


The University of British Columbia has conferred an honourary degree on India-based social justice activist Teesta Setalvad.

An award-winning journalist, who played a prominent role in the campaign for justice for the victims of a state sponsored massacre of Muslims in 2002, Setalvad is among the ten recipients of this year’s Honorary Degree of UBC.

Setalvad has been to Vancouver twice. During her 2018 visit to Canada, she spoke at UBC. Anne Murphy from the university's Department of Asian Studies was instrumental behind her nomination for the degree.

The 2002 pogrom against Muslims took place in Gujarat, under the watch of current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was the state Chief Minister back then. Though Modi was never convicted, Setalvad’s memoir Foot Soldier of the Constitution indicts him for the bloodshed.

Thousands of Muslims were murdered by supporters of Modi’s right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims caught fire, leaving more than 50 people dead. One commission of inquiry later found that it was a pure accident, but Modi had blamed it on Muslims, inciting violence against the minority community. He had reportedly asked the police to look the other way and let Hindu mobs vent their anger on helpless Muslims.

Modi was denied visa by US until he became the Prime Minister in 2014.  

Setalvad’s fight for justice and closure continues even today. She has faced threats and intimidation because of her daring work.

As a staunch secularist, she has also been critical of the anti-Sikh massacre engineered by the Congress party in 1984. Innocent Sikhs were slaughtered across India by mobs led by Congress activists following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. This was despite the fact that Congress claims to be a secular alternative to the BJP, which aspires to turn India into a Hindu theocracy.

Ever since the BJP came to power, attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents have grown in the world’s so called largest democracy.


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Last modified on Saturday, 27 June 2020 05:46
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