Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra on Tuesday demanded that the Padma Shri awarded to human rights activist Teesta Setalvad in 2007 should be withdrawn, PTI reported.

The Union government had honoured Setalvad with the Padma Shri, one of the highest civilian awards in the country, in 2007.

“She was a member of the ‘award vapsi’ gang [those threatening to return awards],” Mishra said on Tuesday. “The award should be taken back from people like Teesta Javed Setalvad, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s remarks against such people, whose conduct becomes questionable and have been arrested.”

Mishra’s statement came after Setalvad was arrested on Saturday for allegedly committing forgery and fabricating evidence in a case related to the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The Gujarat Police’s Anti Terror Squad had picked up Setalvad from her Mumbai home to question her in connection with the statements she made about the violence at Ahmedabad’s Gulberg Society in the aftermath of the Godhra train burning in 2002.

A mob had gone on a rampage at Gulberg Society on February 28, 2002, setting fire to homes. Sixty-nine persons died, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was hacked to death. The day before, 59 persons returning from Ayodhya had died when a coach of the Sabarmati Express was burnt in Godhra in Gujarat.

The action against Setalvad came hours after Union Home Minister Amit Shah in an interview with ANI had accused Setalvad of giving baseless information to the police about the 2002 Gujarat riots.

On Friday, the Supreme Court had dismissed a plea filed by Zakia Jafri and Setalvad, challenging the report of a Special Investigation Team that had cleared Narendra Modi, who was the Gujarat chief minister in 2002 when the riots took place. Zakia Jafri is the wife of Ehsan Jafri.

The court had said that the petition was filed “to keep the pot boiling for ulterior design”.

The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor, said that the police action against Setalvad was deeply concerning.

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