Skip to main content

Renounced US citizenship to serve workers, tribals, Sudha Bharadwaj 'odiously' in jail

By Atul, Sandeep Pandey*
Professor Sudha Bharadwaj has been in jail since August 2018. She was taken into police custody on August 26, 2018 on suspicion of being involved in Maoist terror activities after Republic TV claimed that she had allegedly written a letter to Maoists and was conspiring to create public disorder and unrest in India.
The channel felt no shame in broadcasting that the elderly Professor was planning to murder the Prime-Minister of India. The police arrested her subsequently and she has been kept in jail continuously since then.
Born in the United States to Indian parents, she gave up her US citizenship, earned a degree in Mathematics from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur to become a dedicated civil rights activist and a trade union lawyer who diligently worked for the poor and marginalized. As a general secretary of People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Chhattisgarh, she often led protests against the unfair land acquisition policies of the state.
In addition to this, she has campaigned to protect the lives and livelihoods of tribals including those from indigenous Adivasi communities, to secure them land and forest rights and exposing administrative corruption. 
She has been at the forefront in raising voice against the systematic state oppression and injustices against the downtrodden. She has also been a visiting professor at the National Law University (NLU), Delhi, and has impressed students with passionate lectures on law and poverty.
The arrest and subsequent harassment of Sudha Bharadwaj do not seem to be an isolated attack on an individual but appear to be a part of a planned agenda of the right-wing with vested interests to target various civil rights activists, pro-bono lawyers, and intellectuals who have vehemently criticized the anti-people policies the government.
Also, the way these individuals are being maliciously branded as urban Naxals and anti-nationals on national television debates, especially in times of shrinking democratic spaces is extremely dangerous. 
Many who have interacted with Sudha Bharadwaj in both professional and personal capacities have been pained to witness this odious attempt to attack a people’s advocate and a venerable professor who has been a vehement supporter of the transformative values of the Indian constitution.
When she was visiting the home of one of the writers of this article in Lucknow along with a labourer colleagues from Chhattisgarh she was offered a cot in the night to sleep, she declined and slept on the floor like the worker as there was only one cot.
State opposed her interim bail plea by arguing that she is taking undue benefit of the pandemic. It must either prove its charges against her conclusively or set her free
In the opinion of Professor Aparna Chandra and other leading professors of the National Law University Delhi:
“Professor Sudha Bharadwaj is an embodiment of the best in the academic profession and a fearless critic of governmental lawlessness, an emphatic and empathetic advocate amplifying the voices of those who are rarely heard within the corridors of power, and a beacon for future generations of lawyers in this country. 
"Through her advocacy, her teaching, and her life, Sudha Bharadwaj exemplifies the transformative role of a lawyer in a society like ours. We can only hope to be as brave, insightful, and conscientious as her in our work and our daily lives. Citizens like Sudha Bharadwaj are the reason that our democracy lives and thrives”. It is worth noting that previously Sudha Bharadwaj had been invited to national and state judicial academies for her positive contributions to labor and environment law, development, women’s rights, tribal-rights, and access to justice. She had also been nominated to the governing body of the Chhattisgarh State Legal Services Authority. NLU Delhi students feel fortunate to have benefitted from her astounding academic excellence.
Her students can testify her unwavering commitment to the transformative vision of the Indian Constitution and she has constantly emphasized the use of constitutional methods in addressing public grievances and not violence. One wonders, how can a professor who owes unwavering allegiance to the supreme law of this land and Gandhian non-violence can be accused of toppling the government using questionable means.
She has been falsely labeled as Maoist and Naxalite and booked under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and other provisions of the Indian Penal Code, that include but is not limited to sedition (section 124 A), criminal conspiracy (section 120 B), unlawful association (section 153 A) and imputations and assertions prejudicial to national-integration (section 153 B).
These sham accusations and trials just to keep these civil rights activists under incarceration flies in the face of several leading Supreme Court judgments wherein the apex court has held that arrest could not be made by police in a routine manner.
This is certainly not the characteristics of the swaraj that Gandhi and other freedom fighters dreamt of. They did not against the colonial rule for an independent India, in which the harassment and arbitrary arrests of activists would become commonplace and where even basic civil liberties would be under threat.
Whereas the Father of the Nation enjoined upon the Indian state to strive to bestow freedom and swaraj to the poorest and weakest, the current dispensation seems to be doing the opposite. It seems determined in depriving them of their freedom and liberty by arbitrarily arresting and throwing them in dark and lonely dungeons.
The continued incarceration of Sudha Bharadwaj even during the Covid-19 pandemic is inhumane and unconscionable. She suffers from various ailments including two severe comorbidities, diabetes, and high blood pressure, and also has a history of pulmonary tuberculosis. This puts her in the category of most vulnerable people facing a high fatality rate if they are infected by the virus.
An inmate of Mumbai's Byculla jail where she is currently lodged has already tested positive for the virus. Despite this, the agencies opposed her interim bail plea by arguing that she is “taking undue benefit” of the pandemic. The state must either prove its charges against her conclusively or set her free.
---
*Atul is 4th year LLB student at National Law University, Delhi; Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay award winning social activist, is visiting faculty there for this semester

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Examples of support to Hindu temples, scriptures, saints by 'Muslim' rulers galore

Siya Ram coin issued by Akbar By Bharat Dogra* At a time when the country as well as the world are passing through very difficult times leading to more urgent need for strengthening national unity for meeting several big challenges ahead, unfortunately disputes relating to religious places have been allowed to raise their ugly head once again. It is well-realized by now by many people that it is not historical facts but narrow considerations of political gain and spreading of fanatic ideas of intolerance which are behind such mischief, but due to the increasing threat of mob violence and patronage available at higher levels to groups spreading intolerance many people are reluctant to openly and fearlessly express their views. Hence there is urgent need for broad-based peace committees with wider social support to spread the message of communal harmony and to appeal against the dangers of spreading false messages regarding places of worship which can ultimate

Gyanvapi case: Use of 'illegal' lawfare to keep the communal pot simmering

By Venkatesh Narayanan, Bobby Ramakant, Manoj Sarang* With a steady drumbeat of bad news for the lives of ordinary citizens --  inflation at a multi-year high , rupee at an all-time low , negative job creation and when all forward indicators as seen by industry leaders point to recessionary clouds on the horizon , what’s a serially-incompetent government to do?  Dust out their time-tested-citizen-distraction playbook. The Gyanvapi-Masjid case is all of this -- as a weapon of mass distraction. This zeitgeist of our times is best captured by a recent opinion piece : "The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrst, uneasiness, fear and discomfort, That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilized at short notice. BJP is creating an eco-system of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are sudde

This varsity succumbed to extra-academic mobocracy, 'ignored' Hindutva archives

By Shamsul Islam* Open letter to Sharda University vice-chancellor Sub: Discarding a Question on Linkages of Hindutva with Nazism/Fascism is blatant Academic Dishonesty! Dear Professor Sibaram Khara Saheb, Namaskaar! According to your esteemed University’s portal: “The name of University, 'Sharda' is synonymous to 'Goddess of knowledge and learning-Saraswati'. She is identified with 'veena', an Indian musical instrument and the ‘lotus’, where she resides. The lotus in our logo symbolizes the seat of learning that the University is created for.  "Variety of colours signify the variety of disciplines the university offers and the overlap between petals creating new colours demonstrate the ethos of collaboration between students and teachers of different programme, nationality, creed and colour working towards creating new knowledge…the University's cherished mission to provide education beyond boundaries and to facilitate the students and faculty to achie

Whither climate goal? Increasing reliance on coal 'likely to worsen' India's power crisis

By Shankar Sharma*  Recent news articles, How to shock-proof India’s power sector and Power minister points finger at states for worsening electricity crisis , have highlighted a few current problems for the ongoing power sector issues as in April 2022. However, there is a lot more to it than a few temporary solutions as indicated in the articles. It should also be emphasised that it is techno-economically impossible to completely shock-proof a highly complex and geographically wide-spread vast power network, such as the one in India, which is only getting more and more complex with the passage of each year due to some irrational policies/ practices in the sector. A business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, wherein more and more of conventional technology power plants, including coal power plants, will be added in the near future, will also necessitate the increased complexity in the integrated national grid, and as a result the instances of power shortage/ disruptions can only escalate for

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Targeting mosques, churches: 'Roadmap' for 2025, RSS' centenary year?

416 years old Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, Goa  By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally ‘belong’. They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Christians. They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself for its pluralism and diversity. Their meticulously planned agenda is in order to gain absolute power of the country in the 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of its existence.

Dalit scholar's comment on Lord Shiva 'harming' Muslims, 'damaging' secular cause

Shahid Siddiqui, Bobby Naqvi By Our Representative   Bobby Naqvi, who is with the "Gulf News", and is a well-known name among Muslim intellectuals, strongly objecting to the social media post of Prof Ratan Lal, has said that "a big reason for majoritarian hatred against Muslims is irresponsible remarks by people like Prof Ratan Lal of Delhi University." In a Facebook comment , which has attracted paise, among others, from journaliat-politician Shahid Siddiqui, Naqvi said, "Their commentary on Hinduism and icons of Hinduism (while angering religious and liberal Hindus alike) also triggers a massive backlash against Muslims. When the likes of Prof Lal criticize Hinduism on social media, Hindus bring Islam and Islamic practices and ask 'what about this' or 'what about that'." Naqvi insists, "Muslims (without their fault) and Islam get caught in this crossfire between the so called Hindu liberal class and the religious Hindus. And the ult

Govt of India 'compromising' on mandate to regulate gene technologies, protect nature

Counterview Desk  In a letter sent to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and other related ministries and departments, the Coalition for a GM-Free India has raised "serious concern" over the guidelines notified for Genome Edited Organisms, in which major exemptions from regulations have been offered to certain categories of Genome Edited Organisms/Plants and products. A letter signed by Sridhar Radhakrishnan and Kapil Shah, co-convenors of the NGO network, addressed to Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change Bhupender Yadav, said, the Office Memorandum, dated May 17, 2022 of the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology about Safety Assessment Guidelines, which follows the Office Memorandum dated March 30, 2022 of the MoEFCC, said, the move "essentially amounts to entry of risky GMOs through the backdoor. Text : Coalition for a  GM-Free India is a national volunteer-driven platform of hundre

Why there's strong likelihood India may resurrect its presence in Afghan capital

By Anand K Sahay* Since India evacuated its mission in Afghanistan once the Taliban re-took Kabul last August practically under American aegis, following what came to be called the Taliban’s Doha “negotiations” with the US, New Delhi is evidently doing a re-think. It is considered likely that an Indian representation will soon be restored in Kabul, even if this will be small and not at the level of ambassador. This is reflective of realistic thinking. Of course, there can be no question at present of according recognition to the Taliban regime. That is likely to happen when a broad consensus amongst the leading powers emerges. Currently the Taliban government is not helping its own cause of gaining world recognition- which will help it access overseas funds at a time when the country is in dire straits- by imposing severe restrictions on women and girls in serious violation of human rights. More basic is the issue that the Taliban regime is not considered r