A birthday wish for Sudha Bharadwaj

Written by Vimalbhai | Published on: November 1, 2018

On Nov 1, Sudhaji will celebrate her birthday in a jail but countless wishes from the country will be with her.

Sudha Bharadwaj
Probably a huge section of the country dreams of becoming a millionaire alongside Amitabh Bachchan or watches singing and dancing reality shows. After working tirelessly, the whole day, in the evening, a person becomes compelled to be a part of the devotion to the nation browsing through countless channels. Then they drown their frustrations in glamourous TV soaps.
At the same time, a woman sitting in some jail in Pune under police custody would be worrying about her daughter or answering odd questions in a police interrogation while sitting on some bench. She must be thinking about her fate. How she left American citizenship, came to study in India, fought for the rights of farmers and labourers, spent much of her life fighting legal battles as a lawyer and human rights defender. After all this time, devoted to the people of the country, is sitting in a jail her destiny? Seems like a figment of imagination for anyone else who faces sadness.
Sudha Bharadwaj was imprisoned in her own home from August 28 to October 27. Sometimes there would a lawyer with her, sometimes there would be people associated with the Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha. Sudhaji, her supporters, labourers, farmers, Adivasis and countless poor and vulnerable legal clients from Raigad, Raipur, Bhilai and Bilaspur are free from such imaginations. They are on the path of struggle and conflict.
On the morning of August 28, Pune Police searched her house for hours and snatched all her electronic devices. They didn’t allow her to keep a copy. Anything can be put in these devices and the danger of planting fake evidence is very real. Even after the Chattisgarh High Court Order, The Faridabad Court asked to detain her under house arrest at 1.30 am. She had been detained in a dark corner from 7 pm to 1.30 pm. This raises a lot of questions in the mind.
There has hardly been a single day in the last 2 months in Chhattisgarh that labourers have not held demonstrations or expressed their concern for her. Sudhaji is a strong and simple woman. The policemen in her proximity might have realised this too.
American born Sudhaji studied in Cambridge for 11 years and later in Central government schools in India. She then studied at IIT Kanpur. She left American citizenship at the age of 18 and dedicated herself to the struggle of labourers and the formation of Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha. In 2000, she became a lawyer to fight the labourer’s cases and after working at the Bilaspur High Court as a lawyer till 2007, she became a visiting professor at National Law University in Delhi. She lived with her mother Professor Krishna Bharadwaj and her daughter in a small flat and continue her social work from there.
On October 27, The Pune Police arrested her from her flat to take her to Pune amidst a crowd of media professionals. She was taken for a 2.30 minutes medical check-up near Surajkund Police station and transferred to Pune. After listening to the odd pleas by the public prosecutor, in the evening, the court ordered her to be sent to police custody until November 6. All of us were with her on Aug 28. She didn’t display any anxiety or sadness. She was worried for her daughter which was her natural concern as a mother. Her daughter Anu wrote a lovely letter to her in the middle of these detentions which was carried in many media portals.
Anu had written the same words that Sudhaji had said to the Pune police outside the Faridabad Judge's house. This is my social family and all of them are my people. These words displayed her dedication and devotion towards the people she had worked with for so many years. The people like us who do social work, our birth families get left behind. The social family becomes our prime family.
In the Supreme Court, Honorable Justice Chandrachud had said that do not force the pressure cooker until it bursts. Later, many of his other comments regarding this case came up because he understands Marathi. He questioned the authenticity of the letter which was being thrown about in the news channel whose head calls himself the most patriotic journalist. The first time Supreme Court received the letter was on September 19, after the media houses had circulated it on television.
Pune Police had produced it in a press briefing and keeps coming out with new letters during different hearings. From the little intelligence that I have, I can safely ask why would extremists keep such sensitive information on electronic devices, even when governments and security forces have not been able to catch hold of them since so many years. Niyogiji was martyred by mill owners for fighting for labour rights. Such allegations against Sudhaji, who worked beside him and lived such an open life, seem ridiculous.
If the proceedings of the Supreme Court, Maharashtra High Court, Pune Courts and lowers were made public, we would see how the public prosecutors behaved and what the police officers did. Even Pune Special Court had said that the police can co-operate but cannot lobby in the case. Numerous legal and procedural violations have now become routine in the name of evidence. If this was to be made public, it would surely rile people.
In the FIR that was registered against the five activists including Sudhaji at Vishrambagh police station in Pune, the FIR number 004/2018 does not even have her name on it.
The government is entitled to investigate and act against any citizen if serious evidence is found against them. When the attack is on the head of the government, it becomes even more serious. This case is different. The violence at Bhima Koregaon on January 1 happened under the watchful eyes of upper caste organisations and men like Milind Ekbote (Executive President, Samast Hindu Aagadi aur Gau Raksha Abhiyan) and Sambhaji Bhide (Founder, Shiv Pratishthan Sangathan, former RSS member and is considered a Guru by the PM.) An FIR was also registered against them.
In order to save them, the country's attention was diverted to the loot in the tribal areas of Chhattisgarh for political mileage. Justice Chandrachud also expressed surprise over the fact that the conspiracy to assassinate Prime Minister has not been mentioned in the FIR.
One letter was tossed and it invited a lot of debates. New letters kept being tossed in court proceedings, police press conference and more. News media covered a lot of these activities. The news mediums that have worked for the people their whole lives are being discredited by the ruling government.
We have immense belief that Sudhaji will prove her mettle. Her crooked smile will keep giving us courage.
On Nov 1, Sudhaji will celebrate her birthday in a jail but countless wishes from the country will be with her.