Joint Trade Union statement condemns the attack on Sudha Bhardwaj who had worked tirelessly for 30 years to bring justice and reforms for labourers in Chhattisgarh.
We are deeply concerned by the synchronized arrests of several human rights defenders and trade union leaders in different parts of the country on 28 August 2018 by the Pune police. The exact nature of the alleged unlawful activities of those arrested has not been made clear though they are booked under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The documents occasionally mentioned as evidence against them are of highly questionable authenticity more often than not appearing in the media rather than in the courts of jurisdiction.
They have all been at the forefront of the struggle to defend the democratic rights of various oppressed and marginalized sections of society. The conclusion is inescapable that what is being conducted is a witch-hunt against those who dare to take up the cause of the working class and downtrodden and who dare to oppose government policy and big industrialists.
One of those under arrest, Professor Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, has been a trade union leader in Chhattisgarh for the last three decades. She has been a part of the Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh (PCSS) since its founding. Through landmark struggles, both legal and on the ground, she has established a historical precedence by winning the long drawn out court battle for the regularization of contract workers in the cement industry in Chhattisgarh.
PCSS succeeded in obtaining a judgment for regularization of 573 contract workers in the Industrial Court at Raipur in 2006. Realizing the importance of legal aid for all working people, Professor Advocate Bharadwaj founded a lawyers’ collective called Janhit, and is also the general secretary of Chhattisgarh People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Vice President of the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), a collective that offers legal advice to the needy; and a member of Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS). Professor Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj is currently visiting professor at the National Law University Delhi (NLUD).
She has made extensive contributions to labour law, development, environment, women’s rights and access to justice. Despite her work on redressal of some of the gravest injustices in our country, she maintains an unwavering commitment to the vision of the Constitution and constantly emphasizes the use of constitutional methods in addressing injustice.
Professor Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj has been leading the fight against unlawful land acquisition and violation of labour laws by big industrialists and the government in courts and on the streets in Chhattisgarh. Her entire legal work is based on defending labour rights and civil and political rights of working people which are integral elements of Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining.
Her arrest is an attack on the right to defend labour and working people’s civil and political rights. Professor Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj’s arrest and the assault on her moral dignity through media creates a climate of violence, intimidation and insecurity both for her as well as for the organizations associated with her.
This is against the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on Freedom of Association and a grave violation of the Freedom of Association. According to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association, the detention of trade unionists and lawyers who defend rights of labour and working people “for reasons connected with their activities in defence of the interests of workers constitutes a serious interference with civil liberties in general and with trade union rights in particular” and arrests of trade unionists “may create an atmosphere of intimidation and fear prejudicial to the normal development of trade union activities”.
These constitute serious attacks on trade union rights. We demand that the government immediately stop its vendetta against trade union leaders and human rights defenders, and recognise their value in protecting the rights of workers and the poor.
Signed by Amarjeet Kaur, Rajiv Dimri, K. Hemlatha, Animesh Das, AITUC AICCTU CITU IFTU