PRESENTLY incarcerated in a jail in Pune, people’s lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj has been honoured by Harvard University, for her contribution towards law and policy. The National Secretary of the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties has been placed 5th in rank amongst 21 prominent women across the globe. Harvard University has previously honoured Angela Davis and Hillary Clinton.
Sudha Bharadwaj, who recently shifted to Delhi owing to her responsibilities as the National Secretary of PUCL, has been a vocal voice against state repression. For 29 years she has been consistently fighting for justice and equality. Though born American, she gave up her citizenship and a life of luxury to work among tribals in Chattisgarh. A graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, Sudha became a lawyer for people’s causes and practiced law at various courts, representing the voiceless. Her humble office cum home at Bilaspur, has hosted many victims, lawyers, activists and has been a place of meetings of various organiSations.
For 29 years, Sudha has been a vocal voice against state repression.
Apart from being associated with prominent associations, she has been an integral part of the PUCL. She is the inspiration behind the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group famously known as JagLAG, also part of the Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha.
Arrested for dissenting
She was arrested by the Pune Police on 28 August 2018, for allegedly being a member of an unlawful association, along with other five prominent activists across India. Soon after her arrest, imminent scholars approached the Supreme Court and requested an independent probe, including the immediate release of Sudha. Though the case was dismissed by a majority verdict, in a dissenting judgment, Justice Chandrachud termed the action illegal and said it had been taken against these persons for expressing their political dissent against the government of the day.
“They can chain me, jail me, but they cannot make me bow before them. Let them try even hard and my resolve to serve the people will become harder than it was.”
Her arrest had led to a huge public outcry, and many mass- based associations took to the streets to protest against state repression. Many political leaders also spoke out against the arrest of dissenters and called it a State of Emergency.
The issue of large-scale arrests of human rights activists has also been discussed in the European union.
While Sudha Bhardwaj is being celebrated across the world for her admirable body of work towards law and policy, the Indian Government has left no stone unturned to keep her incarcerated for a prolonged period.
Even in this difficult situation, Sudha’s charming smile and fighting spirit remain intact. While in jail, she said, “I am determined, I am resolute, for doing pro-people work. I am facing what one faces in a dictatorial regime. Tell all others in the outside world not to lose heart and keep fighting. They can chain me, jail me, but they cannot make me bow before them. Let them try even hard and my resolve to serve the people will become harder than it was.”