Eminent trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj was released on 9 December 2021 after being in jail for three years. She is not allowed to go out of Mumbai. How has this one year been for her, Chhattisgarh has been the field of work, the regret of not being able to go there, what were her experiences in jail, what were the challenges of being a trade union leader as a woman. Workers’ Unity talked to him in detail on these subjects. Watch video
● Video: The Conditions of Prisoners in Indian Jails
By All India Lawyers’ Association for Justice – AILAJ / March 2022
en | 1:21:23 | 2022
The huge number of undertrials, the overcrowding, and the disproportional numbers of Dalit, Muslim and Adivasi prisoners are part of the prison problem in India.
We are joined by Adv. Sudha Bharadwaj for a discussion on the Conditions of Prisoners in Indian Jails. Watch video
● Sudha Bharadwaj speaks – A Life in Law and Activism
Publisher: Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)
Edition: January 2021
Sudha Bharadwaj’s interview by: Darshana Mitra and Santanu Chakraborty
Pictures credit: PUCL
Cover Design / Layout: Vinay Jain
Paperback: 316 pages
Access a free PDF copy of the book here: Sudha_Bharadwaj_speaks (2,1 MB)
Video: Sudha Bharadwaj on activism, her time in jail & why Chhattisgarh will always be home
The trade unionist and lawyer sits down with Manisha Pande in Mumbai.
Sudha Bharadwaj loves mathematics, wonders whether she gave her daughter the “right” kind of childhood, and became a lawyer when she was 40 years old.
“Had I not become a lawyer,” she says, “I don’t think I would have been very easily accepted as a leader.”
Sudha was released from Mumbai’s Byculla Jail in December last year after spending three years in prison. She was arrested in connection with the #BhimaKoregaon violence and was repeatedly denied bail until December 1. She was also dubber an ‘urban naxal’ by TV channels that made little attempt to understand her work. Sudha says she now wants to go to her real home, to Chhattisgarh, where she’s lived since the 1980s.
In this interview, she talks about her childhood in Bilaspur and her educational journey, culminating in IIT Kanpur. Her mother, a #JNU professor, helped shape the ideology of this self-proclaimed #Marxist – though she confesses her mother had many “apprehensions” – who began working with trade unions at the age of 25.
Working with people on the ground, Sudha is only too aware of how “alien” the judicial process is to the majority of India’s population. “The notification comes out in the gazette. You are somewhere, miles away in a village which is not even accessible, and nobody even tells you about it,” she says. She also thinks it’s important for young lawyers to cut their teeth by representing the most marginalised.
In Byculla jail, where she remembers she once saw #RheaChakraborty, Sudha continued her work, trying to secure legal aid for those imprisoned with her. She believes in the importance of a “united front” – the farm law protests are an example, with people holding differing ideologies coming together – and worries that the lack of this unity gives rise to dogma. Watch 13 min video clip here
by newslaundry (Oct 21, 2022):
‘He was never an opportunist in his politics.’ @Sudhabharadwaj talks about labour law leader and founder of the #Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha Shankar Guha Niyogi and the actual movement that led to his assassination. Watch video clip (3:46min)
by newslaundry (Oct 20, 2022):
In conversation with @MnshaP @Sudhabharadwaj details the #Sarkeguda encounter case in #Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district in which unarmed villagers including minors were killed, and the legal battle that ensued. Watch video clip (4:30min)
by newslaundry (Oct 19, 2022):
‘So much money goes to defend the state.’ Speaking with @MnshaP, @Sudhabharadwaj
talks about legal aid in India and how there is no level playing field for citizens. Watch video clip (2:34min)
Nagraj Adve spoke with trade unionist and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj for The Wire Science.
While in Yerawada jail, you began to translate Naomi Klein’s book on global warming, This Changes Everything, into Hindi. What made you do it? And what were the challenges, in terms of doing it while in jail and in the translation?
I had always been concerned about ecological devastation in Chhattisgarh due to the limestone quarries and cement plants, vast coal mines, power plants and their ash dykes, sponge iron plants spewing black dust, and the rivers running red with iron ore – things that, as a trade unionist and later as a lawyer representing landowners fighting land acquisition, I had observed at close quarters. But I was always caught up with the battles of the present moment – the notices, the court cases, the jobs, the environmental hearings. Read more
by Naomi Klein (Jul 29, 2022)
Little in my writing life has moved me as much as trade unionist Sudha Bharadwaj’s account of translating “This Changes Everything” into Hindi when she was in jail under horrific conditions as a prisoner of conscience.
The condition of the industrial working class in the 75th year of independence
The Indian working class was a proud participant in the anti-imperialist struggle against British rule in India. Whether it was the six-day strike of the working class of Mumbai in 1908 – one day for each year of the sentence of Bal Gangadhar Tilak; the attempts of the Ghadar Party organised by Punjabi immigrant workers in Canada, who sailed to India in 1914 to overthrow the British; the four-day old Solapur Commune of 1930, when the workers took over the city … Read more
When I turned 21, I was free to choose whether I wanted to be Indian or American. I chose to be Indian, basically, because I was already involved in social issues by then. At no point I wished I was in the United States.
This is the second part of the interview with Sudha Bharadwaj, who was arrested on 28 October 2018 for her alleged role in fomenting the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence. In this interview, she speaks on her privileged class background, why she gave up her American citizenship, what made her shift to Chhattisgarh, where she worked among industrial workers to better their lives, about how she spent time in jail, and her anxiety of being separated from her daughter. Bharadwaj discusses how she hopes to adjust to a life of limited freedom. Read more
India is far from realising the promises of justice and equality made in the Constitution, says the well-known activist, citing her experiences in prison as an under-trial and as a lawyer representing workers.
After spending nearly three years in jail, Bharadwaj was released on bail last month. Her bail conditions proscribe her from speaking on the Bhima Koregaon case and leaving Mumbai, although she has now been allowed to live in Thane. NewsClick did not ask her any question on the case, and she politely refused to answer any question she thought was even remotely connected to it. In the first part of this interview, Bharadwaj speaks on the meaning that Republic Day, the Constitution, and the law have for jail inmates, based on her conversations with them. Read more
PUCL / by People’s Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL)
The PUCL welcomes the short order of the Supreme Court yesterday, 07th December, 2021, dismissing the SLP filed by the NIA which challenged the grant of statutory bail to Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, a committed activist lawyer and member of PUCL. The PUCL sees this important order and the order of the Bombay High Court which was under challenge, as a vindication of the long campaign against the UAPA by the PUCL and other allied groups. Read full statement
On the granting of bail to Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj by the Bombay High Court
On the 1st of December 2021, after having spent three years in jail on fabricated charges in the Bhima Koregaon case, Human Rights activist and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj was granted bail by the Bombay High Court. We the undersigned unions and workers collectives welcome the judgement. It is a great relief for the working people of Chhattisgarh who have consistently campaigned against the illegal arrest of Sudha Bharadwaj and continuously demanded her release. Read full statement
Statement by CMM-MKC and other workers unions: On the granting of bail to advocate Sudha Bharadwaj
Press Statement On the granting of bail to advocate Sudha Bharadwaj by the Bombay High Court
On the 1st of December 2021, after having spent three years in jail on fabricated charges in the Bhima Koregaon case, Human Rights activist and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj was granted bail by the Bombay High Court. We the undersigned unions and workers collectives welcome the judgement. It is a great relief for the working people of Chhattisgarh who have consistently campaigned against the illegal arrest of Sudha Bharadwaj and continuously demanded her release. It is important to note that Sudha Bharadwaj was granted bail because the chargesheet against her was not produced before the appropriate court within the legally specified time limit. There were 8 others along with Sudha Bharadwaj arrested under the same case whose bail was rejected on the same day. We express our deep disappointment at the courts decision to reject their applications for bail. It is amply clear that the 16 Human Rights activists, lawyers, artists and writers were arrested under false and fabricated charges in the Bhima Koregaon case. We the undersigned unions have condemned these arrests from the very beginning.
The granting of bail to Sudha Bharadwaj is most certainly a jolt to the current pro-corporate, brahminical, fascist central government, as is evident from how promptly they moved the Supreme Court to challenge the bail order. The very day after the judgment of the Bombay High Court was pronounced, the National Investigating Agency (NIA) was ready with their appeal to the Supreme Court to act against the granting of bail to Sudha Bharadwaj. They seem determined to ensure she is not released under any circumstance. All recent events have in any case pointed clearly to the fact that the NIA is not an independent invesitgation agency but in fact one that works simply like an arm of the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP). The NIA has been indiscriminately wielding the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) legislation against anyone who dares to exercise their democratic right to protest against the BJP. In such a scenario, we place all our hope and faith in the Supreme Court that it will uphold the democratic fabric of the country, uphold the notion of justice and grant Sudha Bharadwaj bail at the earliest.
It must be mentioned that Father Stan Swamy, one of the 16, aged 84, lost his life in custody while awaiting bail. Apart from the aforesaid Bhima Koregaon case, the draconian UAPA legislation was recently used once again to silence the democratic voices of the people of Chhattisgarh by arresting Human Rights Adivasi activist Hidme Markam on March 9 this year, at a program marking International Womens Day in Dantewada, Bastar. Hidme Markam has spent the last several years speaking out against the environmental destruction wrought by the government and large mining companies in Bastar. She has raised her voice against militarization and sexual violence against women in Bastar continuously perpetrated by the police and palamilitary.
The UAPA has been indiscriminately used to incarcerate dalits, adivasis and minorities in the country. Seveal arguments have been made and facts brought to light that clearly indicate why such a draconian legistaltion must be withdrawn. We the undersigned unions strongly and unequivocally support the demand to repeal the UAPA. We sincerely hope that Sudha Bharadwaj will be released from the four walls of prison and that she will be amongst us soon. We shall continue to campaign for the release for all those, who like her, have been arrested for fighting to uphold democratic values in this country, and further resolve to strengthen our campaign to demand the repeal of the UAPA.
Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Mazdoor Karyakarta Samiti), Mahila Mukti Morcha, Nagari Nikay Janvadi Safai Kamgar Union, Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh, Loktantrik Ispat evam Engineering Mazdoor Union, Jan Adharit Power Plant Workers Union, Jan Swasth Karamchari Union
As Sudha Bharadwaj Spends 4th Birthday in Jail, a Reminder That UAPA Enables Her Incarceration
In addition to her legal battles, Sudha Bharadwaj also fought to seek justice for the marginalised in Chhattisgarh.
On Monday, November 1, Chhattisgarh celebrated 21 years of its statehood. On November 1, 2000, the state was carved out of Madhya Pradesh. It was a result of longstanding demand and sustained struggles of local organisations and the population. One of the organisations which played a key role in the formation of the new state is Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (CMM) or Chhattisgarh Liberation Front. The CMM was formed in the early 1980s under the charismatic leadership of trade union leader Shankar Guha Niyogi. He was murdered in September 1991. And one of those who decided to carry forward the unfinished work of Niyogi is his fellow comrade from early years of activism – Sudha Bharadwaj, a trade union activist, lawyer and teacher. Read more