Out of the five human rights activists who were arrested by the Maharashtra police for their alleged Maoist links, the maximum outrage has been for Sudha Bharadwaj, who has the closest bondage with the tribal in Chhattisgarh. As a member of Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, she has appeared in several cases of habeas corpus and fake encounters of Adivasis and for ensuring proper wages being paid to them in Bhilai steel plant. She has purportedly written a letter to Comrade Prakash for creating a Kashmir like situation. These allegations have been refuted by her as ridiculous, scurrilous, false and completely unsubstantiated.
The petitioners against their arrest are distinguished academics and historian Romilla Thapar & economist Prabhat Patnaik. The Supreme court, noting their concern has wisely observed that: Dissent is the safety valve of democracy; if it’s not allowed, the pressure cooker will burst. And put them on house arrest till the matter comes up for detailed hearing on 6th September.
The government counsel had argued that strangers cannot seek anticipatory bail for somebody else. This is a ridiculous statement as the Supreme Court in SP Gupta Vs UOI 1982 case has clarified that there is no need for locus standi, in issues involving human rights violation, environmental degradation etc. This case has indeed opened the gates for public spirited individuals & NGOs to take up PILs on behalf of the bonded labourers, under trial prisoners and other major causes stirring the public mind.
Sudha Bharadwaj’s case reminds one of the arrest of Dr Binayak Sen in 2007, who was taking care of health of the tribals in Chhattisgarh. He was very critical of the government for their strong human rights violation. He was sentenced by the Raipur High Court for supporting outlawed Naxalites. But the Supreme Court granted him bail in 2011. One of the judges had observed: “We are a democratic country. Dr Sen may be sympathetic . That does not make him guilty of sedition”.
These are indeed very profound observation as there is an attempt these days to isolate those who champion the cause of the poor to brand them as Urban Naxalites, and fix them up with trumped up charges. All parties in power are guilty of this, be it Congress in case of Dr Sen or NDA in case of Prof Bharadwaj. Chhattisgarh is a manifestation of the unholy nexus between the corporate and the state who are bent on grabbing tribal land, forest and mineral resources. Dr Sen And Ms Bharadwaj have been lending their voices to stop such rapacious practices, Hopefully the trials that follow will not quell the voice of responsible dissent.
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