sudha kaur
Sudha Bhardwaj and Gulab Kaur (right)

Currently incarcerated under trumped up charges in the world’s so called largest democracy, Sudha Bharadwaj is one of the dozens of scholars and activists locked up in the Indian jails.

Bharadwaj, who turned 60 on November 1, is a lawyer who has been advocating for the rights of the poor and marginalized, especially Adivasis or the Indigenous peoples of India who are being evicted from their traditional mineral-rich lands by the extraction industry with the backing of the government.

Her only crime is daring to question the power and standing up against repression, inviting the wrath of the ruling right wing Hindu nationalist BJP that accuses her of being a member of the Maoist movement that is active in the tribal areas.

Born in Boston, she moved back to India with her parents at the age of 11, and renounced her US citizenship after turning 18. After pursuing her studies, she chose to become an activist and dedicated her life for the rights of women, minorities and the oppressed classes. In August 2018, she and several others were arrested and put behind bars on malicious charges.

Monday marked her fourth birthday in jail.

The date coincides with the foundation day of the Ghadar Party, a group of Indian revolutionaries that was formed in the US, during the British occupation of India. Hindi Pacific Association, as the group was actually called, came to be known as the Ghadar Party after the launching of Ghadar newsletter by its members on November 1, 1913. The party believed in an egalitarian society and resolved to drive out the British from India through an armed uprising. Gradually, the party spread its influence among Indian immigrants across the globe, encouraging many to return to their homeland to fight against the foreign occupation.

Among them was Gulab Kaur from Manila, who deserted her husband for the cause as the latter refused to participate in the struggle. Kaur remained active in the Ghadar movement in India, and risked her life helping her male comrades in many secret operations. More than a century later, Bharadwaj did the same by renouncing a comfortable life in the US, choosing to remain in India to serve the people.

It’s a shame that the founding fathers of the BJP, who either remained indifferent to the freedom movement or had cozy relations with the British, are treating people like Bharadwaj as “anti-nationals”. If anyone is a true patriot, it’s her and not those who are in power. In fact, the rulers in New Delhi who are bent upon dividing Indian society on the basis of religion, and by creating an exclusionist Hindu state, are the deceivers of Ghadar heroes, who had envisioned a secular republic. For us, Bharadwaj is the avatar of Gulab Kaur and must be given respect. She deserves to be out and not inside the prison. Until then we all need to raise our voices for her release.

Gurpreet Singh is a journalist from Canada

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One Comment

  1. Dr Harjinder Singh Dilgeer says:

    (You wrote): Gulab Kaur from Manila, who deserted her husband for the cause as the latter refused to participate in the struggle.

    This is wrong. She did not desert her husband. He husband too participated n Ghadr struggle. He husband Jeewan Singh was hanged on 25th of March 1915 in Montgomery jail in connection with Firozshah Case in which one police official was killed by him and his companions. (Please read details in the book 100 SIKH BIBAN (Punjabi).