New Delhi: Human rights lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, who has appeared in several cases on alleged fake encounters of Adivasis in the Chhattisgarh high court and made representations to the National Human Rights Commission on behalf of many activists, has accused anchor and managing director of Republic TV Arnab Goswami of levelling “ridiculous, scurrilous, false and completely unsubstantiated allegations” against her in a programme, “Super Exclusive Breaking News”, telecast on his channel on July 4.
Bharadwaj said in a public statement, Republic TV has “claimed that I have written a letter (identifying myself as “Comrade Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj”) to a Maoist – one “Comrade Prakash” – stating that a “Kashmir like situation” has to be created. I am also accused of having received money from Maoists. I am also said to have confirmed that various advocates, some of whom I know as excellent human rights lawyers and others whom I do not know at all, had some sort of Maoist link.”
Categorically denying that the letter referred to by Goswami’s channel – if at all it existed – was ever written by her, Bharadwaj, who is also a visiting professor at National Law University, Delhi and national secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, said she refutes all the allegations and that Republic TV has defamed her and caused “professional and personal injury”.
Bharadwaj also contended that while Republic TV had not revealed the source of this ‘letter’, she found it “curious that a document purporting to contain evidence of such serious crimes should first surface in the studio of Arnab Goswami”.
Recalling the work she has done as a rights activist and trade unionist, Bharadwaj said: “I have been a dedicated trade unionist since the past 30 years, working in the organisation of the late legendary Shankar Guha Niyogi, Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, in the working class shanties of Dalli Rajhara and Bhilai, and hundreds of workers are witness to the fact.”
As part of her work as a trade unionist, Bharadwaj said she became a lawyer in the year 2000 since then she has fought scores of cases of workers, farmers, adivasis and poor people in the field of labour, land acquisition, forest rights and environmental rights.
Practising in the Chhattisgarh high court in Bilaspur since 2007, she was nominated by the court to be a member of the Chhattisgarh State Legal Services Authority. She said her “pro-people positions and work as a human rights lawyer are a matter of public record”.
Holding out that she was “perfectly aware that they stand in direct opposition to the views so loudly and frequently expressed by Arnab Goswami and Republic TV”, Bharadwaj added that in her opinion “the present malicious, motivated and fabricated attack on me is because I recently addressed a press conference in Delhi to condemn the arrest on 6 June of advocate Surendra Gadling.”
She said the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), an organisation of lawyers, had also strongly taken up the issue of other lawyers such as Chandrashekhar of Bhim Army and Vachinathan who was arrested after the Sterlite firing.
“It is clear that in targeting such lawyers, the state is trying to silence those who stand for the democratic rights of citizens. The state strategy is to create a chilling effect and deny equitable access to the legal system. Also very recently the IAPL had organised a fact finding into the difficulties faced by lawyers in Kashmir,” she said in the statement.
Pointing out that recently the National Human Rights Commission had also sought her assistance in investigating a case in Kondasawali village in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh, she said “in all these cases I have acted with the professional integrity and courage expected of a human rights lawyer”.
“This,” she said, “indeed appears to be `my crime’ which has earned me the super exclusive attentions of Arnab Goswami. I have asked my lawyer to send a legal notice to Arnab Goswami and Republic TV for their false, malicious and defamatory allegations against me.”