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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 30 New Delhi July 14, 2018

Statement Condemning the Attack on Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj

Sunday 15 July 2018

We, the undersigned, wish to place on record our utter disgust, contempt and outrage at the latest in the series of machinations by Republic TV, working to its brief as a propagandist for the ongoing crusade against all those who take public stands in defence of democracy, secularism, human rights, constitutional propriety and rule of law.

Republic TV’s latest target is Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, National Secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Vice-President of the Indian Association of Progressive Lawyers and Visiting Professor at the National Law University, Delhi. She is widely known for her three decades of work as a trade unionist, human rights defender, environmental lawyer and a respected advisor to several State institutions including the State legal aid bodies and the National Human Rights Commission.

According to Republic TV, this committed and dedicated lawyer and activist is an “urban Maoist” who is “plotting to break India” with separatist groups and armed guerrillas across the country. The basis for the long list of scurrilous allegations and malicious insinuations against Advocate Bharadwaj is a letter purported to be written by her that Republic TV claims it has accessed.

The provenance of this letter is not revealed and we are not told how it came into the possession of Republic TV. The language of the letter is crude and clumsy, with the supposed author self-identifying as “Comrade Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj” and mentioning the names of various known and unknown individuals who are meticulously addressed as “Comrades”. The contents—or rather, what Republic TV claims are the contents—are supposed to establish a “sensational” connection between the Kashmiri separatists, “urban Naxals”, students from JNU and TISS, and others who take public stands against the anti-people policies of the state. According to Republic TV, these are “incontrovertible and unquestionable facts” that cannot be questioned.

Based on the telecast, the alleged letter belongs to the shoddy archive of similar “documentary proofs” that are regularly leaked to the press by investigation agencies eager to pin various “crimes” onto activists, leaders of people’s movements, political opponents, human rights defenders, critics of government policies and other citizens who are exercising their legitimate rights to free speech, dissent and political action.

The frenzied propagation by Republic TV of these concocted allegations and invented charges against known critics of the ruling party is clearly aimed at blurring the lines between evidence and allegation, accusation and proof, coincidence and causality in the mind of viewers who do not have access to multiple sources of information. Equally dangerous is the creation and demonisation of virulent labels like “urban Naxals” and “tukde-tukde gang”, which gain currency solely by virtue of insistent repetition and circulation, despite being legally, factually and politically untenable.

The lethal consenquences of this shameless manipulation of public opinion are today visible in the form of the targeted lynchings of Muslims, Dalits and others identified as criminals based on malevolent WhatsApp messages and videos. Ludicrous though this attack on Advocate Bharadwaj may seem, it is also a signal of the widening dragnet being used to establish absolute control over all institutions and spaces of governance.

We call on all responsible people to condemn and expose this attack as the latest attempt by the Modi sarkar and its embedded propagandists in the media to bypass democratic institutions, undermine the rule of law, stifle all voices of dissent and crush all those who seek to question or challenge their autocratic rule.

We also call on media bodies, professional associations and senior journalists to come out and condemn practitioners of this form of toxic, unethical and malicious “journalism”.


1. Kritika A., activist

2. Ammu Abraham, activist

3. Nancy Adajania, curator and writer

4. Dr Albertina Almeida, Advocate and human rights activist

5. Dr Sadhna Arya, Delhi University

6. Manshi Asher, environmental activist

7. Prof Amita Baviskar, Institute of Economic Growth

8. Dr Shilpi Bhattacharya, OP Jindal Global University

9. Prashant Bhushan, Advocate, Supreme Court of India

10. Dr Nisha Biswas, scientist and activist

11. Dr Neera Burra, writer and historian

12. Runu Chakraborthy, activist

13. Prof Uma Chakravarthy, feminist historian

14. Anil Chamadiya, journalist

15. Bijaya Chanda, Advocate and human rights activist, APDR

16. Prof C.P. Chandrasekhar, JNU

17. Uma V. Chandru, IIACD

18. Anil Chaudhary, PEACE

19. Ashok Chaudhury, NUFPFW

20. Pranav K. Chaudhary, journalist and activist

21. Dr Yug Mohit Chaudhary, Advocate, Bombay High Court

22. Prof Anuradha Chenoy, JNU

23. Prof Kamal Chenoy, JNU

24. Dr Vanessa Chisti, OP Jindal Global University

25. Maja Daruwala, Senior Advisor, Commonwealth Human Rights Network

26. Padma Deosthali, researcher and writer

27. Mihir Desai, Senior AdvocateBombay High Court

28. Prof Ganesh Devy, scholar and activist

29. Prof Ritu Dewan, feminist economist

30. Saba Dewan, filmmaker

31. Deepa Dhanraj, Filmmaker

32. Arundhati Dhuru, NAPM

33. Dr Gabriele Dietrich, Centre for Social Analysis

34. Brinelle Dsouza, TISS

35. Adsa Fatima, activist

36. Professor Sabeena Gadihoke, AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, filmmaker

37. Prof Jayati Ghosh, JNU

38. Professor Shohini Ghosh, AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, filmmaker

39. Viji Ghosh, journalist

40. Colin Gonsalves, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India

41. Sujata Gothoskar, activist

42. Purnima Gupta, feminist activist

43. Dr Smita Gupta, JNU

44. Prof Zoya Hasan, JNU

45. Rohini Hensman, writer

46. Ranjit Hoskote, curator and poet

47. Juhi Jain, writer and activist

48. Indira Jaising, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India and former Additional Solicitor General of India

49. Lara Jesani, Advocate, Mumbai High Court

50. Amar Kanwar, Filmmaker

51. Agnes Karshing, social activist

52. Archana Kaul, Srijanatmak Manushi Sanstha

53. Prof Ayesha Kidwai, JNU

54. Madhuri Krishnaswamy, JADS

55. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, lawyer and human rights activist

56. Freny Manekshaw, independent journalist

57. Ritu Menon, publisher and writer

58. Dr Kalyani Menon-Sen, independent researcher and activist

59. Shamim Meghani Modi, Shramik Adivasi Sanghatana

60. Laxmi Murthy, journalist

61. Sarojini N., health activist

62. Ravi Nair, SAHRDC

63. Farah Naqvi, writer and activist

64. Aditya Nigam, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies

65. Anand Patwardhan, Filmmaker

66. Sandhya Phadke, activist

67. Pamela Philipose, journalist

68. Priya Pillai, environmental activist

69. Manasi Pingle, filmmaker

70. Dr Imrana Qadeer, health activist

71. Shobha Raghavan, activist

72. Annie Raja, General Secretary, National Federation of Indian Women

73. Vimala Ramachandran, Education Resource Unit

74. Anubha Rastogi, Advocate, Mumbai

75. Aruna Roy, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan

76. Dunu Roy, Hazards Centre

77. Rahul Roy, filmmaker

78. Meera Sanghamitra, NAPM

79. Niti Saxena, activist

80. Geeta Seshu, journalist

81. Prof Abhijit Sen, JNU

82. Ardhendu Sen, IAS (retired)

83. Dr Ilina Sen, TISS

84. Dr Jhuma Sen, OP Jindal Global University

85. Dr Rohini Sen, OP Jindal Global University

86. Prof Samita Sen, Jadavpur University

87. Dr Veena Shatrughna, former Deputy Director, NIN

88. Padmaja Shaw, researcher and writer

89. Dr Mira Shiva, health activist

90. Bhasha Singh, journalist

91. Nikita Sonavane

92. Abhishek Srivastava, journalist

93. Dr Pankaj Srivastava, journalist

94. Malini Subramaniam, journalist

95. Prof Nandini Sundar, Delhi School of Economics

96. Pyoli Swatija, Advocate, Delhi

97. Swayam, Kolkata

98. Prashant Tandon, journalist

99. Henri Tiphagne, People’s Watch, Tamilnadu

100. Dr Achin Vanaik, writer and researcher

101. Dr Anish Vanaik, OP Jindal Global University

102. Anand Swaroop Varma, Editor, Samkaleen Teesri Duniya

103. Vimochana, Bangalore

104. Prof Asghar Wajahat, writer, playwright and filmmaker

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