This is nothing but deliberate harassment, says 66-year-old Bharadwaj

It looks like democratic means of protest, such as calling for a bandh or taking out a rally, can be deemed reasons for the executive to consider externment of a person from a district.

J. Bharadwaj, a 66-year-old labour leader and human rights activist based in Gangavati in Koppal district, is facing threat of externment from the district on the charge that he organises people and therefore “creates nuisance.”

He has been served a notice by the district administration to appear for an inquiry in this regard scheduled for January 18.

Political activist

Mr. Bharadwaj is a member of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and the Communist Party of India (ML) Liberation, and State president of the All-India Central Council of Trade Unions.

The police report, which endorses his externment, cites three old cases against him. While two are minor cases which are now closed, he was acquitted in 2006 in a case dating back to 2001.

Interestingly, the police report, which says there are no cases against him apart from these, goes on to cite his activities as a political organiser — such as organising protests or calling for bandhs — as reasons that can attract his externment from the district.

A livid Mr. Bharadwaj told The Hindu that the police and the district administration were trying to “shut him up and make an example of him” to suppress democratic agitations. “I have been part of many agitations, especially against projects that seek to grab farmers’ land such as the anti-POSCO agitation,” he said. “I am a senior citizen and this is nothing but deliberate harassment.”

‘Witch-hunting’

PUCL’s State general secretary V. Lakshminarayan said this was “witch-hunting” of a popular mass leader. “The police say he is creating nuisance by organising people. This is a blatant violation of a Constitutional right,” he said. The human rights organisation has written to the district administration, Home Minister R. Ashok and the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission protesting against the attempt to extern Mr. Bharadwaj. “This is clearly politically motivated,” Mr. Lakshminarayan said.

‘Routine hearing’

When contacted by The Hindu, Tulasi Maddineni, Deputy Commissioner of Koppal, said that it was a routine hearing in response to a case filed under the Karnataka Police Act. When asked whether there were cases pending against Mr. Bharadwaj and if there were allegations of illegal activities, she said: “I do not remember exactly.”

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