PUCL Bulletin, 2001

State Repression of People's Movements
Social Worker arrested at a peaceful protest

On February 21st Bharat Gandhi, a 32 year old renowned Gandhian social worker was booked under the National Security Act by the District Magistrate of Meerut District in Uttar Pradesh. Bharat Gandhi's only fault was that he along with hundreds of workers of Partapur Spinning Mill was protesting on January 20th at the bungalow of the District Magistrate (DM) against the order to evict the workers from their quarters. The Partapur Spinning Mill had been closed since last two years. The DM had earlier assured the workers that they would not be evicted till their school-going children's academic session was over. However, dishonouring the earlier promise the DM pressurised the workers to vacate their residential premises if they wanted their payments to be released. The workers in dire economic stress succumbed to this pressure and agreed to vacate their houses. Having vacated their houses they went to the bank but the Bank refused to make the payments stating that the DM had ordered so.

Bharat Gandhi who had gone to the workers' colony to invite them for a forthcoming public meeting against globalisation scheduled for Jan 25, was moved by the plight of workers. They decided to face the injustice. Around 1000 workers accompanied by him reached DM's office after walking 15 km. On not finding the DM they all went to his bungalow and entered. Within half an hour J.P. Singh, the additional District Magistrate along with several police officials and force arrived there. Bharat Gandhi asked the authorities to talk to the workers but the ADM ordered the police to lathi charge on the crowd. Bharat Gandhi who was badly injured was taken to P.L. Hospital in a state of unconsciousness.

Subsequently, he along with a ward member of Municipal Corporation and 28 workers were booked under sections 147,149,307,323,504,506,427,332,353,452 IPC and sent to jail.
Further on Feb.21 the DM issued a notice against Bharat Gandhi and a ward member (from BSP) under National Security Act, to which he has to reply within 21 days.

Bharat Gandhi is a committed social worker. He has obtained his higher education from the Allahabad University. He has been organising meetings on the new economic policies and their impact on the working class and peasants. He has written extensively on these policies in 11 publications. During the last three months he had been on a padayatra, in villages around Meerut mobilising the public about the impacts of these policies. He had convened a huge public meeting on Jan.25th and a number of eminent leaders such as former PM. V.P. Singh, veteran socialist Shri Surendra Mohan, have been part of this meeting. This clearly represents a dastardly action meant to smother the voice of the people and their representatives. Bharat Gandhi is a social worker with no criminal record. To book him and the workers of Partapur Spinning Mill under various penal provisions is nothing but a violation of their democratic rights. Peaceful protests of workers against loss of livelihood due to arbitrary closures of factories are being crushed with brutal force and abuse of law whereas those with known criminal background are going about scot-free.

We appeal to you to send a letter to the Chief Minister of U.P. and the DM Meerut condemning the action against Bharat Gandhi, the mill workers and the ward member, and urging him to get the NSA notice as well as the various IPC charges framed against them withdrawn.

Write to Shri Rajnath Singh, Chief Minister, S.P. Mukharjee Marg, Lucknow, U.P. & Shri Avinash Kumar Avasthi, DM, Meerut, UP

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