“Feeling of Freedom is A Little Partial,” says Sudha After Being Released from Prison

By Sonal Nain, 20 Feb 2022

Sudha Bharadwaj, a human rights lawyer and activist, who gave up her US citizenship at 23, was released from Mumbai’s Byculla prison last year after spending more than three years and 1000 days in prison. Bharadwaj, along with 15 others, was arrested in 2018 in the Bhima Koregaon Violence case on charges of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). She opened up to Mojo Story about her time in prison and the pivotal moments when she realized she was a criminal.

Over 10,000 people were arrested and 253 were convicted under the UAPA between 2014 and 2000. The idea behind UAPA was that certain illegal organizations needed to be outlawed. As a result, any association with these illegal organizations is now illegitimate. “This act has the effect of criminalizing any kind of association, which is extremely ambiguous and problematic,” Sudha asserts.

Sudha laughed through it all, even in the midst of her misery. When she was released from prison, a photograph of her laughing surfaced, and she stated, “One has a choice, and I prefer to laugh.” She is also barred from discussing the case with the media or contacting any of her co-defendants. “Feeling of freedom is a little partial,” she expressed.

She admitted that the previous three years have been difficult. However, her optimism after spending time in the ‘Phansi Yard’ with death row inmates is admirable. “Tears welled up in my eyes as I was taken there. In the ‘Phansi Yard,’ there were two sets of bars to look through, one set of bars for prisoners and another set of bars outside the corridors.” 

People in her immediate vicinity had lived there for the past 25 years. “When I was asked to strip naked, I realized I was a criminal,” she explained. 

She wished to be hugged by her daughter. When they took her to court, her daughter would stand there, the guards were so strict that they wouldn’t even let Sudha meet her daughter. She is now looking for work to fund her daughter’s education after spending 3 years in jail.