A viral video showed Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) leader Brinda Karat blocking a bulldozer in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri. The bulldozer was there to carry out demolition of illegal structures as part of Delhi municipal corporation’s “anti-encroachment drive” in Jahangirpuri, which was the site of violence during the Hanuman Jayanti procession on Saturday.
Brinda Karat blocked a bulldozer waving the copy of the Supreme Court order that stayed the municipal corporation’s drive on Wednesday. The video captured dramatic scenes of a tense over two-hour standoff between the combative CPM leader and the civic authorities.
However, this was not the first time that Brinda Karat played the neta-activist. She has previously forced the Air India to withdraw mini-skirts as mandatory uniform for women, taken on yog-guru Baba Ramdev, gave a tough time to Tamil Nadu police, attempted to coach the Chief Justice of India (CJI) and led a delegation over the custodial death of Father Stan Swamy demanding the repeal of the anti-terror law.
THE MINI-SKIRT PROTEST
After graduating from the Delhi University’s Miranda House, Brinda Karat joined the London office of the Air India in 1967. While in London, she objected to mandatory wearing of mini-skirt for women staffers.
She launched a protest against the code of mini-skirt uniform. The Air India management was forced to amend its code and give women employees a choice a saree or a skirt. This has been the practice ever since.
On her return to India in 1971, she joined the CPM on the advice of Jyoti Basu, the former West Bengal chief minister.
CHALLENGING BABA RAMDEV
In the months of 2005-06, when the CPM was propping the Manmohan Singh government, Brinda Karat made sensational allegations against Baba Ramdev-backed ayurvedic pharmaceutical company. She claimed in 2005 that the medicines prepared by the firm contained animal parts and human bones. In early 2006, she claimed that the Union health ministry found that Baba Ramdev-backed company had violated licensing and labeling provisions.
Baba Ramdev denied the charges but the company based in Uttarakhand, then ruled by a Congress government faced immense pressure to refute the allegations with satisfying explanation.
A few days later, the supporters of Baba Ramdev and the CPM workers clashed in Delhi. The Arya Samaj members came out to support Baba Ramdev and burnt the effigy of Brinda Karat. The police had to use force to disperse the angry protesters and CPM workers.
This happened in 2009. By now, the CPM had parted ways with the Congress that was ruling at the Centre and a partner of the ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu, where Brinda Karat led a theatrical protest.
In September 2006, she was visiting a Madurai village where caste clashes had happened the previous year. She had been earlier denied permission to hold meetings in the village with the administration saying that her visit could trigger trouble.
When the police stopped her car on way to the village, Brinda Karat squatted on the road in protest. The middle-of-the-road drama continued for quite some time before the police relented and decided to escort her to the village.
CJI BOBDE’S COMMENT
In March 2021, Brinda Karat shot off an angry letter to then Chief Justice of India SA Bobde over his remarks asking a rape accused if he would marry the complainant. Brinda Karat demanded Justice Bobde withdrew his comment terming it “retrograde”.
The accused was a public servant and faced the charge of repeatedly raping a woman when she was minor. His anticipatory bail had been cancelled by the Bombay High Court. He had moved the Supreme Court against the high court order.
The bench headed by Justice Bobde had asked the accused, “Are you willing to marry her?”
Brinda Karat, in her letter, said, “The girl was gagged and raped by this criminal, when she was just sixteen years old. He repeated his crime 10-12 times. The girl tried to commit suicide. Does this show consent?”
“In any case, in the case of a minor, as this girl was, the law is clear that there is no issue of consent.”
She asked then CJI Bobde to withdraw his remarks considering the effect such questions would have on the psyche of victims. “Please reconsider and withdraw these comments and questions,” she said.
In July 2021, Brinda Karat launched a campaign against the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act following the custodial death of Father Stan Swamy, a Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist in Jharkhand.
Stan Swamy was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with the Elgaar Parishad-Maoist links case. He was charged under UAPA provisions. He was lodged in Taloja Central Jail since his arrest in October 2020 from his Bagaicha residence in Namkum near Ranchi.
His bail petitions were repeatedly opposed by the NIA though his counsels cited health issues and poor medical facilities in the jail. Stan Swamy passed away on July 5, 2021 while receiving treatment under custody at the Holy Family Hospital in Mumbai.