Archive for January, 2009
Here is a bulleted timeline of events in the Strange Case of Dr Binayak Sen. Nandini Sengupta prepared it based on raw materials sent by Ilina, who then updated it further.
Thanks to Nandini & Ilina for this compilation
- May 6th, 2007. Piyush Guha, a businessman, is allegedly arrested in Raipur during a random search by police. The search of his body and belongings is supposed to reveal that he was in possession of magazines and letters related to the Naxalite movement. The letters were from Narayan Sanyal, an alleged leader of the Naxalites who was in prison on charges of murder. Guha claims that the letters were given to him by Dr. Binayak Sen, who had met several times with Sanyal.
- May 14th, 2007. Dr. Sen is arrested in Bilaspur on charges of acting as a courier between Sanyal and Guha, thus aiding and abetting an unlawful organization, i.e., the Naxalites.
- May 15th, 2007. Dr. Sen is remanded to judicial custody. Bail is denied. A farm belonging to his wife, Dr. Ilina Sen, is raided and searched illegally by the police.
- May 18th, 2007. Dr. Sen is produced in court. His lawyers are denied the opportunity to see the Firs Information Report (FIR) filed by the police. Court orders a search of Dr. Sen’s house in the presence of independent witnesses and Dr. Ilina Sen. The search is conducted the next day, with no incriminating material found.
- May 22nd, 2007. Dr. Sen is produced in court along with Piyush Guha. Judicial remand extended to June 5th. Court orders search of Dr. Sen’s computer.
- May 25th 2007. Dr. Sen is denied bail again, with the Chhattisgarh government claiming that he is a threat to state security.
- May 26th to June 4th, 2007. Multiple rallies and meetings in support of Dr. Sen are held in Raipur, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Coimbatore, Lucknow, London, Boston, New York and elsewhere. Various delegations of physicians and human rights activists meet with the Chief Secretary, Govt. of India and the Law Secretary to appeal for Dr. Sen’s release.
- June 5th, 2007. Dr. Sen is produced in court. Rebuts allegations by police.
- June 6th to June 11th, 2007. Analysis of Dr. Sen’s computer is apparently conducted by CFSL, Hyderabad in the absence of defence lawyers. A protest is filed on June 18th.
- June 19th, 2007. Dr. Sen is not produced in court as ordered, the police claiming lack of the armed escort needed for a dangerous criminal.
- December 10th , 2007. Dr. Sen’s final bail petition is denied by a 2-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India after only 35 minutes of deliberation. It is worth noting that the junior judge initially selected to hear the petition was replaced just before the hearing, and that the senior judge was feted by the Chhattisgarh government from December 8th to 9th as the chief guest at the inauguration of a legal aid center.
- December 31st, 2007. Dr. Sen is awarded the R.R. Keithan Gold Medal by the Indian Academy of Social Sciences in recognition of “his outstanding contribution to the advancement of science of Nature-Man-Society and his honest and sincere application for the improvement of quality of life of the poor, the downtrodden and the oppressed people of Chhattisgarh.”
- March 15th to April 11th, 2008. Dr. Sen is kept in solitary confinement for unclear reasons. The prison authorities claim that it is for his own security but provide no further explanation. Widespread protests prompt his release from solitary confinement.
- April 21st, 2008. Dr. Sen is awarded the Jonathan Mann Award by the Global Health Council, the highest honor in global health and human rights. In a statement in support of Dr. Sen, the Council noted that “His good works need to be recognized as a major contribution to India and to global health; they are certainly not a threat to state security.”
- May 30th, 2008. Dr. Sen’s trial commences and is currently on-going. None of the witnesses so far examined support the prosecution story of meetings with Pijush guha and visiting sanyal posing as his relative.Decision to file for bail in view of the collapsing chargesheet taken by the legal team in August.
- July, 29, 2008. Strong suggestion that evidence is being tampered with by the prosecution when a sealed envelope containing material taken during the house search of Binayak reveals 11 documents instead of the 10 on the list. The 11th doc is an unsigned letter from the CPI (Maoist) thanking him for his help in their work. Unlike other house search documents, this only contains the signature of the investigating officer, and is not countersigned by Binayak.
- August 11, 2008. The second bail petition filed in the Chhattisgarh High Court at Bilaspur.
- August 14, 2008. First hearing on the bail matter. Hearing adjourned.
- September 8, 2008 Judge requests Sr Counsel for Binayak, Ms Anjana Prakash for the bail petition filed in the Supreme Court.
- September 19, 2008. Required documents filed.
- November, 3, 2008. Since the case fails to be listed for hearing, an application filed for an early fixed date.
- November, 24, 2008 Since there is no affirmative action on the previous application, the Judge is again reminded that the case remains unlisted.The judge agrees to hear it on December 2.
- December 2, 2008. Arguments on the bail take place, and the case is dismissed ‘at the motion (admission) stage’ on the twin logic that there is no fresh ground since the previous bail rejection and that the hearings are going expediously and will lead to an early conclusion of the trial.
- December, 3, 2008. Supplementary charge sheet filed , listing 47 additional witnesses.
Fog of war
In a speech to Congress nine days after 9/11, US President George W. Bush declared “war” on terror. It seemed as innocuous a phrase then, as it is commonplace now. But re-categorising a ‘law enforcement’ problem as ‘war’ was a game-changer in two ways. First, war demands that we rally around the leader; questioning abuse of power can be unpatriotic. Second, since war is ugly business, mistakes happen. Some collateral damage is inevitable. Bush’s audience and America’s other public institutions agreed to play by these new rules. His “war on terror” ranged from controversial (the Patriot act, racial profiling) to plain illegal (warrantless wiretapping, Guantanamo bay, Iraq). In every single case, the Bush administration got a free pass from the Congress, Senate, media, judiciary and public opinion. To take just a few examples: the Supreme Court refused to grant habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo bay detainees — in flagrant breach of international law — waking up somewhat only seven years later. While the rest of world cried foul, the Congress and Senate gave bipartisan support to the Iraq war. And the public? Bush’s approval rating post 9/11 shot to 90 per cent — even before he’d taken a single major decision!
This free pass that public institutions give the executive is characteristic of war everywhere. Israeli public opinion accepts a thousand Palestinian deaths in Gaza as unavoidable collateral damage; its human rights community thinks it bad taste to chastise the army in times of trouble. As Sri Lanka stands on the brink of an epic victory, the media self-gags, courts are careful, and executive power is unquestioned. Some of this acquiescence is got by intimidation. Dissenting voices are “burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced”, Sri Lankan editor Lasantha Wickramatunga wrote in a tragically prescient obituary of himself. But for most part, this institutional ‘group-think’ is done voluntarily, and with the best of intentions: solidarity in times of war, and sacrifice for the greater common good. In America’s case, “war as metaphor” — to paraphrase Susan Sontag — gave Dubya leeway wide enough to preside over what emerging consensus terms “the very worst presidency ever”. Does America post 9/11 explain Binayak Sen?
A practicing doctor in south Bastar, Binayak Sen was arrested by the Chhattisgarh police for “supporting” Naxalites. He’s been in jail-without-bail for 19 months. The magistracy, high court, Supreme Court and NHRC have all reinforced the state’s view on Sen. With so much smoke, surely he must have set something on fire? But as The Indian Express pointed out in a series of articles (IE, January 13, 14, 15) and in an editorial (IE, January 15), injustice on a colossal scale has likely been done. Known criminals arrested on harder evidence get bail quicker. And in the ongoing trial in Raipur, the government’s case against Sen — never strong — has more or less collapsed. Yet, in jail for close to two years, Binayak Sen seems destined to spend a couple more.
One way is to see this as a monolithic state ‘fixing’ its enemy and stifling institutional dissent. But the Supreme Court and NHRC went after Narendra Modi. The media, Supreme Court and public opinion all stood up to Indira Gandhi. India is no banana republic; its institutions no Pakistan. Why then have our public institutions failed Binayak Sen?
Described as India’s “greatest internal security threat” by the prime minister, Naxalites operate in half of Chhattisgarh’s 18 districts. In response, the Raman Singh state Government has re-categorised the threat from ‘law and order’ to ‘war’. Anti-Naxal measures such as para-military deployment (17 battalions), nurturing an extra-legal militia (Salwa Judum), and targeting “supporters” of any kind (the Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act) — are weapons to wage war, not sticks to keep the peace. The least they require is tough questioning by activist public institutions. But the high court, Supreme Court and NHRC all seem reluctant to play spoiler in a long drawn war against a dangerous enemy. To them, Binayak Sen is a war casualty: an enemy combatant at worst, collateral damage at best. Sen’s incarceration is a political question whose answer is best left to the judgment of the state executive. It would be deemed unpatriotic to do otherwise.
Binayak Sen is only one of 192 charged under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act; the Act only one of a slew of Indian anti-terror laws; and Naxalism only one (though perhaps most dangerous) of India’s million mutinies. But Binayak Sen symbolises a larger point: tough times may need tough responses, but require tough monitoring as well. Just as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo battered America’s sense of self more than Osama Bin Laden ever thought conceivable, misusing laws destroys the very ideals for which we battle against Al Qaeda and Naxalites. Institutional acquiescence of the “war on terror” did America great disservice. Will we too tell ourselves a generation later: that when faced with a good fight, we fought it the wrong way. And lost.
Today Mail Today Published a feature on Dr. Binayak sen Read those articles below / Download Image.
THE DOCTOR WHOM THE STATE FEARS
By Poornima Joshi
Over 18 months after his incarceration, doctor and activist Binayak Sen is still languishing in jail without any evidence against him. Here’s why he is feared by the government.
BINAYAK SEN was a doctor and human rights activist who had worked many years among the tribals of Chhattisgarh’s tribal districts. His work among the tribals had made him a hero, a man who did what the government did not. To the government, he was the villain who backed the Maoists. He had to be silenced.
Binayak Sen has been in Raipur prison since May 14, 2007. His incarceration has little do with the official charge that he passed on information from jailed Maoists to their friends outside. It’s quite likely that as a human rights activist and selfless doctor who worked among the tribals, he was seen as a bulwark against the state’s rampant human rights violations in the area.
Binayak, a graduate of the prestigious Christian Medical College ( CMC), Vellore, has been hailed by the Global Health Council for his “ years of service for poor and tribal communities, his effective leadership in establishing self- sustaining health care services where none existed.” And he had the courage to stand up.
It is Binayak’s work among the poor, his dogged agitation to ensure that the tribals are not fodder for police atrocities, that makes him a perfect catch.
His arrest eliminates a powerful voice against the state’s failure to provide for the poor while it also establishes Chief Minister Raman Singh’s credentials as a ruler who would squash any powerful voice that questions his anti- terror policy.
There is one more purpose to be served by Binayak’s arrest. It validates BJP’s consistent effort to obliterate the line between Maoists and activists who believe that the legal process should be followed even if the state is fighting against Maoists.
“ This is a systematic process under way to eliminate voices of dissent. It is a known fact that as an office- bearer of the People’s Union of Civil Liberties ( PUCL), Binayak was a strong critic of inhuman anti- Maoist policies such as the Salva Judum. So, instead of giving a logical response to arguments against such policies, the best thing is to silence these voices. You cannot argue with Binayak when he criticises the government’s total indifference to the collapsing healthcare system or Salva Judum.
The best thing to do is to brand him as a Maoist and put him in jail,” says Kavita Srivastava, PUCL activist from Rajasthan.
Vigilantism of Salwa Judum has divided and very nearly destroyed tribal society.
All sensible humans—not just Indians—agree that there is no place for violence in the settlement of political disputes. If a particular group feels victimised or discriminated against, it has all kinds of democratic means of redress open to it—the circulation of its grievances by the means of speech or print; the canvassing of politicians, political parties, and public officials; and petitions in court. If (and only if) all these means fail, the group may yet take recourse to non-violent protest or satyagraha. But they have no business to use weapons, whether they are AK-47s or trishuls.
D. Chandra Bhaskar Rao
GOLLAPALLI (Chhattisgarh): Who killed the 17 tribal youths at Singaram, a forest village of Dantewada district. And were they really the naxalites?
The Chhattisgarh police claim that they were hardcore naxalites. Dantewada SP Rahul Sarma said they were all killed in a real encounter. “It is a major breakthrough achieved by my boys in taking on the Maoists in their heartland,” he asserted.
But the tribal communities attributed the killings to the anti-naxalite campaigners of Salva Judum. The incident triggered a fresh wave of tribal bloodshed in the region.
Some 250 persons carrying firearms stormed Singaram and three other neighbouring villages — Korasigudem, Mailur and Chanchalguda. Seventeen tribal youths including four women were killed. Thirteen others of the Gothikoya tribe, which has a predominant presence in the area owing allegiance to the Maoists went missing. The villagers were busy with harvest operations when they came under the attack.
Some of the residents who had a little money readily available with them could buy peace. Others tried to beat back the attack and paid the price. They were whisked away to the forest and shot dead at the point blank range.
‘None in uniform’
“We cannot attribute the killing to police, as we did not see any one in uniform among the attackers. We can identify a majority of them involved in the raid,” said Soyam Veera, a youth who survived the attack. “Those who led the attack were all our tribesmen. They blamed us for sheltering the Maoists. They asked us to leave the villages and join the government-run base camps meant for displaced tribals.” Accompanied by the media persons, people from the four villages reached the forest pocket near Singaram on Friday morning. The bodies were lying scattered.
I hope all of you remember Free Binayak Sen Facebook group‘s Call for Slogans and Poems for Binayak sen Calendar . It is ready now. The poems in the calendar are in various languages (Hindi, English, Urdu, Hindustani, Spanish and Portuguese) contributed by members of Free Binayak Sen Campaign Facebook Group . Kamayani did the Coordination & Compilation. This Calendar is Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution License. Copyright of the poems is to respective authors (if specified). You Have all Rights to Distribute/ Publish it by acknowledging http://binayaksen.net
Combat law Also Published a Calendar in One page Format. Kriti team Published a Diary called Our Diary 2009 with Documentations on people’s movements for a free Tibet, Bhutan and Burma apart from carrying news and updates from the Bhopal Gas tragedy survivors; the Narmada valley; the ‘disappeared’ in Kashmir; Niyamgiri and Jagatsinghpur struggles against mining; Singur and Nandigram protests against takeover by companies; anti-coke struggles and land rights voices from Chengara; campaign for the release of Dr Binayak Sen and more..
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Combat law Also Published a Calendar in One page Format
Free Binayak Sen Calendar From Combat Law
Our Diary 2009
By Kriti team
features in solidarity with movements in Burma, Bhutan and Tibet; struggles against Special Economic Zones; news and updates from the Bhopal Gas tragedy survivors; Narmada valley; the voices of the disappeared; Niyamgiri and Jagatsinghpur struggles against mining; Singur and Nandigram protests against takeover by companies; anti-coke struggles and land rights voices from Chengara; activism and more…
a bookscape and filmscape on movement publications & documentaries
a Movement Map of India, references and readings, contacts of movement groups & resource centres
For details to Order Check Kriti’s Blog
The Indian Express has published a 3-part series examining the case
against Binayak Sen, and also an editorial “No Bailouts” where it
concludes that “the many troubling aspects of the [Binayak Sen] case
indicate the possibility of miscarriage of justice on a colossal
The 3 parts of the series are below:
Excerpt: The sheer length of Sen’s incarceration without bail is
significant. To compare: Sanjeev Nanda, prime accused in the BMW
hit-and-run case, was given bail just four months after being
arrested. Another eventual convict, Vikas Yadav â€” accused of shooting
model Jessica Lall in full public view â€” not only got anticipatory
bail, but after a brief four months in jail, was free on bail. Yet
Sen, accused with evidence that is fast unravelling, has spent the
last 19 months in jail.
Excerpt: The government alleges that Sen visited Naxalite Narayan
Sanyal 33 times in jail, where Sen falsely posed as Sanyal’s relative.
In a bid to discredit this, Sen’s wife Ilina filed a Right to
Information application to access the jail records. The records,
available with The Indian Express, show that Sen, far from posing as
Sanyal’s relative, applied for jail visits using human rights group
PUCL’s stationery, where Sen worked as Chhattisgarh general secretary.
Excerpt: Sen has been booked under the Chhattisgarh Special Public
Safety Act â€” the most controversial of the state Government’s
anti-Naxal measures. The law makes illegal a wide variety of actions
that “support” unlawful activities: taking part in meetings, receiving
or soliciting contributions, harbouring a Naxalite, or planning to
commit an illegal activity.
Read the rest of this entry »
This New Years’ message was hand-written in jail by Dr Binayak Sen for
the MFC and JSS groups. Ilina Sen (who transcribed and emailed) has
given permission for it to be forwarded to us as well.
Date: Wed, Jan 14, 2009 at 3:32 AM
My warmest greetings to all friends in the MFC, and best wishes for
As an Indian child of parents from the territory that is now Bangladesh, displacement was a lived reality for me from my childhood, as it was for millions of other children of my generation. But then, in so many ways, the history of the last 500 years (1492 is a useful reference date), is the history of successive waves of displacement- either as displacement from as in the case of the native Americans, or displacement to, as in the case of slave labour from Africa or India. A particularly gruesome episode is being played out before our eyes in Palestine. The NBA brought the issue of displacement into the mainstream of Indian public discourse. In Chhattisgarh, seasonal migration provides an example of large scale displacement, and a particularly iconic experience was watching a young migrant mother lying on the floor of a train while her baby slowly dehydrated from gastroenteritis. The Salwa Judum in Bastar has displaced huge numbers of people at gunpoint, and over 100,000 people have been pushed over the border into Andhra Pradesh.
In China today, 100 million people are in the process of being displaced by the Three gorges dam and other projects. As usual, in India, we go one better.The redoubtable Prof Swaminathan has chaired a committee that has concluded that Indian agriculture can accommodate at most a third of its population in agriculture, as opposed to half as at present.. The difference is a small matter of 200 million people.
Displacement is about the sequestration of privileged access to resources and need not always involve a geographical reference. Thus, the chronic nutritional deprivation from which half our children and a third of our adults suffer can be regarded as a special form of
displacement. What displacement invariably does entail is the ruthless cutting short of the micro evolutionary process involved in any instance of eco adaptation, involving chemical or physical factors as in Bhopal, or the social environment as in south Bastar.
That’s enough. Too bad I can’t take part. All the best for your deliberations.. Choose your politics before your politics chooses you.
The Indian Express Posted online: Jan 15, 2009 at 2312 hrs
Even in the best of times, law enforcement and human rights are in tension with each other. Keeping the peace means arming the enforcers, arms they might misuse. Which is why a robust civil society and dogged monitoring are always needed to keep an eye on power. These are not the best of times. Terrorism from without and Naxalism from within pose a serious challenge to the Indian state and to its capacity to ensure security to its citizens. The horror of Mumbai only highlighted the need for a tough response. The state seems to have got that message, giving law enforcers additional tools. The recently passed anti-terror laws, the National Investigation Agency and better equipment are only some of the new tools law enforcers have been given to keep the peace. But a tough terror regime must always be seen as a work in progress, and the tension between law enforcement and civil liberties should be tracked relentlessly. Look at the extraordinary measures available to the government: 180-day detention, targeting “sympathisers”, and shifting the evidentiary burden all risk violating the rights of detainees. These troubled times call for a tough law enforcement regime, but such tough laws also call for closer monitoring and stricter supervision to prevent misuse.
That possibility of misuse has come real in the case of Binayak Sen. And his case raises questions that must not be silenced. Arrested for supporting Naxalites on evidence that is fast unravelling, Binayak Sen has been in jail for 19 months without bail. Even indisputable criminals arrested on harder evidence get bail more quickly. The law that Sen has been arrested under significantly expands the definition of a “sympathiser”, casting a net wide enough to ensnare even traders who unwittingly sold cloth to Naxalites. Police officials say such a law is necessary, given that Naxalites hide under forest cover, and require supporters in urban areas to provide them with food, medical and legal aid.
Though still sub judice, the many troubling aspects of the case indicate the possibility of miscarriage of justice on a colossal scale. Given the enormity of the Naxal threat, it is inevitable — perhaps necessary — that the state responds in earnest. But the travails of Binayak Sen carry a message: when the the law is made tighter, there must be attendant thought to the possibility of misuse. Tough times need, not just tough responses, but tough monitoring as well.
Karan Thapar, Hindustan Times
The story of Dr Binayak Sen makes ironic reading at a time when we want to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai strike to ‘Indian justice’. It questions the phrase I have deliberately placed in inverted commas. Is Sen receiving justice or has he become the victim of a travesty?
I can’t offer a definitive answer because I don’t know enough. But after spending an hour with his wife, Ilina, I feel the details she has to relate deserve to be better known. They challenge the concepts of fairplay and honesty without which justice is impossible. If what Ilina Sen says is untrue, incomplete or selective — and therefore misleading — let the state of Chhattisgarh rebut her.
But until then, the cry of a wife whose husband has been in jail for 19 months, facing a trial that could drag on for years, despite appeals for his release from 26 Nobel laureates and most of the civil liberty associations in India, needs to be heard. We would be heartless and wicked if we are deaf to such cries.
Binayak Sen was arrested in May 2007. His wife tells me he is accused of “treason, waging war against the state and abetting activities of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist)”. More specifically, it is claimed that he passed on letters from Narayan Sanyal, a Maoist prisoner in Raipur jail, to a certain Piyush Guha, a local businessman said to be close to left-wing extremists. These letters, its alleged, were obtained during 33 visits to Sanyal made under false pretences.
Now for the facts as reported by Ilina.
Binayak Sen does not deny meeting Sanyal. As general secretary of the People’s Union of Civil Liberties, visiting prisoners in jail is one of his duties. More importantly, he did so with permission from the authorities. But to prove he ‘conspired’, the prosecution has to establish Sen also meet Guha. Otherwise how could he pass on the letters? But this they’ve failed to do.
When the trial commenced in April 2008, 83 witnesses were listed for deposition. By November, 16 were dropped by the prosecutors themselves, six declared hostile and 30 others deposed without corroborating the accusations. That left just 31.
Meanwhile, Ilina tells me, the desperate prosecution tried to rig the evidence. She says a sealed envelope with 10 documents seized at the time of Sen’s arrest — each of them countersigned by Sen and the arresting officer — was opened in court and found to have 11 documents. The 11th did not bear Sen’s signature but did carry that of the arresting officer.
Sensing that the case was collapsing, the defence appealed for bail. It was
not the first time they had done so. But now, in the changed circumstances, they felt they had good grounds to try again. Ilina says bail is normally only refused if the court believes the accused will tamper with the evidence, prejudice witnesses or run away. That hardly applies to Sen. He chose to voluntarily go to the Chhattisgarh police when he learnt he was under suspicion. Yet, his bail
application was dismissed without being entertained.
However, the very next day, the police filed a supplementary chargesheet adding another 47 witnesses to the original list of 83. At the rate at which the case is being heard, Ilina concludes, it could drag on for several more years.
While in prison, Binayak Sen has won the prestigious Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights. He is the only Indian to be so honoured. The citation reads: “He has spent his lifetime educating people about health practices and civil liberties… his good works need to be recognized as a major contribution to India and to global health; they are certainly not a threat to state security.”
Among those who have appealed for his release are Amartya Sen, Noam Chomsky, retired Indian chief justices, Magsaysay and Booker Prize winners, and eminent Indian and international academics, scientists and filmmakers. Their pleas have been ignored.
Ilina left me with three questions. How long can a man be kept in prison by refusing to grant him bail? Is this case being dragged on by an obdurate prosecution unwilling to accept it made a mistake and, therefore, unable to face up to embarrassment? And finally, is the prestige of the State more important than the liberties of an individual citizen?