Archive for February, 2009
by Nawaz Kotwal, 27 February 2009
This is a trial the world should be watching. The story of Binayak Sen is a wake-up call for India
Human rights activist and public health specialist Binayak Sen was arrested two years ago for being a member of an unlawful association. For good measure he has also been charged with ‘sedition’ and ‘conspiracy’ and waging war against the state. The police also added charges claiming he acted as a courier for the Naxalities. He is being held under the Chhattisgarh State Public Security Act and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act — both ugly images of the repealed POTA and tools in hands of the state to silence voices of dissent.
Looking ahead Sen and his wife llina step outside the Raipur district court
Photo : Shailendra Pandey
If one were to describe Sen simply, he would be a widelyacclaimed public health practitioner who served the tribals of Chhattisgarh for over two decades. Realising that the causes of ill health lay in malnutrition and poverty, Sen recognised that basic human rights needed to be bolstered in order to make ‘health for all’ a reality. Sen, also the President of the Chhattisgarh chapter of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, has been vocal against police excesses, custodial deaths and fake encounters in Naxal infested Chhattisgarh and more recently, the Salwa Judum, a violent and indisciplined government-sponsored counter-Naxal effort. Today, he is paying the price of dissent.
It is now 21 months since Dr Binayak Sen, the well-known public health and human rights activist was imprisoned by the Chhattisgarh government on false charges of abetting activities of an outlawed organisation.
All of us, individuals and organisations, who have been concerned, protested and struggled for Dr Binayak Sen ‘s release all these months have decided to launch a satyagraha/civil disobedience movement in Raipur to prevail upon the Government to reverse its illegitimate action.
Satyagraha will be launched in the coming weeks and continued every Monday thereon at the jail in Raipur where Dr Binayak Sen is incarcerated. The one-point demand of the satyagraha is the release of Dr Binayak Sen. Let us all, who stand for freedom , unite to protest in the spirit of satayagraha and respecting the norms of civil disobedience.
We call upon civil society groups, human and civil rights organisations, trade unions, lawyers, medical professionals and womens’ groups, organisations and individuals from across the political spectrum to send contingents of civil resisters to Raipur to take part in the Raipur Satyagraha for the Release of Dr. Binayak Sen.
Resist the use of bail as punitive measure to intimidate human rights defenders
During the entire period which he has been kept in Raipur Jail, Dr Binayak Sen’s pleas for bail have been refused by judicial institutions at all levels in the country. While the Raipur Sessions court rejected his bail application in July 2007, the Chhattisgarh High Court denied bail twice, first in July 2007 and again in December 2008. On an earlier occasion, the Supreme Court of India also refused to consider the bail petition, without citing any specific reason, ironically on Human Rights Day, 2007.
The best traditions of justice and precedents set by Indian courts themselves demand that ‘bail should be the rule and jail the exception’. Bail is normally denied only to those accused who are likely to run away, repeat the crime or tamper with evidence. None of these conditions apply in the case of Dr Binayak Sen. He was arrested when he voluntarily went to the police on 14 May 2007 after learning they were looking for him. Bail cannot be used as a punitive measure; rather, it is an inherent civil right in democracy and an essential part of the Indian criminal justice system.
No evidence to back the charges against Dr Binayak Sen
Though Dr Binayak Sen has been arrested on grave charges under the draconian Chhattisgarh State Public Security Act, none of the 38 witnesses produced in his trial so far at a sessions court in Raipur have corroborated any of these charges. In December 2008, 18 months after his arrest, the State called in 47 extra witnesses to testify. The Chhattisgarh government and its police have also not been able to provide any proof of his involvement in illegal activities.
Dr Binayak Sen was arrested by the Chhattisgarh police for allegedly passing on letters from Narayan Sanyal , a senior member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) in Raipur jail to Piyush Guha, a Raipur businessman accused of assisting the Maoists. The fact of the matter is that Dr. Binayak Sen met Mr. Sanyal in prison with permission from jail authorities as he was providing medical care to Mr. Sanyal. There are records to prove this.
In the days and months following his incarceration, Dr Binayak Sen has received tremendous support from the people of India, and outside. 22 Nobel Laureates signed a letter in support of Dr Binayak Sen. Both international and national media, television and print, through news stories and editorials, has consistently pointed to the unjustified nature of Dr Binayak Sen’s imprisonment. Moreover, among the wider public too, there is a palpable sense of indignation, dissatisfaction and frustration with the way the Indian legal system and executive has responded to Dr Binayak Sen’s case.
All these factors bring into focus the moral dimension of illegitimacy of Dr Binayak Sen’s continued detention. We believe that in such a situation, where, Dr Binayak Sen has repeatedly been denied the most fundamental of legal rights, it is our moral responsibility as citizens to protest his arrest and call for his release.
Please circulate this appeal widely.
Please contact the satyagraha volunteers in New Delhi at firstname.lastname@example.org to indicate your or your organisation’s intent to participate in the satyagraha.
From ViBGYOR 2009 Website
We, the organizers, film makers, delegates and viewers of the VIBGYOR International Film Festival hereby express our deep dismay at the continued detention of Dr Binayak Sen, the National Vice President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), one of the oldest civil liberties organisations in India.
The PUCL Chhattisgarh has been one of the foremost independent organisations to draw attention to the excesses committed by the Chhattisgarh Government under its Salwa Judum campaign. The fake encounters, rapes, burning of villages and displacement of thousands of and consequent loss of livelihoods have been known even to the international community. It is therefore clear that Dr Sen’s arrest is an attempt to intimidate the PUCL and other democratic voices that have been speaking out against human rights violations in the State.
Dr. Binayak Sen has spent his life time in saving the lives of some of the most marginalized sections in Chattisgarh and not in promoting any form of destruction of life. The continued term of imprisonment of Dr. Sen is part of a growing tendency of attackson the human rights activists as well as a strong violation of our democratic norms. It is a matter of shame that the government is still playing deaf to the voices of every peace loving citizen in India as well as all over the world that the charges against Dr. Sen are baseless, false and politically motivated.
Dr Sen has been detained under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2006 and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004. These laws have been criticised by numerous civil rights groups as well as a number of reknowned personalities in India and abroad for giving arbitrary powers to the State to silence all forms of dissent.
We believe that Dr. Binayak Sen is only one of the hundreds of people who are languishing in Indian jails for involving in social and political actions for justice, peace and freedom. Therefore, in the name of all prisoners of conscience in this country we strongly demand the following:
- That all charges against Dr Sen be dropped and that he should be released immediately;
- That all activists who are facing similar jail terms for expressing their democratic rights be released immediately.
- That the notorius Salwa Judum be disbanded immediately and
- That the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2006 and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004 be repealed without any further delay.
Greetings From ViBGYOR Film Collective
Prof. Ilina Sen, wife of Dr. Binayak Sen inaugurates the 4th Edition of the ViBGYOR International Film Festival for short & documentary films at Sangeet Nataka Academy Campus, Thrissur on February 4th.
Dr. Ilina Sen is an internationally known feminist scholar, human rights activist, a pacifist, an agronomist, a builder and manager of institutions committed to equitable and participative development, and an author. She is a professor of Gender Studies at Mahatma Gandhi Hindi University in Wardha, and manages an innovative NGO, Rupantar in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh. Rupantar, set up by Ilina and her husband Dr. Binayak Senhouses programs including a village clinic in a falciparum malaria endemic area, an agricultural program focused on organic farming and preservation of indigenous biodiversity (e.g., of rice), program on food security and distribution systems, and several women’s empowerment initiatives including resources for victims of domestic violence. Together, both Ilina and Binayak have worked for three decades among some of India’s most impoverished and socially stigmatized populations (miners, peasants and India’s indigenous groups) on issues of health, livelihood and civil liberties. They have also published several books in Hindi.
On May 14, 2007, Dr. Binayak Sen was arrested in Raipur, under the controversial Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act. Charges against him mostly focused on his official activities as general secretary of India’s leading civil liberties organization, the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), visiting under-trial prisoners in the Raipur jail (to record their testimonies about health and treatment in prison), especially visits to individuals accused as “Naxalites” (the term for India’s Maoists) and allegations that he “passed messages” to them. Dr. Sen. has denied all these charges categorically. In the past few months, several national and international protests and statements of concern have been reported, including a statement by 22 Nobel Laureates petitioning the government of India and Chhattisgarh to free Dr. Binayak Sen. Recently, Dr. Sen was recently awarded the prestigious Jonathan Mann award for Global Health and Human Rights for his services to poor tribal communities and his unwavering commitment to human rights.
While Binayak remains in jail, Dr. Ilina Sen has co-coordinated his legal defense, been his publicist and liaison agent, raised funds, worked as a college teacher, and looked after the wellbeing and education of their two daughters. Ilina has made the journey to the US to receive the Jonathan Mann award on behalf of her husband and to present his case in person to the world at large.
For More Details Visit
You can walk in to the Festival Venue on February4th and buy your Delegate Pass, 100/- for 5days (Rs.50/- for students) Come to ViBGYOR…Celebrate identities and diversity!
ViBGYOR celebrates different identities and the rich diversity of people, expressed in a festival of short and documentary films held every year in Thrissur, Kerala. The non-feature films showcased at ViBGYOR reveal the political energies of small communities and social movements that assert the heterogeneity of their identities and rootedness to their land, often fighting the haughtiness and ignorance of the establishment. With all its ambiguities and ambivalences, Identities and Diversity remains the key theme of the Festival. It
covers the living experience of millions of people recorded by a set of skilled and committed documentary and short filmmakers from around the world.
The four-day Film festival is not only a treat of brilliant films but an interface with filmmakers, activists, people’s movement leaders, academicians, youth and common people from as divergent streams of life and activities. It includes talks, discussions, cultural programmes and informal exchanges
ViBGYOR At A Glance
Dates: February 4th-8th, 2009 Venue: Sangeet Nataka Akademi Campus, Thrissur
Focus 2009: FOOD sovereignty
Retrospective:Shabnam Virmani, Ali Kazmi
Region Focus: Pakistan
Village ViBGYOR: in 5 panchayaths around Thrissur town, December 08-January 09.
Campus ViBGYOR: in 5 colleges in and around Thrissur as curtain raiser
National Conference: `Farm, Food and Fuel” February 4th, 10am-4pm
Workshop: Documentary workshop for students, and members of film societies social organizations
You can walk in to the Festival Venue on February4th and buy your Delegate Pass, 100/- for 5days (Rs.50/- for students)
Come to ViBGYOR…Celebrate identities and diversity!
Focus theme 2009: Food Sovereignty (Bakshya Swaraj)
Mazhavilmela-ViBGYOR International Film Festival is organised by
ViBGYOR Film Collective, Chetana Media Institute (Thrissur), NOTTAM
Traveling Film Festival , Navachitra Film Society, moving republic,
CenSE, GAIA, and Visual Search
In Partnership with
The Other Media , INSAF, Vikas Adhyayan Kendra,National Adivasi
Alliance, SICHREM & Human Rights Network, Orissa Development Action
Forum (ODAF), Environmental Support Group(ESG), Visthar, Sangama,
Focus on Global south, NESA, Labour Files, People’s Watch and Kabani
For ViBGYOR Film Collective