RELEASE BINAYAK SEN CAMPAIGN, UK
When a member of the Release Binayak Sen Now Campaign in the UK nominated Dr. Binayak Sen in April 2011 for the International Gandhi Peace Award in 2011 after consultation with other Campaign members, Dr. Sen was in indeterminate custody sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of sedition under India’s draconian anti-terrorism legislation. The Campaign wished to draw British and international attention to Dr. Sen’s work and plight. Therefore, the letter nominating him put forward the following case:
A paediatrician by training, Dr. Sen specializes in public health and has devoted his life’s work to extending health care to India’s poorest people through monitoring the health and nutritional status of the people of Chhattisgarh, one of the economically-deprived and neglected regions of India.
…As Vice-President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Dr. Sen has been at the forefront of peaceful campaigns for social justice and strongly critical of the Indian state for human rights violations in the course its ongoing war on Maoist rebels. Although he has been controversially incarcerated by the Indian state on charges of assisting these rebels (he is regarded by Amnesty International as a ‘prisoner of conscience’), he has always been an outspoken public advocate for non-violent activism towards social transformation.
…Given his explicit commitment to non-violence and his sustained peaceful activism in obtaining health care and human rights for the most deprived sections of society, particularly the rural poor, Dr. Binayak Sen is an exemplary candidate for the Gandhi Foundation award [which would] acknowledge the singular contribution made by this dedicated and courageous individual towards bringing together health, food security, the empowerment of women and economic enfranchisement in the cause of the widest and most meaningful deployment of both human rights and social justice.
The successful nomination made no mention of the ‘Tribal Peoples’ or the ‘adivasis of India,’ a monolithic category which the Gandhi Foundation later and without due consultation inserted into its citation, suggesting that Dr. Sen and Mr. Bulu Imam would jointly receive the award on ‘behalf’ of the adivasis of India. After justifiable protest and representations by some adivasi activists, the Foundation changed the wording to ‘two men who have worked in different ways to address the growing violence.’
POSCO PRATIRODH SANGRAM SAMITI
Villages Dhinkia, Gadkujang, Nuagaon, District Jagatsinghpur, Orissa
Splashed across the headlines and TV channels across India are the people of the proposed POSCO project area and their heroic fight to stop this illegal project from grabbing our lands. The bravery of the children and women of our villages – lying down in front of a thousand armed police poised to destroy their lives and homes – has captured the nation’s attention. Even after official committees found the project to be illegal, independent studies destroyed all claims of its supposed “benefits”, and criminal complaints were filed against their officials, both Central and State governments shamelessly supported this project. But the courage of our children stopped them in their tracks.
The State government has broken every law and lied at every step to benefit POSCO. It deployed a thousand armed police and declared that it did not want to use force. Why then were the police deployed? It laid siege to thousands of people for two days, in the burning sun, threatening them with bullets, tear gas and lathi charges. The police finally had to withdraw in disgrace, after shamefully sneaking behind our backs to demolish a few betel vines. Today we are re-erecting those sheds and those families will cultivate again.
URGENT PRESS RELEASE
09 June 2011
The Odisha police have called in heavy reinforcements and are moving into positions all evening around the villages of Dhinkia and Gobindpur in Jagatsinghpur District of Odisha state. These villages form the epicentre of over 6 years of successful peaceful resistance to the scandalous POSCO steel-mining-power-port project – the world’s largest. This project is being pushed through by Odisha and Indian Governments in blatant violation of fundamental rights and a variety of environmental and economic laws of India.
According to confirmed sources within the Odisha establishment, the attack on this peaceful resistance is more than likely early morning tomorrow, if the police do not unleash terror overnight. The resilient people of these villages including women, children, elders, youth and men are holding overnight vigils along the borders of their villages now and will stay so till the police withdraw.
An alarming aspect of such abuse of police powers is that over 26 platoons of police have been mobilised around these villages over the past two weeks. Such heavy police presence betrays the Odisha Government’s claims that the acquisition of land for the project is peaceful.
The current Senior Police Officer in charge of the operation is the former Superintendent of Police of Kalinganagar, who had ordered firing on villagers protesting the Tata Steel plant, killing many tribals and injuring scores more. Under this officer’s ruthless leadership, the Odisha police has effectively declared an emergency on the resisting villages, completely halting normal life over the past several weeks. It is more than likely now that a needless carnage will result because of the such strong arm tactics of the police.
On behalf of the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samithi (PPSS), this urgent release is being made requesting your earliest attention to this impending disaster. India could do well without another Kalinganagar, or Nandigram, and the role of the mass media is critical in preventing such an incident.
For more details about the ground situation, please contact:
Prashant Paikray, Spokesperson, PPSS: Cell: 09437571547 firstname.lastname@example.org
Ranjan Swain of PPSS: Cell: 09178643193
The State Pollution Control Board has declared that the public hearing held today on 26.5.2011 for renewal of the UCIL Bhatin Uranium Mines Lease has been a “sucess” and the villagers affected by the project have given the green signal to the project, thereby giving the project life for another 29 years.
This is far from the truth. As in the past the UCIL once again in collusion with the State Pollution Control Board, the local administration and police and paramilitary forces has managed to get away from its liabilites as a public corporation as smoothly as can be. The public hearing has been declared to be a success without taking on record any dissenting opinion on the EIA/EMP Report, any discussion on the environmental and health impacts of uranium mining.
The State Pollution Control Board which is bound to ensure that all environmental concerns are taken into account has failed in its duty to take all public opinion on record, and has made all efforts to ensure that no dissent is recorded at the public hearing. At the public hearing held today the police and the local administration let alone facilitate the public hearing played the role of agents of the UCIL by ensuring that those who wanted to express their objections to the EIA/EMP report and seek clarifications on the same were not allowed to enter the premises of where the public hearing was being held.
FREE BINAYAK SEN CAMPAIGN
Press Release 22 April 2011
Dr Binayak Sen, recently released from a Raipur prison on bail by the Supreme Court, has won the 2011 Gwangju Prize For Human Rights, South Korea’s most prestigious award for those working on peace, democracy and justice issues in Asia.
The Award was announced on Thursday 21st April by the 2011 Gwangju Prize Committee in Seoul, South Korea.
The Prize which carries a sum of 50,000 US dollars is awarded each May 18 on the anniversary of the May 1980 Gwangju Democratic Uprising to a person or organization who has made significant contributions in the field of human rights and democracy. The Prize has been constituted to carry on the spirit of the May 1980 Gwangju Democratic Uprising, which inspired the entire transformation of South Korea from a military dictatorship till the mid-eighties to a thriving democracy today.
The 2011 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights this year received 32 nominations from countries all around Asia. Xanana Gusmao, the leader of the East Timore struggle for independence was the first awardee of the Gwangju Prize when it was launched in 2000 while Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi won it in 2004. Irom Sharmila, the Manipuri human rights activist is also a previous Indian winner of the Gwangju Prize.
Given below is the Award Statement of the jury, which selected the Gwangju Prize winner:
Binayak Sen, as an accomplished medical practitioner has distinguished himself by his devotion to providing health services for the poor and by his strong advocacy against human rights violations and structural violence inflicted on the poor in Chhattisgarh, a state in central India. Apart from that, he has also been active in the People’s Union for Civil Liberties documenting human rights violations occurring during the anti-Naxalite conflict.
NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF PEOPLE’S MOVEMENTS
New Delhi, April 8 : It’s fourth day of the anti-corruption agitation across the country and NAPM members too joined the struggles across Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and other parts of the country with a demand for Jan Lokpal and addressing the corruption all around. NAPM emphasises the need to repeal the legislations like SEZ Act, Land Acquisition Act and other draconian laws which are facilitating the corruption all around. Addressing the gathering in Hyderabad NAPM AP Convener, B Ramakrishna Raju said, “the need for rooting out the corruption is paramount today and probity in public life along with the transparency and accountability of governments and corporations has to be established.”
Conveners of NAPM Medha Patkar, Bhupender Singh Rawat, Rajendra Ravi, Dr. Sunilam, Dr. Rakesh Rafiq, Faisal Khan; and Vivekanad Mathne (Maharashtra), Akshay Kumar (Orissa), Rajkumar Sinha (MP) from other associated organisations participated in the dharna at Jantar Mantar today.
No Rift in the Agitation, NAPM Reiterates Support
Contrary to media reports in certain sections, Medha Patkar reiterated her support on behalf of NAPM to the agitation and justified the demand for Jan Lokpal, she added, “demand for a joint committee is nothing new, it will only make the law making process more participatory in the country. We are not trying to undermine the sanctity of the Parliament and Constitution, any draft will finally have to be approved by the Cabinet and passed by the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. So, this is not extra constitutional. Perhaps it can pave the way for more progressive legislations in future and similar initiatives must be taken for the proposed land acquisition amendment Act and other Acts with far reaching legislations.”
Time for Political Reforms and Wider Struggle
NAPM welcomes the larger upsurge in the country and coming out of the millions of people cutting across caste, religion, class and professional boundaries on the street in support of the demand for rooting out the corruption. The agitation has given a hope for wider political awakening in the country and hopefully the struggles against the corporate corruption, massive loot of natural resources and larger institutional corruption will gain strength from this. NAPM calls for a broader struggle against communalism, patriarchy and casteism in the society too.
“An exceptional, courageous and selfless colleague”
Convinced that “the scientists of our country should take a stand against the punishment meted out to Dr. Sen”, nine Past Presidents of India’s three Academies of Science have endorsed relevant portions of the appeal originally made by a group of 40 Nobel Laureates on February 8 on behalf of Dr. Binayak Sen. They have reiterated:
“Dr. Sen is an exceptional, courageous and selfless colleague, dedicated to helping those in India who are least able to help themselves. Yet his recompense has been two years in prison under difficult conditions, an unjust conviction for sedition and conspiracy, and condemnation to life imprisonment. We earnestly hope that our renewed plea will this time be heard. We know that there are leaders in India who have the power, humanity, patriotism, and decency to speak out against this injustice. We entreat those leaders to act now, to urge Dr. Sen’s immediate release on bail, and insist that the highest standards of Indian law be applied in considering his appeal.”
These distinguished Indian scientists are Past Presidents of academies of science in India as below:
Indian Academy of Sciences: D. Balasubramanian, T. V. Ramakrishnan, N. Kumar, C. N. R. Rao and O. Siddiqi
Indian National Science Academy: M. Vijayan, S. K. Joshi, P. N. Tandon and C. N. R. Rao
National Academy of Sciences: S. K. Joshi, V. P. Sharma and P. N. Tandon
More Nobel laureates join the appeal
Meanwhile six more Nobel laureates have asked to be included in the earlier Nobel laureates appeal. The new signatories are:
Baruch S. Blumberg who is primarily responsible for our understanding and management of Hapatitis B; Paul Crutzen (role of ozone layer depletion in climate change); David H. Hubel (the neurological basis of vision); Anthony Legget (suggested changes to the quantum theory); John Mather (scientific evidence for the “Big Bang” theory of the origin of the universe); and Harold Varmus (Director of the National Cancer Institute, Washington and co-Chair of the US President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology)
The appeal of Binayak Sen for a review of his conviction to life imprisonment is pending in the High Court of Chhattisgarh. Sen’s petition to the High Court for suspension of the conviction, while the review awaits hearing, has been rejected. Sen has now submitted the bail petition to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, he continues to be imprisoned in the high security area of Raipur Central Prison and allowed visits by the family once a fortnight.
Close to a hundred people from all over the country – academics, social activists, lawyers, film-makers, theatre persons, students, journalists, and office bearers of PUCL and IAWS – have issued a statement condemning the harassment of Dr Ilina Sen, demanding withdrawal of all charges against her, and strongly opposing such attempts to muzzle dissenting voices in general.
We strongly condemn the Nagpur Anti-Terrorism Squad’s registering of a case of violating the ‘Foreigners Act’ against Dr Ilina Sen, head of the Department of Women’s Studies at Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University (MGAHV), Wardha.
According to the FIR registered against her, Dr Ilina Sen as organizer of a conference recently held at MGAHV, failed to inform authorities about the presence of foreign delegates – as apparently required by Section 7 and 14 of the Act.
But the truth of the matter is revealed in statements issued to the press by Nagpur ATS in which a senior officer deplored the fact that participants at the conference raised slogans demanding scrapping of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the release of Binayak Sen and the recently arrested Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale.
The conference was in fact the 13th national conference of the Indian Association of Women’s Studies, which has held previous conferences in association with universities all over the country. Ilina Sen is only one of the office bearers of IAWS. The Nagpur ATS has neither taken into consideration the fact that the organizers of the conference are respected scholars and academics, nor the fact that two of the foreign scholars stayed in the Vice Chancellor’s residence. Both these facts (especially since the VC is a well-known former member of the police force), indicate that nothing was done surreptitiously or behind the back of the authorities.
It is clear therefore that this action of the ATS in targeting Ilina Sen is nothing but a further attempt to muzzle dissent in general and to brazenly intimidate a respected academic.
It cannot be a coincidence that such harassment comes at a time when Dr Ilina Sen is in the midst of a legal battle in the Chhattisgarh High Court for the release of her husband Dr Binayak Sen, who has been unjustly sentenced to life imprisonment for ‘sedition’ on trumped up charges.
Further, if the Foreigners’ Act is going to be used in this way to intimidate scholars engaged in legitimate academic activity across universities and academic institutions in the country, it will have a chilling effect on international scholarly exchanges and further damage globally, the already tattered reputation of India as a democracy.
We demand the withdrawal of all charges against Dr Ilina Sen and others mischievously booked under the Foreigners’ Act and an immediate and impartial inquiry by the Government of Maharashtra into the high-handed behavior of the Nagpur ATS.
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25th January 2011
The IAWS (Indian Association for Women’s Studies) is shocked and strongly condemns the entry of the police into Yatri Niwas, at Wardha at 2.30 a.m. on 24th January 2011, where a large number of women participants, who were mainly students and teachers from Universities across the country, attending the 13th National Conference of the Indian Association for Women’s Studies (IAWS) held from 20-24 January 2011 were staying.
The conference was hosted by the Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya (MGAHV), Wardha, with the IAWS as the organiser. The earlier 12 conferences of the association too have been held in collaboration with Universities in different regions of the country and hosted by them. The IAWS is currently headed by Prof Anita Ghai, professor in psychology and a noted disability expert from New Delhi, who is the President of the Association, and Prof Samita Sen, historian and Director of the School of Women’s Studies at Jadavpur University, the General Secretary, along with other members of the Executive Committee such as Dr. Uma Chakravarti , Dr. Wandana Sonalkar, from New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Aurangabad, who are all noted academicians and few student representatives involved in gender studies.
The preparations for this 13th National Conference has been ongoing for nearly two years now. The members of the Executive Committee of the Indian Association of Women’s Studies have been collaborating with Women’s Studies scholars across the country inviting them to speak at the plenaries, to be coordinators of 10 subthemes and present papers. A student pre-conference workshop with enthusiastic participation by students from across the country preceded the conference. Being an academic and professional association of Women’s Studies scholars, teachers, students and activists, the conference held once in three years deliberates on the various scholarly and social concerns centring on women’s lives in the country. In all, there were 750 participants, 3 foreign invited speakers. Among the prominent women present were Prof Saradamoni, Prof Devaki Jain, Dr. Zarina Bhatty , Prof Nirmala Banerjee, Sharmila Rege, Indu Agnihotri.
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Dear Shri Manmohan Singh
We, the undersigned, wish to express our deep concern at the victimisation and unjust imprisonment of well-known humanitarian and human rights defender Dr Binayak Sen, in Chhattisgarh.
Both the charge of ‘sedition and conspiracy’ and the verdict, on 24 December 2010 given by a Sessions Court in Raipur, sentencing Dr Sen to life imprisonment for are unfair, too extreme and undermines the credibility of our police and judiciary. While we understand that Dr Sen has the right to appeal to a superior court we are afraid the long drawn out judicial process itself has become a punishment on its own for this good doctor.
To arrest a citizen of India on false charges and deliberately subject him to years of custody and legal wrangles is to make a mockery of the very idea of justice and democracy in the country.
Dr Binayak Sen, it appears, is simply being harassed in a vindictive manner by the Chhattisgarh government to ‘teach a lesson’ to all human rights activists everywhere. We appeal to you to intervene in the case, press for a judicial review of the verdict and urgently undo the injustice being done to Dr Binayak Sen, who has spent over three decades serving the poor in remote parts of Chhattisgarh.
We also urge your government to completely scrap the law on ‘sedition’, a hangover from the British colonial period, as it is has no place in any independent and democratic country.
Sharmila Tagore, Naseeruddin Shah, Aparna Sen, Mahesh Bhatt, Girish Karnad, Rahul Bose, Ratna Pathak Shah, Imaad Shah, Gautam Ghose, Ashok Vajpeyi, M.K.Raina, Gauhar Raza, Anand Patwardhan, Rukmini Bhaya Nair, Ranjit Hoskote, Jerry Pinto, Pankaj Mishra, Murtaza Danish Husain