Honourable Judge Sahib, whatever written statement I am submitting is true. I request you, Judge Sahib, to kindly take note of my truthfulness.
For the last two years, the policemen have been harassing me. They used to harass me by summoning me to the police stations, entering our houses and breaking household items and playing (leeringly) with our clothes. If we tried to say something, we would be told threateningly, ‘Where would you go to lodge the complaint? Who will listen to you? One day, we will declare you a Naxalite and kill you. That’s why we have declared you an absconder since last year.” I would tell them that I was working as a teacher in a school. Then how could they declare me (an absconder)?
At the outset, I would like to thank the New York Academy of Sciences for conferring on me the prestigious Heinz R. Pagels Award for Human Rights. I wish it were possible for me to be with you in person on this occasion. Besides my gratitude for this great honour, I also have a personal reason to celebrate a connection with the Academy. My father was a pharmacologist whose research was on melanocyte stimulating hormone. He worked in the Medical Corps of the Indian Army and taught for some time at the Armed Forces Medical College in Pune, India. He was offered membership in the Academy, but had to decline because, as an officer of the Indian Army, he was not permitted to accept membership in a foreign organization. So this Award is, in some ways, a celebration of an older connection.
Of course, I never had the privilege of crossing paths with Professor Pagels. I am not a physicist, but if you will pardon me the audacity of seeking parallels between his work and mine, I might focus on his dedication to increase popular understanding of the importance and complexity of physics and of science in general. As a paediatrician and public health physician, I have tried to enhance the public’s understanding of the ways in which poverty and injustice undermine efforts to promote health and peace, which we ourselves take for granted as our own fundamental human rights.
Another parallel between us might be that we both married well. My own work would not have been possible without the patience and support of my wife Professor Ilina Sen, an eminent feminist scholar and peace activist in her own right, who herself is an admirer of Professor Elaine Pagels‘ work on the perception of women in society.
Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister of India
New Delhi 110 001
Sub: Demand immediate action to halt attack on peaceful protesters of proposed POSCO project area
Respected Dr. Manmohan Singh,
We condemn the outrageous and illegal attempt by the Odisha government, with the connivance and support of the Centre, to attack and seize the land of the villagers affected by the proposed POSCO project. We understand that on June 3rd, 17 people – including five children – were arrested and beaten by the police because they refused to allow the destruction of their farms. We also understand that the administration has been announcing through loudspeakers that they will use force against anyone who does not submit to the takeover of their land within the next 24 hours. Thousands of people are peacefully protesting while 24 platoons of police have been deployed in the area, probably for use in a brute force attempt at taking the land of the villages of Dh inkia and Gobindpur TODAY – Monday, June 6th – or in the coming days. This is occurring even as court cases by the villagers are pending in the Orissa High Court and are due to be heard shortly.
This attack on the lives and livelihoods of thousands is doubly outrageous because it has been repeatedly shown, and accepted by three different official committees, that the takeover of this land is illegal and in violation of the Forest Rights Act. The Environment Ministry has violated the law and its own orders and stated as much when giving the clearance. We note that in February of this year the National Advisory Council had specifically asked you to ensure that the practice of handing over forest land to companies in gross violation of this “landmark law”, as you yourself described it, should be halted and action taken against the officials responsible.
Further, the project is proceeding despite the fact that an official committee said it had “potentially disastrous impacts” on the environment that could “cause loss of life”; and after an independent study showed that it would lead to a net loss of employment, destitution and impoverishment of around 50,000 people while producing no benefits for the local economy. Indeed, there is such a pattern of illegality around this project that five prominent anti-corruption activists have recently called for an investigation into “criminal collusion” between government officials and the company.
We call upon you to immediately ask the Odisha government to halt this illegal attack, to withdraw all clearances given in violation of law, and to take an impartial position in the court cases filed by the people. Failure to stop this attack will show that the UPA government’s much vaunted concern over issues of displacement, forest rights and “inclusive growth” is simply an eyewash.
Deep Joshi, PRADHAN and Member, National Advisory Council
Aruna Roy, Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti and Member, National Advisory Council
Kavita Srivastava, People’s Union for Civil Liberties
Harsh Mander, Aman Biradari and Member, National Advisory Council
Dr. Madhav Gadgil, Ecological Scientist and Member, National Advisory Council
Arvind Kejriwal, Parivartan India and India Against Corruption
Dr. B.D. Sharma, Bharat Jan Andolan and former Commissioner for SC/STs, Government of India
Prof. Amit Bhaduri, Council for Social Development
Medha Patkar, National Alliance of People’s Movements
Justice Rajinder Sachar, People’s Union for Civil Liberties and former Chief Justice, Delhi High Court
Swami Agnivesh, World Council of Arya Samaj
Dr. Binayak Sen, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)
Adv. Prashant Bhushan, Campaign for Judicial Accountability
Maj Gen S.G. Vombatkare (Retd), NAPM – Karnataka
Dr. Vandana Shiva, Navdanya
Prof. Kamal Chenoy, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Prof. Ilina Sen
Prof. K. Satchidanandan
Dr. K S Subramanian, IPS
Suhas Borkar, WGRAS
Prof. Anuradha Chenoy, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Dr. Manoranjan Mohanty, Council for Social Development
Dr. Walter Fernandes, North Eastern Social Research Centre
Dr. Mira Shiva (Public Health Expert)
Madhu Bhaduri (former diplomat)
Dr. Sandeep Pandey, National Alliance for People’s Movements
Thomas Kocherry, World Forum of Fisher People
Xavier Dias, Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee
Sumit Chakravarty, Mainstream
Ashish Kothari, Kalpavriksh
Dr. Bela Bhatia, Social Scientist
According to news reports, the Chhattisgarh home minister Nankiram Kanwar has threatened to ban PUCL and has accused it of supplying arms to Naxalites. He is also reported to be considering prohibiting Swami Agnivesh from entering the state. There were also other reports targeting the appointment of Dr. Binayak Sen to the Supreme Court panel on health care.
And these reports follow the arrest earlier last week of Ramesh Agrawal and Harihar Patel and Ramesh’s hospitalization in inhuman conditions. Today, the sessions court denied them bail.
It is important that we respond collectively against these attempts to malign PUCL and oppose the continuing harassment and detention of human rights workers in Chhattisgarh as well as other states.
We call upon individuals and organizations worldwide to endorse the following statement by sending a message to email@example.com.
We also encourage the wide publication of this statement.
In Defence of
People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Chhattisgarh
Free Ramesh Agrawal and Harihar Patel!
Free Kopa Kunjam and Sukhnath Oyame!
Stop harassing Swami Agnivesh, Binayak Sen!
Hands off PUCL!
Hands off Human Rights Workers!
Defend PUCL! Defend Human Rights Workers in Chhattisgarh!
Defend the Indian Constitution! Defend the Rule of Law!
It is with grave concern and utmost urgency that we write to protest the continuing threats to human rights workers in the state of Chhattisgarh. On Saturday, June 4, 2011, Dainik Bhaskar reported the state Home Minister Nankiram Kanwar’s public statement that the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) was supplying arms to the Naxalites and that the Minister was considering banning the organization.
PUCL is a Gandhian organization founded by Shri Jayaprakash Narayan to uphold and defend the Indian Constitution. PUCL has had an illustrious track record nationally and in Chhattisgarh of ensuring that the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Constitution are available to all the people of India. When elected and unelected public officials have usurped or attempted to usurp their powers, PUCL has often been among the few organizations that provide the only line of defense for many Indian citizens. Lacking access to normal judicial processes, it is to PUCL and other similar organizations that the poorest and the most marginalized often turn.
This is particularly true in the case of Chhattisgarh, where, in the name of fighting the Maoists, the state machinery, including the police, has created for itself a documented history of acting with impunity, engaging in violence on a massive scale against defenceless people. In December 2005, the state unit of PUCL in Chhattisgarh, under the leadership of Binayak Sen, along with several other human rights organizations, investigated and documented the atrocities – burning down entire villages, murder, rape, mutilation – committed by Salwa Judum, a vigilante force financed, armed and supported by the state. Petitions filed by Prof. Nandini Sundar and others and by Himanshu Kumar of the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (VCA) have led the Supreme Court to order the state government to disband Salwa Judum and rehabilitate the displaced villagers. The state government has largely ignored these orders. Interestingly, immediately after PUCL conducted its investigation in 2005, the then Director General of Police O. P. Rathode declared to the press, Hum PUCL ko dekh lenge (we will take care of PUCL).
Dr Binayak Sen’s acceptance speech at the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Award Ceremony, 18 May 2011. Also included is an interview with Dr Sen by CNN-IBN correspondent Rupashree Nanda.
In a message to the Gwangju Prize Ceremony, where Dr Binayak Sen was awarded the prestigious Human Rights Prize for 2011, the Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi underscores the importance of democracy in Asia and says the day when her own country Burma will be free of dictatorship is not very far away.
Click here to watch:
To: The Prime Minister of India
Dear Prime Minister,
In the context of the recent national debates on corruption, we wish to draw your attention to another ongoing case in which both State and Central officials are blatantly favouring a private multinational company – Pohang Steel Corporation (POSCO) – in violation of law. There is enough information in the public domain for us to suspect criminal collusion between this company and government officials.
The proposed POSCO steel project in Orissa is incredibly lucrative – POSCO will make an estimated profit of Rs. 1,95,000 crores over the life of the project (Rs. 6,500 crore per year after all expenses) just on the basis of having captive iron ore mines. The fact that corporates are making super profits from our natural resources is today a national issue; the faith of the public in regulatory institutions is already deeply shaken. We cannot see any difference between the recent handover of 2G spectrum and the seeming collusion in the POSCO case, where it seems that equally valuable resources – iron ore, land, water, a natural harbour – are being sought to be given to a private company “on the cheap” without complying with the law. As such, the public has a right to know what has happened. It is vital that a transparent, public investigation is held into the actions of State and Central officials in this case. A few examples of such actions are as follows:
- A criminal complaint has been filed by villagers in the proposed steel plant area against the District Collector for repeatedly lying on record. For instance, he claimed on 01.03.2011 that the land had no forest prior to 1930 – when six months earlier an Enquiry Committee had found that the government’s own maps show the villages as surrounded by forests in 1928. The Collector also claims there are no forest dwelling STs when the government’s own public notice showed compensation payments to two STs in July 2010 when a small area of land was illegally taken for the project. The criminal complaint was only filed after repeated representations to all State and Central authorities failed to elicit any action. The Environment Ministry, whose own committee had proved that these statements were false, simply carried on accepting them without a murmur.
Read the rest of this entry »
Dr Binayak Sen
I am greatly honored to be chosen as the 2011 recipient of the prestigious Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. It is indeed an honor not just for me but also the countless other human rights workers struggling to establish justice, peace and equity all over India, including Chhattisgarh where I live and work. Let me begin by thanking all those who have taken the time to advocate about me and on behalf of me, and then take this opportunity to speak for myself and in my own words.
I would like to thank the people of South Korea and in particular the citizens of Gwangju whose historic struggles have made freedom, democracy and justice core values of their society. The martyrs of Gwangju will remain an inspiration to people all over Asia as we struggle to make the world a better place.
First, I shall try to briefly clear up some possible misconceptions about myself. I did not violate any laws and never was disloyal to the people of my country. I condemn, unequivocally, all violence by any and all individuals and agencies. I believe that violence is an invalid and unsustainable approach to achieving goals, whether these are the goals of the state or the goals of individuals operating outside the law. Because the state is sworn to uphold the Constitution, I believe we are entitled hold agents of the state to a higher standard than we hold outlaws. As members and office-bearers of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, it is the responsibility of my colleagues and myself to help hold the state accountable to the promises of the Indian Constitution.
But the state does not only consist of the government or its agencies. As a society, we are all part of the state, and there would be no state without us. We often tend to think of violence only in terms of the use of weapons and explosives against others. However, there is another form of violence in society, which is structural in nature, which I believe is even more pervasive and pernicious than guns and bombs, because it is all around us and we have stopped noticing it. It is this other form of violence that concerns me as a paediatrician and public health physician.
Comment from a reader of binayaksen.net
This is nothing but mockery of the system. I could never find any democracy since my birth – though everywhere and everyone is shouting about it. What about those who are poor and not literate enough to approach the higher courts? When the Hon’ble Supreme Court finds no reason to imprison Shri Sen, what happened to the Other Courts who sentenced jail for Shri Sen. Are they reading some different version of Indian Law or what? It happens all the time, lower court punishes, higher court releases. Should disciplinary and very strict action be taken against the authorities who jailed Shri Sen without any reason – is a very logical question to be raised now. This should stop now. Our law says there is freedom of expression – where it is? I could never find it. Only powerful and resourceful people are having freedom to express anything. Watching live Parliament over Television gives ample clue and understanding of the people who are running this Country. And dealing with govt. machinery gives ample clue about the so called successful administration of the country.There is one great system working in India, that is no-system at all. God is Great. Anyway, I am too much happy on relief given by Hon’ble Supreme Court to Shri Sen.
26th March, 2011
People’s Union for Civil Liberties unambiguously condemns the 26th March (Friday morning) attack on Swami Agnivesh and two Art of Living teachers, Ajay Singh and Rishi Milind, near Dornapal village in Dantewada in Chattisgarh, who were on a peace and fact-finding mission.
Swami Agnivesh and his companions reached Sukma town, in Dantewada district late on 25th March 2011. In the early hours of 26th March they left for Chintagupha village enroute to Tadmetla, Morpalli and Timapuram villages which had been attacked by Koya commandoes and the infamous COBRA forces of the Chhattisgarh police force on the 11th and 16th of March, burning down 300 houses, killing five people and raping three women in separate incidents.
Swami Agnivesh and his companions were manhandled and abused by a crowd comprising of three hundred women and men from the Dornapal Salwa Judum camp and also from the Erabore village relief camp. The tyres of Swami Agnivesh’s car were deflated, their laptops snatched, the supplies he was carrying for the victims of these villages was taken away. Although Swamiji tried his best to dialogue with the people who were causing obstruction yet they refused to talk. The laptops were handed over later to Swamiji and he returned to Sukma in the morning itself.