Posts Tagged ‘human rights defender
The life sentence awarded to Binayak Sen would only accelerate the process of debasement of democracy and the rule of law.
THE Raipur Sessions Court has shocked the citizen’s conscience by delivering a judgment that makes a mockery of fundamental rights. The judgment against human rights defender and health activist Binayak Sen has brought unprecedented disgrace and ignominy upon India’s judicial system, and more generally, upon Indian society and politics. It will take a Herculean effort to roll back the personal, institutional, social and political damage that the verdict has caused. Merely overturning it in a higher court will not be enough.
Awarding life imprisonment to someone charged with an offence no greater than that of passing on letters from an undertrial prisoner to an allegedly extremist group’s leaders should appear altogether revolting to a civilised mind. This violates the principle of proportionality between crime and punishment (or provocation and reprisal).
India Continues to Imprison Human Rights Activist Dr. Binayak Sen
Last week marked the second anniversary of the detention of the internationally recognized award-winning human rights activist Dr. Binayak Sen, who’s worked as a public health professional in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh for twenty-five years. He was arrested on May 14, 2007, for allegedly helping the Maoist, also known as the Naxalite, insurgency in the state and detained under one of India’s most draconian laws, the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act.
Watch it/ Download MP3 at Democracy Now
ANJALI KAMAT: Well, moving on to Binayak Sen, last week marked the second anniversary of the detention of the internationally recognized, award-winning human rights activist Dr. Binayak Sen, who has worked as a public health professional in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh for twenty-five years. He was arrested on May 14th, 2007, for allegedly helping the Maoist, also known as the Naxalite, insurgency in the state and detained under one of India’s most draconian laws, the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act. He’s the National Vice President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, or the PUCL. He’s been denied bail and medical treatment, despite his worsening health.
I spoke to his wife, Ilina Sen, on Sunday.
by Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal
From: Kashmir Times, May 17 2009
If tyranny and oppression come to this country, it would be in the guise of fighting a common enemy. James Madison’s predictions have not only turned true for the country he headed as its fourth president but more or less for all democratic countries around the globe. India is no exception where the state finds its way to punish people who question its authoritative might and its lack of accountability in proclaimed a democratic system. It moulds laws, subverting the democratic spirit of the constitution, justifies them and corrupts the judicial system and the media to ensure that justice is what the state believes in. Binayak Sen, the man who has spent two years in prison in Chattisgarh, illustrates this beyond any shadow of doubt. For two odd years, all those who fail to accept the cock and bull stories routinely and officially doled out in defence of the indefensible acts of the government have been at pains to understand what really is Dr Binayak Sen’s crime? But he, like many others across this country, has certainly been projected as the kind of ‘common enemy’ that Madison talked about years ago.
By Keya Acharya
BANGALORE, May 8 (IPS) – Even while India goes to the polls in a lumbering show of democracy, human rights activist-doctor Binayak Sen remains in prison on unproven terrorism charges.
Sen’s bail plea was finally admitted by the apex Supreme Court (SC) on May 4, 10 days short of his second anniversary in jail in Raipur, capital of the central state of Chhatisgarh where Sen has practiced as a doctor to the rural poor for nearly three decades.
The SC has now asked the state government to report, posting a final hearing in another fortnight. The SC has also asked the Chhatisgarh government to ensure that the best medical treatment be made available to Sen.
Prison authorities have refused Sen, who was diagnosed with cardiac symptoms, permission to go to his alma mater, the reputed Christian Medical College, Vellore, south India, for cardiac surgery.
Sen has refused treatment in Raipur saying he perceived a threat to his life from a local hospital and that he had the legal right to a hospital of his choice.
“I think he’s in danger,” his wife Illina Sen, a professor of women’s studies in Wardha University, told IPS on the telephone from Raipur. “… Binayak is absolutely right that his life may be in danger in any facility controlled by the state in Chhatisgarh.”
The government accused Sen of passing on a set of letters from Narayan Sanyal, a guerrilla Naxal, or Maoist leader in Raipur jail, to a businessman with alleged close links to the radical left movement in Chhatisgarh. He is charged under the sweepingly-powerful Chhatisgarh State Public Security Act 2005, for “hatching a conspiracy” and abetting terrorism.
The Naxal movement, rampant in the southern forested belt of Chhattisgarh, is an armed and violent guerilla conflict born from long years of socio-economic inequality, alienation and displacement of tribals from their lands.
In its turn, the state authorities have aided and abetted an even more violent vigilante movement started in 2005 to quash the Maoists.
The movement, called Salwa Judum is charged by the independent, national People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), of which Sen is the state co-ordinator, of using rape, arson, intimidation and other brutalties to forcefully evict all tribal settlements in the district under the guise of their being Naxals.
Statement issued on 4th May 2009, Raipur by Ms. Medha Patkar and other social activists on the occasion of the 8th week of the Satyagrah for the release of Dr. Binayak Sen
Satyagrah by Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, Narmada Bachao Andolan, and National Alliance of People’s Movements
The incarceration of Dr. Binayak Sen for the last 23 months is a shameful episode for those who consider India to be a democratic nation. By abusing rather then using the law, he has been arrested ostensibly as a ‘supporter of naxalites’ and his bail has been denied. Well known as a creative doctor, a progressive scientist, a human rights defender and a sensitive personality, Binayakji has been the victim of a political conspiracy only because of his social commitment and ideological clarity.
We, the supporters of People’s Movements from all over the country condemn the Chattisgarh government and administration for this immoral act. Without any concrete and legally admissible evidence, without proper judicial processes, to deny bail is to deny the right of life and liberty to such a senior activist. We perceive this as a violation of the rights of all of us and as an insult to our citizenship.
‘Salwa Judum’ is no peace march. We the supporters of non-violent people’s movements believe that dealing with any violence and anyone’s violence with violence is not only illegal but also impossible. When the state itself uses violence openly, then it looses the moral authority to oppose its opponents – whether they be violent terrorists or people’s movements. So, to consider a person who was working on the basis of non violence and compassion, who was involved in alleviating these suffering of the adivasis of Bastar district, and who was the General Secretary of the People’s Union of Civil Liberties to be a supporter of violence is a distorted understanding, which the Chattisgarh government must correct at the earliest.
The deprivation of adivasis from their rights over water, land and forest; the transfer of natural resources to companies – to our mind, this is not development but rather in reality a destruction which is going to increase inequalities. In the name of ‘development’ in countless ways the lands of adivasis are being looted from us. They want to displace us from the lands of our ancestors, from our traditions ; they want to tie down our rivers, pollute them and divert all water towards themselves. It is a person like Binayakji who stood in solid support with us against these processes, whom the state today holds prisoner.
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Amnesty International Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Prisoner of Conscience Dr. Binayak Sen Completes Two Years in India Jail
Human Rights Organization Reiterates Call for Indian Authorities to Immediately Release Human Rights Defender
Contact: AIUSA media office, 202-544-0200 x302, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Washington) — The Indian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Dr. Binayak Sen, a human rights defender and pioneer of health care to marginalized communities, who has languished in jail for two years, Amnesty International said today.
Dr. Sen, 59, was arrested on May 14, 2007, when he was charged with facilitating armed Maoist violence and put on trial; this resumes tomorrow, April 24, 2009. If convicted, he could face a life term in jail.
Amnesty International believes that the charges and evidence against Dr. Sen are baseless and politically motivated.
“Dr. Sen’s prolonged imprisonment is a glaring example of how the Indian authorities misuse security legislation to target activists,” said Madhu Malhotra, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific program
“These new powers are open to abuse as they contain vague and sweeping definitions of ‘unlawful activities’. Under no circumstances should work that peacefully defends human rights be termed an ‘unlawful activity,” she said.
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Instead of recognising their social contributions, the Indian state, by wrongly branding Dr. Sen and many other human rights defenders like him as ‘terrorists’, is making a complete mockery of not just democratic norms and fair governance but its entire anti-terrorist strategy and operations.
I would like to bring to your attention a case of grave injustice which is a cause of much shame to Indian democracy: that of Dr. Binayak Sen, the well known paediatrician and defender of human rights.
This good doctor has been incarcerated in a Raipur jail for nearly two years now under the Chhattisgarh State Public Security Act, 2005. Among the charges against Dr. Sen, who is renowned worldwide for his public health work among the rural poor, are “treason and waging war against the state.”
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December 10, 2008
Nothing really happened on that day
A few crows bled
Others were strangulated
In a corner of a sky
That turned gradually red
I told you
About these crows
My departure yielding
To another sky
Yet somebody far had been
Brought down suddenly
And cast away behind iron seasons
The crows bled soaking
I had held aloft
And its redness
Slit the earth too
Would you recognise me then
Would you still mingle your voice
Would you breathe on my shadow
Would you fear catching the corner of
Dr Binayak Sen, a medical doctor and human rights defender, was arrested on 12 May 2007 in Chattisgarh, India. He is currently in prison awaiting a trial that has been repeatedly delayed.
Police allege that he passed letters between imprisoned members of a banned leftist group. However, Amnesty International believes the charges against him are politically motivated, aimed at stopping his human rights work. Dr Sen, a pioneer in providing accessible health care to the rural poor, has been documenting the impact of conflict in the region on the rights of marginalised communities.
Countering Fascist Forces: Defending the Idea of India
25-26 October 2008
The urgency to intervene in defence of democracy, secularism and justice has never been more pressing than in the conditions prevailing in the country today.
The rise of communal fascism has emerged as a threat not only to its immediate victims but to the very long-term survival of India as a unified nation of diverse religious, linguistic and ethnic groups. The mysterious and condemnable acts of terrorism that have shaken different parts of the country have engendered a climate of fear, insecurity and fuelled the politics of communal division.
In recent months, vicious attacks have been mounted across India against religious minorities by Hindutva fascist organizations and communalism has even become the dominant tenor of public discourse. In Maharashtra the regional chauvinist forces of Bal and Raj Thackeray, both offsprings of the Hindutva politics of hate, has targeted north Indians in a bid to drive them out of the state.
The BJP, RSS and their allies in the Sangh Parivar have mounted a vicious campaign against the Christian community across India. Orissa and over 10 states have seen violent attacks on the Christian community, their institutions, religious places, property and businesses on the basis of fabricated stories and hate campaigns.
Throughout the country Muslim youth are being targeted, without any or little evidence, as responsible for the various bomb blasts taking place in the country. There is a concerted attempt by the Indian police, intelligence agencies and certain political parties to portray all members of the Muslim community as ‘terrorists and extremists’ – to be arbitrarily arrested, tortured and killed in fake encounters. Sections of the media instead of investigating the truth are blindly parroting these sensational and unsubstantiated claims.
Even more disturbingly the accused are being systematically denied their basic right to legal defence by some bar associations themselves which have threatened, expelled and even violently attacked lawyers brave enough to take up these cases. The Indian judiciary has failed to take suo moto cognizance of such attacks as being contempt of court.
All this while hard evidence available against Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other Sangh outfits of their direct involvement in terror attacks is not only being ignored but actively pushed under the carpet by the Indian state. The Hindutva terrorist groups like the Bajrang Dal are openly claiming responsibility for this communal violence against Christians and are yet being allowed to go scot-free.
There is a growing feeling among religious minority communities that the Indian state and judiciary is biased against them and unwilling to provide impartial justice even in cases such as the demolition of the Babri Masjid. No action has been taken on the recommendations of the Srikrishna Commission report following the anti-Muslim pogrom in Mumbai of 1993. On the other hand some members of the judiciary are now willing to be puppets of communal forces, a dangerous trend set by the Nanavati Commission, which has exonerated the Narendra Modi government of responsibility for the Gujarat Genocide of 2002.
Instead of confronting these fascist forces the Indian state is cracking down hard on ‘soft targets’ like human rights and social activists. The fundamental rights of life, liberty, freedom of speech, religion and dissent guaranteed to all citizens by the Indian Constitution are being shred to pieces right in front of our eyes.
Entire swathes of the Indian North-East and Kashmir are covered by the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that authorises even the lowest soldier to shoot and kill civilians on mere suspicion of their being ‘militants’. In Chhattisgarh, large numbers of citizens continue to be detained using the highly restrictive Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA). Those defending the rights of the poor, Dalit, Adivasis and other marginalised people are being falsely branded as ‘extremists’ and ‘anti-nationals’. The state sponsored, unconstitutional ‘Salwa Judum’ campaign, which has unleashed horrific violence on innocent tribal populations over the past four years in the name of countering Maoism, is being justified by none other than the National Human Rights Commission itself.
All this is happening even as the forces of imperialism led by the United States, under the pretext of the so-called Global War on Terror, are busy re-colonising entire nations from Iraq to Afghanistan and are now targeting Pakistan in the immediate neighbourhood of India. The global media is contributing to this politics of hatred by demonizing Muslims worldwide and frightening ordinary citizens into giving up their basic democratic rights everywhere.
Within the country, the pattern of elitist development has turned a vast majority of the population into second-class citizens, reinforcing with misguided policies the apartheid of the ancient and racist caste system. The ghost of the East India Company, buried long ago, is being resurrected in myriad forms and those who run the Indian state are willfully abetting the return of a neo-colonial order.
It is a state of affairs that calls upon all those who value Indian independence, democratic rights and social justice to come forward, take responsibility and resist the onslaught by fascist and imperialist forces on the foundations of our national values and existence. We also urge all anti-communal activists and secular political parties to forge alliance to defeat fascism and communalism. We, the delegates and participants of the National Convention on Countering Fascism: Defending the Idea of India in New Delhi held on 25-26 October 2008 resolve as follows to:
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Cases of Dr. Binayak Sen and Mr. T.G.Ajay: Terrorizing Human Rights Defenders / Development Activists?
1. Why is the State Afraid of the Good Doctor?
Question: Why does the State NOT specify charges against Dr.Binayak Sen NOR produce any evidence regarding his actions and yet keep him in jail for 534 days?
The chargesheet against Dr. Sen under CSPSA intentionally uses “vague” terms such as “sedition,” “waging war against the state” and “abetting unlawful activities.” He is charged with helping an illegal organization as a member by participating in it OR as a non-member by funding OR receiving funds OR by “hatching a conspiracy.” Dates, time or places of these “activities” are often not specified. This allows police to endlessly drag the trial by producing long list of witnesses without specifying their relevance.
2. Dr. Sen, Can We Presume?
Question: On what basis has the police determined that Dr. Sen is a “doctor in name only”?
The chargesheet against Dr.Sen says that he “is certainly a doctor: but is a big zero in terms of actual practice of medicine.” Does a gold medal from CMC Vellore, the 2004 Paul Harrison Award, Global Health Council’s Jonathan Mann Award 2008, and founding Shaheed Hospital in Chhattisgarh not matter?
3. No Evidence? Doesn’ Matter, Plant Some
Question: Why did the police try to fabricate evidence against Dr. Sen?
Even though the seizure memo in Dr. Sen’s case lists 10 items obtained from his premises signed by the Investigating Officer (IO), Dr. Sen and witnesses, the sealed bag of evidence opened in court had 11 objects, the extra one bearing only the signatures of the IO and prosecution witness.
4. Now, who is a threat to who?
Question: Can you explain why there is a consistent attempt to harass Dr.Ilina Sen (Binayak Sen’s wife and co-activist) -neither an accused nor a witness- both in and outside the court room?
On July 2nd, 2008, during the trial, the public prosecutor tried to implicate Dr. Ilina Sen by asking leading questions to a witness asking him to “identify” Ilina in court. On another occasion, the same prosecutor publicly threatened to falsely implicate Ilina by boasting that “if the defence wished they could make the wife of the accused an accused in the present case at anytime.”
5.No Chargesheet, But Imprisoned; Released, But Not Free
Question: Why was Mr. T.G. Ajay, an independent film maker jailed for 93 days under CSPSA, and with no chargesheet produced by the police at the end? Why is Ajay’s case not yet withdrawn?
Question: Why were police personnel threatening the women and children of the slum where Ajay’s school, Drksakshi operates despite all odds on issues of malnutrition, illiteracy and livelihood?
Question: Why was Ajay being pressurized to sign a letter falsely implicating Binayak Sen and the PUCL as a condition for his release?
Despite efforts to try and frame him, Ajay had to be released on statutory bail. The police could not find any evidence of his wrong-doing. Yet, as shockingly revealed by PUCL legal team, Ajay was also being forced by the police to sign a statement against PUCL, Binayak and Ilina Sen as a condition for his release.
Salwa Judum: Democracy Chhattisgarh-Style, State Impunity For State Violence Against Citizens?
1.When Report after Report Documents State Sponsored Violence…Can The Emperor Have Any Clothes?
Question: Will the DGP (as the senior most police officer in the State) be liable for murder? Since the State and its police dept. gives logistic and monetary support to Salwa Judum, shouldn’t they be considered accomplices?
In September 2008, a Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, and Justices P Sathasivam and J M Panchal after perusing the National Human Rights Commission report on violence in Chhattisgarh said, “The allegation is that the state is arming private persons. You can deploy as many police personnel or armed forces to tackle the menace. But, if private persons, so armed by the state government, kill other persons, then the state is also liable to be prosecuted as abettor of the murder.” Chief Justice Balakrishnan added “It is very painful to read the report. It says there is arson and looting, people are armed and they [Salwa Judum] are committing serious offences. It says people who are subjected to serious problems are still afraid of coming out.”
Question: What kind of police force has more than 85% of its officers commit crimes that got them “discharged”?
In a recent interview in Pioneer, the DGP admitted that 3,250 Special Police Officers (SPOs, the official title for Salwa Judum employees) were “discharged on various grounds of indiscipline.” The DGP has also claimed (to HRW) that there are 3800 SPOs altogether (the SP Dantewada claimed 3500). If this is the admission of the top police officer, then is it difficult to see why SPOs murder, rape, & forcibly displace?
Question: Will the DGP now include the Supreme Court justices in his list of “Maoist sympathizers” who are demoralizing the Indian state?
The DGP is fond of calling anyone who condemns the Salwa Judum as “maoist sympathizer”. This list includes so far Shankar Guha Niyogi–labour leader founder of India’s largest mass organization, the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha; sociologist Nandini Sundar, historian Ramachandra Guha, author Arundhati Roy, journalist Shubhranshu Choudhary, human rights groups such as PUCL, Gandhians such as Kanak Tiwari, Himanshu Kumar and Sandeep Pandey, the entire Planning Commission Experts Committee–in short he includes anyone who dares to dissent in his terrorized state.
2. How to Make a Terrorist? A State Primer
Question: Why does the Chhattisgarh police arm children under 18 years? Does the DGP know that “Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into armed forces or groups or using them to participate actively in hostilities” constitutes a war crime under the “Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, 1998″?
“The police asked me also to become an SPO [special police officer] but I refused because I did not want to become an SPO and commit heinous crimes. I did not want to shoot and kill people. … They do not ask anyone how old they are. Even 14-year-olds can become SPOs if the police want them to become SPOs.”
– Poosam Kanya (pseudonym), former resident of Errabore camp, December 2007 (Human Rights Watch)
3.Deny First Information Reports (FIRs), Claim no Evidence= No Atrocities
Question: Why are FIRs not filed for cases when victims have requested that they be filed?
On 18th March 2008, three tribals in Matwada Salwa Judum camp in Bijapur district were brutally killed by the Salwa Judum/police. On August 11th, 2008, Salwa Judum/police killed 5 people at the Arlampalli village. The police refused to file any FIRs in both cases despite constant requests by Himanshu Kumar of the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram. On March 31, 2007 the Salwa Judum/police killed six or more aboriginals in Santoshpur/Ponjer, a fact that was testified later by the “team leader of SPOs” to a journalist.
4. Meritocracy in the Bureaucracy: Murder, Rape, Torture as Credentials
Question: Why has no action been taken against former SP Kalluri for his crimes?
S.R.P. Kalluri, (Former) SP,Balrampur has been implicated in Custodial rape of Ledha Bai and murder of her husband, Police beatings in Ambikapur, Lathicharge of Rozgar Adhikar Yatra (March for Right to Employment), custodial torture, fake encounters and Intimidation of Lawyers. Kalluri has been promoted and made DIG, Anti-naxal operations, in the capital city of Raipur.
5. Who is in charge in Chhattisgarh?
Question: Why does the Chhattisgarh government harass NGOs by speaking in two voices?
In August 2007, Chhattisgarh state tried to ban NGOs, including Medicine Sans Borders (MSF or Doctors without Borders). Why did a local DC (Dantewada) and SP (Bijapur) claim that NGO’s (and MSF) are assisting Maoists, whilst the State government in Raipur expressed full cooperation with MSF? Why did the media rush to declare MSF as banned, leading to harassment of MSF personnel by Salwa Judum?
- How can the DG claim that the Salwa Judum is a “peace movement”?
- Will the findings of multiple reports make the Chhattisgarh state stop supporting the Salwa Judum?
- Is this Roster not proof of the inability of the DGP as the highest ranking police officer in the state to perform his job? Why should he not be asked to resign?
Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA) is a new version of extraordinary laws such as POTA and TADA that bypass many routine forms of due process through a broad definition of an unlawful activity and acceptance of vague and unreliable evidence, all in the name of national security.
Salwa Judum: State sponsored militia set up in 2005 ostensibly to counter Maoist-led violence in mineral rich districts of Chhattisgarh, home to a large population of aboriginal groups now the predatory target of Indian and foreign multinational corporations. Many human rights groups and independent citizen’s groups such as Asian Center for Human Rights, International Association of People’s Lawyers, People’s Union of Civil Liberties/People’s Union for Democratic Rights/Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) West Bengal, and Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Indian National Human rights Commission have documented the details of how Salwa Judum has been responsible for killing, looting, rapes and forced eviction of people from their homes to camps with inhuman conditions.
DGP Vishwaranjan: Highest ranking police officer in Chhattisgarh, consistent apologist for CSPSA, Salwa Judum