Posts Tagged ‘jonathan mann award
The conviction of doctor and human-rights activist, Binayak Sen, could have implications for India’s attempts to achieve universal health-care coverage. Patralekha Chatterjee reports.
At a time when India is working towards making access to health-care universal, a 61-year-old medical doctor, nationally and internationally acclaimed for running health clinics for poor tribal communities in remote parts of central India, is fighting a grim battle to prove he is not a threat to the country’s security.
Doctor and civil-rights activist Binayak Sen, the first Indian recipient of the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights, is in jail. On Dec 24, 2010, a trial court in Raipur, capital of Chhattisgarh state in central India, sentenced Sen to life imprisonment for sedition on the charge that he carried a letter between two members of a banned left-wing extremist outfit.
The doctor vehemently denies any wrongdoing and has appealed to the High Court, which will take up the matter on Jan 24. His family and legion of supporters inside and outside India point to the many glaring loopholes in the prosecution’s evidence.
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On Jan 4, the day this issue of The Lancet went to press, Binayak Sen should have been celebrating his 61st birthday. Instead, found guilty of treason and sedition by a court in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, Sen is facing the bleak prospect of a life behind bars. It is an inhumane sentence for a committed humanitarian, whose life before his imprisonment was devoted to improving the health and welfare of some of the most marginalised and poverty-stricken people in India—the Adivasi. This work led to Sen becoming the first Indian recipient of the Jonathan Mann award for Global Health and Human Rights in 2008.
From the outset the charges against Sen reeked of political motivation—a reaction to Sen’s tireless documentation of human rights abuse at the hands of the state. He was accused, on the flimsiest of evidence, of acting as a courier for the imprisoned Maoist leader Narayan Sanyal. The subsequent trial, spanning more than 3 years, was Kafkaesque. Its conclusion is a travesty.
Reaction to the ruling was swift, with the Indian press unanimous in their criticism of the court’s decision. Amnesty International described Sen as a prisoner of conscience, while a statement signed by over 80 prominent academics worldwide decried the sentence as savagery. The Lancet adds its voice to this chorus of condemnation.
In April, 2009, we called for the Indian Government to intervene in the case, and ensure that justice be done. An injustice can still be overturned by India’s supreme court. If it is not, the already profound damage done to India’s credentials as an upholder of human rights will be damaged for years to come. Where the state failed to provide for its poorest citizens, Sen stepped in to give them health care and to champion their rights. His reward: to be convicted under a section of the penal code first introduced by the British to quell political dissent, and later used to convict Mahatma Ghandi. On his conviction, Ghandi argued that the administration of the law had been “prostituted consciously or unconsciously for the benefit of the exploiter”. The conviction of Binayak Sen shows that, in parts of modern India, precious little has changed.
A child molester is sentenced to a year and a half in jail twenty years after his victim killed herself, and gets out on bail within four months.
A convicted terrorist is fed biriyani, while the hangman finishes up his backlog.
A man, who is responsible for the continuing suffering of millions of victims 26 years after a gas tragedy, is allowed to lead a cosy life in the United States of America.
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By Patralekha Chatterjee
There is much to celebrate. Dr Binayak Sen has been finally granted bail by the Supreme Court. The 59-year-old doctor and human rights activist has paid a steep price for defending the health and rights of tribal communities in remote pockets of Chhattisgarh: two precious years of his life spent within the four walls of Raipur jail, and denial of medical treatment at a hospital of his choice despite a heart ailment and worldwide pleas from Nobel laureates, human rights activists, doctors and numerous concerned citizens.
The personal ordeal of Dr Sen, winner of the prestigious 2008 Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights, appears to be temporarily over. But the issues thrown up by the Binayak Sen case go beyond an individual, his iconic status, or the suffering of his family. They raise inconvenient questions about India today, which can be dodged only at great risk.
“The bail has nothing to do with the ongoing trial. It’s the discretion of the Supreme Court to grant him bail. But the trial will continue”, said a miffed Raman Singh, Chhattisgarh’s BJP chief minister, immediately after the order of the country’s highest court. Dr Sen was arrested under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act in May 2007 for suspected links with Maoist rebels. The prosecution has failed to throw up legally-admissible evidence to support the accusations in the chargesheet till date, and this is not for want of trying.
Here’s a bit of context to Dr Sen, the public health activist. I caught a glimpse of the man’s vision on a visit to the health clinic in Bagrimnala village, a tribal backwater plagued by malaria and malnutrition in Chhattisgarh’s Dhamtari district, in mid-April this year.
David Barsamian Interviews Satya Sivaraman
Satya Sivaraman is an independent journalist, filmmaker and human rights activist based in New Delhi. He is the author of “Asia Sees America and other Rants.”
In your article “The Mistrial of Dr. Binayak Sen” you write, “Anyone trying to figure out, after the recent Mumbai attacks, whether India will ever win its war on terrorism should take a close look at a court case currently underway in the central Indian province of Chhattisgarh.” Who is Binayak Sen?
Dr. Binayak Sen is a medical doctor who has been working in the province of Chhattisgarh. He’s a graduate of the prestigious Christian Medical College in Vellore, in south India. When he was employed at the one of the top universities in Delhi, he decided to go to this province where there was a very interesting independent trade union movement called the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, where the union leaders, apart from the usual union kind of activities and activism, wanted to also address issues of health, particularly for workers, because the state of public health and public health infrastructure is so poor in many parts of India.
So he went there and he helped set up the Shaheed (Martyrs) Hospital, which became the first hospital run by a trade union in this country. It was low-cost health care for the first time affordable to a lot of people, not just workers but the whole area around the hospital. Shankar Guha Niyogi, the leader of the trade union movement was the visionary behind this whole idea of integrating health care into trade union activities. Health care as in direct intervention in health care; not just demanding that the government give them medical facilities but also actually doing somebody about it hands on. Niyogi was assassinated in 1991 by goons allegedly hired by the owners of the Simplex Group of companies.
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 Priyamvada Gopal, Dwijen Rangnekar and Aditya Sarkar
Oddly unblemished by global scrutiny, India’s civil rights copybook is a blotted one, with its fair share of arbitrary arrests, police atrocities, and concocted cases. The most prominent victim of an increasing criminalization of India’s strong traditions of dissent is Dr. Binayak Sen, arrested on 14 May 2007 on charges of abetting Maoist insurgency in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh. A paediatrician by training, Sen has been working for decades with adivasis (‘tribals’) in Chhattisgarh. Having helped set up the pioneering Shaheed HospitaI for mine-workers, he was involved with several worker-based health programmes across the state.
As President of the Chattisgarh branch of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Sen was a significant voice against the violence rending the mineral- and forest-rich region, large portions of which have been handed over to private industry for exploitation, leading to large-scale displacement. In recent years Chhattisgarh has witnessed a protracted Maoist insurgency to which the state has responded with draconian anti-terror legislation. The 2005 stablishment of the Salwa Judum, private militias armed by the state government, has accelerated the conflict, leaving hundreds dead and thousands dispossessed. While treading a peaceful and democratic path through this carnage, Sen exposed a number of state-backed killings, violent dispossessions, and human rights violations in the region.
The dark heart within the glory of Indian democracy
The Telegraph, Calcutta
There is almost a mythic power in the spectacle of India going to the polls. Just the number of people going to the booths in every corner of the country, the gigantic scale of the organization, the numerous political parties — all add up to a fascinating and undoubtedly significant exercise in democracy. Especially now, with the civilian governments in countries around India gasping for life, or turning into ruthless victory-mongers at the expense of minority populations. Within India, too, tragedies stalk the exercise of the people’s franchise. In the mythic perspective, these endow India’s general elections with something akin to a noble aura.
The last day of this magnificent exercise will also be the day on which Binayak Sen completes two years in prison. The doctor, who has for years been treating adivasis in the poorest and least developed areas of Chhattisgarh, has been repeatedly refused bail, although on May 4 this year the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Chhattisgarh government to provide him with “the best possible medical aid”. Sen is seriously at risk from cardiac problems and has reportedly said in open court that he may get a heart attack any time. To be fair to the Chhattisgarh government, it is willing to offer its hospital facilities to the prisoner. But their prisoner insists on being treated in his old medical college in Vellore. Although he is within the law in choosing his place of treatment, the state government does not see why it should comply.
Worse, his wife, Ilina Sen, has been telling the world exactly what the Sens and their friends fear — that Binayak may not leave a Chhattisgarh hospital alive. Ilina has carefully documented the sequence of events since his application for medical treatment, and recorded her use of the Right to Information Act to find out what means the government used to make the denial of her husband’s request official. At the end, she writes: “Under these circumstances, Binayak is absolutely right to fear that his life may be in danger in any facility controlled by the state in Chhattisgarh.”
No doubt the chief minister of Chhattisgarh would consider this a wife’s paranoia, since according to him, in “the lanes and by-lanes of Chhattisgarh [Sen] is a non-issue”. Faced with demands for his release, the Union home minister has reportedly said that the Centre cannot do much, since Chhattisgarh has a Bharatiya Janata Party-led government. That does make Binayak Sen into a “non-issue”, a mere object of political balancing acts, of reductive reasoning — or conditioned unreason — that has, in the 62 years since Independence, lost all touch with the desire for justice, equity and human rights which must have once inspired the democracy now going so studiously, so spectacularly, to the polls.
With Binayak Sen, we touch the dark heart of India’s democratic glory. Amid the terrors that reside in that secret place, one of the keenest is the fact that today very few thinking people in India are unaware of who he is, and how much he has achieved in his life before prison. But even the world’s knowledge of what true courage means, what it is to be just, to stand up to all forms of violence — particularly that against the poor, what legal procedure is, how State repression works, has made no difference to Sen’s incarceration.
‘His incarceration is a grave case of violation of human rights’
- They call for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s intervention
- He is held on “politically-motivated and trumped-up charges”
LONDON: A group of British MPs on Friday signed an Early Day Parliamentary motion expressing concern over the continued detention of the human rights activist Binayak Sen and calling for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s intervention.
Dr. Sen, who was awarded the 2008 Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights, has been languishing in a Chhattisgarh jail for two years over his alleged links with Maoist groups.
The motion, sponsored by Labour Party MP Jeremy Corbyn, called Dr. Sen’s incarceration a “grave case of violation of human rights,” stating that he was being held on “politically-motivated and trumped-up charges.”
The signatories said they were concerned over repeated delays in giving Dr. Sen a fair trial.
He had also been denied his constitutional right to bail. They said they were worried about Dr. Sen’s health “due to lack of appropriate medical care.”
The motion demanded his immediate release pending a fair and prompt trial so that he could carry out his work “without harassment and free from fear.”
Rights campaigners from across Britain are expected to take part in a protest outside the Indian High Commission here on May 14 to be organised by the “Release Binayak Sen Now Campaign” to mark the second anniversary of his detention.
The Text is given below
DR BINAYAK SEN
That this House is concerned that Dr Binayak Sen, a public health and human rights campaigner in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh, has been detained for nearly two years on what Amnesty International considers politically-motivated and trumped up charges to silence his dissent of State authorities and activities; is aware that Chhattisgarh is of particular interest to the UK as one of six focus states of India for the Department for International Development; is concerned that there have been repeated delays in giving Dr Sen a fair trial and that he has been denied his constitutional right to bail repeatedly; recognises Dr Sen’s contribution to community health and human rights as attested by the award of the 20E08 Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights; expresses concern about the deterioration of Dr Sen’s health due to lack of appropriate medical care; and therefore calls on the Chhattisgarh state government to release Dr Sen immediately on bail pending a fair and prompt trial so that he is able to carry out his work as a public health and human rights activist without harassment and free from fear; and calls also on the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to intervene in this grave case of violation of human rights.
It is so far signed by above 15 MPs (updated 12.00PM IST May 8th). We request all supporters who have some access/connection in UK to consider asking your local/familiar MP to sign this.
UK residents: This is the time to contact to anybody who has a UK address and get them to write to their own MP, http://www.writetothem.com/ asking for the EDM 1441, on Binayak Sen, to be signed:
CommonWealth : Anybody from anywhere in the Commonwealth can write to a UK Lord, using EDM 1441 as a topic of interest to any Lord – given the Lord’s presumed staunch support for human rights: http://www.writetothem.com/lords
Early day motions (EDMs) are formal motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons in UK. EDMs remain open for signature for the duration of the parliamentary session.EDMs Usually used as a way for demonstrating the extent of UK parliamentary support for a particular cause. EDMs tabled on important topics include those tabled demanding the release of Nelson Mandela when he was incarcerated in apartheid South Africa.
- UK Parliamentary motion calls for release of Binayak Sen – The Hindu
- British MPs demand release of Binayak Sen - The Hindu