Binayak Sen and the Right to a Fair Trial

Dr Sandeep Pandey

I first met Binayak, wife Ilina and their two daughters Aparajita and Pranhita at the conclusion of Pokaran to Sarnath ‘Global Peace March’ on 6th August, 1999 at the Central Tibetan Institute of Higher Learning in Sarnath, near Varanasi . Sarnath is the place where Gautam Buddha delivered sermon to his first five disciples after attaining enlightenment at Bodh Gaya. The peace march was symbolically between the place of destruction – Pokaran, to the place of peace – Sarnath. It began exactly a year after on the day when India tested the nuclear weapons in 1998 and concluded on the Hiroshima Day. The objective of the peace march was total global nuclear disarmament. Ilina had also brought with her drawings made by some children on the theme of nuclear disarmament. While the march was in progress for 88 days and 1500 kms, the Sen family was busy organizing activities in Raipur and their work area in its support. We also later got a chance to work together for the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), a national level platform of organizations and individuals committed towards nuclear disarmament.

Dr. Binayak Sen is currently in Raipur jail. He has been targeted under the draconian Chattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005, and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004, to silence the voices of humanity and justice. He is charged with sedition and conspiracy to wage war against the state, among other things. His trail has begun after a year in jail and his bail has been refused even by the Supreme Court. The six prosecution witnesses, out of a total of 89, who have been presented in court so far have failed to stand the cross examination. There doesn’t seem to be an iota of evidence against him. Yet, he is being illegally detained so that nobody dare question the experiment of Salwa Judum in Chattisgarh which legitimizes extra-constitutional violence and pits adivasis against adivasis. Binayak, who is the Chattisgarh General Secretary of nationally the most well known human rights organization, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, which was founded by none other than Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan, exposed the killing of three teachers and one student, all innocent, in Gopapalli, Dist. Dantewada on 4th November, 2004, which was being projected as an encounter by the police. In November 2005 Binayak organized an all India team of human rights activists to visit Dantewada and study the systematic decimation, rape, loot, arson of ordinary adivasis and their properties by the police and Special Police Officers in the name of Salwa Judum. Binayak also objected to the brutal oppression by police of adivasis who were opposing the take over of their lands in Bastar for setting up a Tata-Essar industry. How could the Chattisgarh government tolerate Binayak who was out to expose what they claim as their successful experiment of countering the Naxalites through a ’self motivated people’s movement,’ the Salwa Judum?

Indian Express

Raipur, June 10
As the international campaign for the release of human rights activist and Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) leader Dr Binayak Sen gathers steam, Sai Reddy, a rural journalist arrested under the same Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, is fighting a lonely battle for freedom, away from the media glare.

In many ways, Reddy’s case highlights the predicament not just of journalists working in this conflict zone but also of the common people living in Bastar. His is the story of a people caught between Naxals and police.

Reddy, 46, a resident of Basaguda in Naxalite-hit Bijapur district, was arrested on March 1. Police say he was detained after an arrested Naxalite, Rambabu, revealed he had “connections” with him and that Naxals took their ration from a shop run by his wife. Read more

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14th May 2008

Hundreds of activists in India and across the world today called for the unconditional release of jailed pediatrician Dr Binayak Sen, dubbing his incarceration a gross miscarriage of justice and a shame to Indian democracy.

On the first anniversary of the arrest of the renowned health and human rights activist they also demanded the scrapping of the Chhattisgarh State Special Security Act, a draconian legislation under which Dr Sen was detained. The protestors quoted the recent statement signed by 22 Nobel Laureates that says the internal security law does not ‘comport with international human rights standards’.

Candlelight vigils, fasts, public meetings and rallies in support of Dr Sen’s release were held in cities like New York, London, Paris, Stockholm, New Delhi, Raipur, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata and Pune. Apart from rights activists large number medical professionals all over the world took part in the protests.

In New Delhi in a memo to the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Dr Raman Singh, the Committee for the Release of Dr Binayak Sen said that the trumped up charges of ‘treason’, and ‘abetting unlawful activities’ foisted on Dr Sen have so far not been backed up with any evidence. The judicial process initiated against him is only meant to harass him personally and intimidate all those working for human rights in Chattisgarh.

The memo said that the arrest of Chhattisgarh PUCL executive member and independent filmmaker Ajay TG on 5 May 2008 on similar flimsy and vague charges exposed the desperation of the Chhattisgarh government following its inability to substantiate charges against Dr Sen.

The Committee for the Release of Dr Binayak Sen has made the following demands to the Chhattisgarh government:

  • Drop all charges against Dr Binayak Sen, release him unconditionally and pay compensation for the harassment and loss of liberty he has suffered due to his detention;

  • Drop all charges against Ajay TG, who is being victimised by your government for being an active member of PUCL and supporting the release of Dr Sen;

  • Scrap the Chattisgarh State Public Security Act that violates the basic principles of the Indian Constitution as well as internationally accepted norms of justice and rule of law;

  • Stop encouraging all-out civil war in Chattisgarh in the name of ‘Salwa Judum’, which even the Supreme Court has indicated is unconstitutional and amounting to abetment of murder by the state.

  • Ensure a just and honest governance that improves the lives of millions of desperately poor people in Chattisgarh

Activists supporting Dr Sen have vowed to continue their peaceful agitation for his release and also raise the issue of other political prisoners around India who have been detained under various undemocratic laws. They have called upon the people of India to resist the imposition of a silent Emergency on the country in the name of ‘national security’ and containing terrorism.

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