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?
By detaining Binayak Sen for months, is the State sending out an ominous signal to those who work for human rights? asks Rajashri Dasgupta
t is a ploy undertaken by the State, time and again, to browbeat dissent and distract attention from its own misdeeds. Since May 14 last year, Binayak Sen, a pediatrician who has quietly dedicated his life to the service of some of India’s most impoverished communities, especially indigenous tribes and mine-workers, has been languishing in Raipur Central Jail in Chattisgarh under trumped-up charges. For his devoting more than three decades of selfless service to the rural poor, the State has charged the 58-year-old doctor with sedition and conspiracy to wage war, for being a “dangerous Naxalite” and for helping the Maoist movement — charges that could fetch him life imprisonment.
Although the State seems to find Binayak Sen so dangerous as to keep him in solitary confinement, denying him bail and basic amenities, the rest of the world does not. Ironically, even a year ago, only a few knew about his exceptional work, but in trying to stifle his spirit, the State has made him famous, and turned him into a hero. After his imprisonment, Sen has won the 2008 Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights, becoming the first South Asian to receive this prestigious award. The appeal by 22 Nobel laureates to the prime minister to allow Sen to travel to Washington to collect the award on May 29 left the State unmoved.