“BREAD OR FREEDOM? CAN WE HAVE BOTH?”
Please join us in a conversation with Dr. Ilina Sen, renowned scholar, feminist and human rights activist from Chhattisgarh, India.
Location: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Room 10-105 (The Bush Room)
Date: Tuesday June 3rd
Time: 7-9 p.m.
Dr. Ilina Sen is an internationally known feminist scholar, human rights activist, a pacifist, an agronomist, a builder and manager of institutions committed to equitable and participative development, and an author. She is a professor of Gender Studies at Mahatma Gandhi Hindi University in Wardha, and manages an innovative NGO, Rupantar in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh. Rupantar, set up by Ilina and her husband Dr. Binayak Sen- houses programs including a village clinic in a falciparum malaria endemic area, an agricultural program focused on organic farming and preservation of indigenous biodiversity (e.g., of rice), program on food security and distribution systems, and several women’s empowerment initiatives including resources for victims of domestic violence. Together, both Ilina and Binayak have worked for more than three decades among some of India’s most impoverished and socially stigmatized populations (miners, peasants and India’s indigenous groups) on issues of health, livelihood and civil liberties. They have also published several books in Hindi. Binayak is an alumnus of Christian Medical College, Vellore, India, which awarded him the Paul Harrison award in 2004 for a lifetime of service to the rural poor.
On May 14, 2007, Dr. Binayak Sen was arrested in Raipur, under the controversial Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act. Charges against him mostly focused on his official activities as general secretary of India’s leading civil liberties organization, the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), visiting under-trial prisoners in the Raipur jail (to ascertain whether detainees were receiving both medical care and legal rights to which they are entitled under the law), especially visits to individuals accused as “Naxalites” (Maoists) and allegations that he “passed messages” to them. Dr. Sen. has denied all these charges categorically. The absurdity of the charge and many subsequent judicial and prosecutorial irregularities, have led to a widespread belief that Binayak was arrested for exposing abuses of power and violations of civil liberties by the state government.
In the past few months, several national and international protests and statements of concern have been reported, including a statement by 22 Nobel Laureates petitioning the government of India and Chhattisgarh to free Dr. Binayak Sen. Recently, Dr. Sen was recently awarded the prestigious Jonathan Mann award for Global Health and Human Rights for his services to poor tribal communities and his unwavering commitment to human rights.
Binayak’s trial has just begun, a year after his arrest. Ilina Sen has co-coordinated his legal defense, been his publicist and liaison agent, raised funds, worked as a college teacher, and looked after the wellbeing and education of their two daughters. Ilina has made the journey to the US to receive the Jonathan Mann award on behalf of her husband and to present his case in person to the world at large.
Please pass this on to anyone who may be interested.
The South Asia Forum at MIT;
The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia;
Christian Medical College, Vellore, Boston alumni in support of Binayak Sen;
Boston area supporters of Binayak Sen;
Physicians for Human Rights;
François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights;
Harvard School of Public Health;
Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital.