It is now 21 months since Dr Binayak Sen, the well-known public health and human rights activist was imprisoned by the Chhattisgarh government on false charges of abetting activities of an outlawed organisation.
All of us, individuals and organisations, who have been concerned, protested and struggled for Dr Binayak Sen ‘s release all these months have decided to launch a satyagraha/civil disobedience movement in Raipur to prevail upon the Government to reverse its illegitimate action.
Satyagraha will be launched in the coming weeks and continued every Monday thereon at the jail in Raipur where Dr Binayak Sen is incarcerated. The one-point demand of the satyagraha is the release of Dr Binayak Sen. Let us all, who stand for freedom , unite to protest in the spirit of satayagraha and respecting the norms of civil disobedience.
We call upon civil society groups, human and civil rights organisations, trade unions, lawyers, medical professionals and womens’ groups, organisations and individuals from across the political spectrum to send contingents of civil resisters to Raipur to take part in the Raipur Satyagraha for the Release of Dr. Binayak Sen.
Resist the use of bail as punitive measure to intimidate human rights defenders
During the entire period which he has been kept in Raipur Jail, Dr Binayak Sen’s pleas for bail have been refused by judicial institutions at all levels in the country. While the Raipur Sessions court rejected his bail application in July 2007, the Chhattisgarh High Court denied bail twice, first in July 2007 and again in December 2008. On an earlier occasion, the Supreme Court of India also refused to consider the bail petition, without citing any specific reason, ironically on Human Rights Day, 2007.
The best traditions of justice and precedents set by Indian courts themselves demand that ‘bail should be the rule and jail the exception’. Bail is normally denied only to those accused who are likely to run away, repeat the crime or tamper with evidence. None of these conditions apply in the case of Dr Binayak Sen. He was arrested when he voluntarily went to the police on 14 May 2007 after learning they were looking for him. Bail cannot be used as a punitive measure; rather, it is an inherent civil right in democracy and an essential part of the Indian criminal justice system.
No evidence to back the charges against Dr Binayak Sen
Though Dr Binayak Sen has been arrested on grave charges under the draconian Chhattisgarh State Public Security Act, none of the 38 witnesses produced in his trial so far at a sessions court in Raipur have corroborated any of these charges. In December 2008, 18 months after his arrest, the State called in 47 extra witnesses to testify. The Chhattisgarh government and its police have also not been able to provide any proof of his involvement in illegal activities.
Dr Binayak Sen was arrested by the Chhattisgarh police for allegedly passing on letters from Narayan Sanyal , a senior member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) in Raipur jail to Piyush Guha, a Raipur businessman accused of assisting the Maoists. The fact of the matter is that Dr. Binayak Sen met Mr. Sanyal in prison with permission from jail authorities as he was providing medical care to Mr. Sanyal. There are records to prove this.
In the days and months following his incarceration, Dr Binayak Sen has received tremendous support from the people of India, and outside. 22 Nobel Laureates signed a letter in support of Dr Binayak Sen. Both international and national media, television and print, through news stories and editorials, has consistently pointed to the unjustified nature of Dr Binayak Sen’s imprisonment. Moreover, among the wider public too, there is a palpable sense of indignation, dissatisfaction and frustration with the way the Indian legal system and executive has responded to Dr Binayak Sen’s case.
All these factors bring into focus the moral dimension of illegitimacy of Dr Binayak Sen’s continued detention. We believe that in such a situation, where, Dr Binayak Sen has repeatedly been denied the most fundamental of legal rights, it is our moral responsibility as citizens to protest his arrest and call for his release.
Please circulate this appeal widely.
Please contact the satyagraha volunteers in New Delhi at [email protected] to indicate your or your organisation’s intent to participate in the satyagraha.