Political and Cultural Action: 8 March-8 April 2011

From 8 March-8 April 2011 the Free Binayak Sen Campaign is organizing a series of film festivals, theater and music performances, art exhibitions and public meetings in New Delhi to call for Dr Sen’s immediate release. We appeal to everyone, wherever they are, to join this campaign for justice to Dr Sen in whatever way possible, not just in Delhi but in other parts of the country and world too.


Sanjay Kak, Rahul Roy, Parthiv Shah, Vidya Shah, Amit Sengupta, Harsh Dobhal, Shikha Sen, Probir Gupta, Vasanthi Gupta, Arunima G, Promona Sengupta, Sanjay Joshi, Imran Ali, Satya Sivaraman


Given below is the text of the pamphlet being brought out as part of the campaign:


On 24th December 2010 a Raipur Sessions Court convicted well-known health and human rights activist Dr Binayak Sen on trumped up charges of ‘sedition’ and ‘conspiracy’ against the Indian State. On 10 February 2011 the Chhattisgarh High Court further rejected his application for bail on grounds that go against both established principles of Indian law as well as plain logic.


As we write, Dr Sen sits in a cold prison and it is time for the citizens of India to renew their pledge to continue campaigning for justice and this good doctor’s unconditional release.


The Raipur Court’s judgment, coming after a trial lasting nearly three years, sent shockwaves throughout India and even around the world for its lack of fairness and the harshness of the punishment handed out. Life imprisonment for a man with an impeccable record of public service in a country where scamsters and murderers of all hues go scot free and even occupy high positions of state power?


It is nobody’s case that Dr Sen is innocent simply because of his decades of dedicated work among tribals, the rural poor and mineworkers in remote parts of central India. The fact is the charges against him are politically motivated, the evidence provided in court both flimsy and manipulated and the reasoning behind the judgment deeply flawed.


The charge of ‘sedition’, itself a throwback to the British colonial era, for example has been clearly defined by the Indian Supreme Court in previous cases as being applicable only when the accused is found to be involved in acts of violence or their incitement. There is zero evidence of any involvement of Dr Sen in any kind of violence or even being supportive of such activity.


At worst, what Dr Sen was accused of by the Chhattisgarh police was ‘passing letters’ from Narayan Sanyal, a suspected leader of the banned CPI (Maoist) inside Raipur prison to Piyush Guha, an alleged Maoist sympathizer outside. These charges remain unproven with the jailors at Raipur Prison testifying in court that it was impossible for letters to be taken out in their presence at all.


Midway through the trial at the Sessions Court there was also the blatant planting of evidence against Dr Sen by the Chhattisgarh police, which introduced an unsigned note to him, allegedly from the CPI(Maoist). The note was never part of the original list of materials seized from Dr Sen’s house and their acceptance by the court as evidence is in blatant violation of established rules.


There were also serious contradictions in the prosecution’s versions of various events, particularly the circumstances surrounding the arrest of Piyush Guha. The so called ‘confession’ by Guha, implicating Dr Sen as the person who handed over Sanyal’s letters to him, was also made while in police custody, a dubious practice criticized strongly by the Indian Supreme Court.


The political bias of the Sessions Court ruling is evident also from the fact that it has failed to take any note of the various arguments made by defence lawyers questioning either the evidence provided against Dr Sen or the reasoning applied by the prosecution.


It is clear to any unbiased observer that the charges against Dr Sen, made under draconian ‘anti-terrorist’ laws, were intended to ‘punish’ him for his outspoken criticism of the Chhattisgarh government for its human rights violations. Dr Sen, was opposed to the Salwa Judum campaign, which involved pitting private militias armed by the state against the Maoists, resulting in a huge number of civilian casualties.


The persecution of Dr Sen, while shocking is hardly unique in a country where thousands of innocent people remain in lock up for years together without ever facing trial. According to data available from the National Bureau of Crime India’s 1356 prisons are bursting at their seams, overcrowded beyond capacity, with over 384,753 prisoners. Of these a whopping two thirds are under trials, the highest proportion of such prisoners anywhere in the world, indicating a complete collapse of the country’s criminal justice system.


Fighting for Dr Sen’s freedom is therefore clearly part of a larger battle against the impunity with which police and other state authorities violate basic freedoms of citizens guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. The struggle today is no longer about just the fate of one man but the future of Indian democracy itself.


We demand that all the charges against Dr Sen be dropped and he be released immediately from imprisonment. There should also be a thorough inquiry against all those in the Chhattisgarh government and police who have framed him so maliciously. Adequate compensation should be provided to Dr Sen for being deprived of his basic rights and his family for being subjected to the most inhumane mental torture and persecution.

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