Statement against police harassment of Dr Ilina Sen

Close to a hundred people from all over the country –  academics, social activists, lawyers, film-makers, theatre persons, students, journalists, and office bearers of PUCL and IAWS – have issued a statement condemning the harassment of Dr Ilina Sen, demanding withdrawal of all charges against her, and strongly opposing such attempts to muzzle dissenting voices in general.

We strongly condemn the Nagpur Anti-Terrorism Squad’s registering of a case of violating the ‘Foreigners Act’ against Dr Ilina Sen, head of the Department of Women’s Studies at Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University (MGAHV), Wardha.

According to the FIR registered against her, Dr Ilina Sen as organizer of a conference recently held at MGAHV, failed to inform authorities about the presence of foreign delegates – as apparently required by Section 7 and 14 of the Act.

But the truth of the matter is revealed in statements issued to the press by Nagpur ATS in which a senior officer deplored the fact that participants at the conference raised slogans demanding scrapping of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the release of Binayak Sen and the recently arrested Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale.

The conference was in fact the 13th national conference of the Indian Association of Women’s Studies, which has held previous conferences in association with universities all over the country. Ilina Sen is only one of the office bearers of IAWS. The Nagpur ATS has neither taken into consideration the fact that the organizers of the conference are respected scholars and academics, nor the fact that two of the foreign scholars stayed in the Vice Chancellor’s residence. Both these facts (especially since the VC is a well-known former member of the police force), indicate that nothing was done surreptitiously or behind the back of the authorities.

It is clear therefore that this action of the ATS in targeting Ilina Sen is nothing but a further attempt to muzzle dissent in general and to brazenly intimidate a respected academic.

It cannot be a coincidence that such harassment comes at a time when Dr Ilina Sen is in the midst of a legal battle in the Chhattisgarh High Court for the release of her husband Dr Binayak Sen, who has been unjustly sentenced to life imprisonment for ‘sedition’ on trumped up charges.

Further, if the Foreigners’ Act is going to be used in this way to intimidate scholars engaged in legitimate academic activity across universities and academic institutions in the country, it will have a chilling effect on international scholarly exchanges and further damage globally, the already tattered reputation of India as a democracy.

We demand the withdrawal of all charges against Dr Ilina Sen and others mischievously booked under the Foreigners’ Act and an immediate and impartial inquiry by the Government of Maharashtra into the high-handed behavior of the Nagpur ATS.

Apoorvanand, Professor, Delhi University

Narayani Gupta, Retired Professor, Jamia Milia Islamia

Ram Gopal Bajaj, Theater director and actor

Ritu Menon,Women Unlimited, Delhi

A. Mangai, Theatreperson, Faculty, Dept. of English, Stella Maris College, Chennai

Ganesh Devi, Bhasha, Vadodara

Kalpana Kannabiran, Asmita resource Centre for Women

Amrita Chhachhi, Feminist scholar

Sadhna Saxena, Professor, Department of Education, University of Delhi

Kalyani Menon-Sen, Writer and Activist

Purwa Bharadwaj, Researcher

Meher Engineer, Former Director, Bose Institute, Kolkata

Tridip Suhrid, Bhasha, Vadodara

Pulin B. Nayak, Professor,Delhi School of Economics

Harsh Mander, Aman Biradari

Mahipal Singh, PUCL, National Secretary

Kavita Srivastava, PUCL National Secretary

Sudha Bharadwaj, PUCL, Chhattisgarh, General Secretary,

Bela Bhatia,Independent Scholar

Himanshu Kumar, Vanvasi Chetna Ashram

Anand Chakravarti, Retired Professor, University of Delhi

Anita Ghai, President, Indian Association for Women’s Studies.

Anandhi.S, Associate Professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai and Executive Committee member, Indian Association for Women’s Studies.

Mary John, Director, CWDS, Delhi and Executive Committee member, Indian Association for Women’s Studies

Aditya Sarkar, Lecturer, University of Goettingen

Niharika Gupta, Scholar

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar, Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) Guwahati

Soumya Datta, Asst. Prof., Shyam Lal College (Evening), Delhi University

Naveen Gaur, Associate Professor, Dyal Singh College, Delhi University

Shivam Vij, Writer and journalist, Delhi

Satish Poduval, Dept. of Cultural Studies, EFL University Hyderabad.

Naveen Chander, New Socialist Initiative (NSI) Delhi

A. Chattopadhyay, Washington

Tamal Dasgupta, Asst Professor, Bhim Rao Ambedkar College, Delhi University

Pratik Karki,Student, NLSIU, Bangalore

Rijul, Student, Delhi School of Economics

Albertina Almeida,  Advocate, Goa

Surekha , Professor, Sayajirao university

Rabin Chakraborty, Retired Professor, Calcutta University

Chayanika Shah, Researcher and Teacher,Forum Against Oppression of Women, Bombay and Lesbians and Bisexuals in Action, Bombay

Surasri Chaudhuri, Lecturer, Vivekananda College, Kolkata

P.Zachariah, Retired Professor, Christian Medical College, Vellore

Dilip Simeon, Writer/Activist, Delhi

Rohini Hensman Independent scholar and writer

Lata Singh, Associate Professor, Maitreyi College, Delhi University

Vani Subramanian, Film maker and Saheli Women’s Resource Centre, Delhi

Veena Gowda,Advocate,Mumbai

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Advocate, Mumbai

Jayasree Subramanian, Eklavya, Hoshangabad

Rukmini Datta, Development consultant, Mumbai

Pratiksha Baxi, Associate Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Brinda Bose,Associate Professor,Department of English, Delhi University

Shraddha, MASUM, Pune

C S Chandrika, Writer, Trivandrum, Kerala

Shilpa Phadke, Centre for Media & Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

Farah Naqvi, Writer & Activist, Delhi

Anant Maringanti, Academic

Ratna Appnender, Law Student, Bangalore

Shipra Nigam, Visiting Faculty, IIT Delhi

Geeta Seshu, Journalist, Mumbai