The statesman Cover Story: THE EVIL WITHIN

The Binayak Sen story is more than just about the violation of individual rights, says Shoma A Chatterji

THE Binayak Sen story is much more than one of a gross violation of human rights. It goes far beyond the international appeals to release him from the unlawful detention he has been subjected to for more than one year. Beginning 16 June, a 10-day fast has been organised at Raipur in Chhattisgarh to express solidarity with him and Ajay TG (a film-maker) — both members of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, and others detained under the draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005, and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (1967) amended in 2004 to include key sections of the Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act, 2002. Pota was itself repealed in 2004 following widespread criticism of abuse and human rights violations. The CSPSA allows for arbitrary detention of persons suspected of belonging to an unlawful organisation or participating in its activities or giving protection to any member of such an organisation, and human rights
organisations have demanded its repeal.

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San Francisco, CA: Hundreds of Activists from a broad coalition of 50 international human rights groups that includes Amnesty International, National Lawyers’ Guild and SANSAD (South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy), Canada, took to the streets on two Global days of Action, May 13 & 14, to protest the continued incarceration of human rights crusader, Dr. Binayak Sen. Simultaneous protests were held outside the Indian consulates in London, New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco and Vancouver, while activists in Paris, Stockholm, Boston, Pittsburgh, Houston and many other cities organized vigils, talks, and film screenings to raise awareness about the ongoing persecution of human rights activists. Over 4000 signatures from individuals around the world have been collected on petitions asking for the release of Dr. Sen. Internationally acclaimed intellectuals, including Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, George Galloway, and Mahashweta Devi have all joined in urging the Indian government to free Binayak Sen and stop the harassment of human rights activists. Further, in an unprecedented move, twenty-two Nobel Prize winning scientists and economists have also appealed to the Indian government to release Dr Binayak Sen enabling him to go and receive the 2008 Jonathan Mann Award for Health and Human Rights in Washington later this month. All these documents were submitted to Indian authorities along with hundreds of faxes by individuals demanding the release of Dr.Sen*.


NEW DELHI, May 15 (IPS) – Protests are mounting all over the world against the year-long detention of Dr. Binayak Sen, a distinguished Indian human rights and health activist, under draconian laws in the central state of Chhattisgarh.

Sen, national vice president and Chhattisgarh general secretary of the well-known People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), was arrested under allegations of helping left-wing extremists, known in this country as Naxalites.

The charges shocked human rights organisations and citizens’ groups, which on independent investigation, have found them totally fictitious. They believe that the Chhattisgarh government filed them to harass Sen and set a horribly negative example for all civil liberties activists and intimidate them.

Sen is probably India’s first human rights defender to have faced such prolonged detention.

Sen’s detention raises serious questions about the content and quality of democracy in India, and the state’s failure to respect liberties and fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. It also points to links between human rights violations and the government’s social and economic policies.

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