Revolution in South Asia

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India: Binayak Sen Free on Bail

Posted by n3wday on May 28, 2009

dr_binayak_sen_in_prison_india

This article was sent to us by A World to Win News Service.

India: Binayak Sen free on bail

25 May 2009. A World to Win News Service. The Indian Supreme Court ordered Binayak Sen freed on bail 25 May. Lower courts had denied him bail and the high court had refused to hear an earlier petition, but support for the doctor has been building up in India and globally. Recently a former Supreme Court judge wrote an open letter saying that the case against him should be dismissed. At the same time, there have been fears for the 57-year-old Sen’s life, because of a heart ailment that Ilina Sen, his wife, warned could be used by the state authorities to kill him.

A graduate of one of India’s leading medical schools, Sen has been working in the state of Chhattisgarh since 1981. He and Ilina Sen run an NGO that trains rural health workers in adivasi (tribal) and poor peasant areas, organises rural clinics and promotes campaigns against alcohol abuse and violence against women. These and other public health programmes Sen has been associated with have reduced the deaths of children due to diarrhoea and dehydration, helping to bring down the overall infant mortality rate in the state. All this has made him one of India’s most prominent public health specialists.

He earned the wrath of the Chhattisgarh authorities because of his political advocacy for adivasis and his vocal opposition to the Salwa Judum, a state-backed militia formed to fight the Maoist-led revolutionary movement among them.

His 2007 arrest came shortly after he exposed a massacre of tribal people. At that time he was charged with sedition and waging war against the state, allegedly by passing along letters from an accused Maoist he had treated in prison. As the former Supreme Court judge pointed out, at his trial, which has now gone on for more than a year, the state has failed to produce any evidence against him.

Sen considers himself an advocate of non-violence. His supporters report that on 17 May, state authorities bulldozed the Vanvasi Chtna Ashram, also run by Ghandian non-violence advocates, in revenge for its opposition to the Salwa Judum. The group had exposed the phoney “encounter” killing of 12 people in late March and subsequently filed a court case against the Chhattisgarh government

2 Responses to “India: Binayak Sen Free on Bail”

  1. Ka Frank said

    Here’s an article about Binayak Sen’s release on bail from http://www.free-politicalprisoners.org

    Dr Binayak Sen released from jail after two years

    Civil rights activist Binayak Sen, who was given bail by the Supreme Court on Monday, walked free from Raipur jail on Tuesday, after two years of incarceration.

    Coming out of the jail to a warm hug from his daughter and wife and to cheers of his supporters, a frail looking Sen told reporters that his movement against state violence would continue.

    “I am very happy to be released. It feels very good to be out of jail,” he said.

    Asked if he felt that there was a threat to his life, Sen said, “I have a danger from the Chattisgarh government.”

    Sen, vice president of the People’s Union of Civil Liberties, had been in jail since May 14, 2007, after the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act was clamped on him. He was accused of acting as a courier for an alleged Naxal leader lodged in a Chattisgarh jail while on a visit as a doctor.

    Replying to questions about his alleged support to Naxalism, Sen said he has condemned all forms of violence, whether by Naxals or by the police, or in the forceful displacement of people from their land.

    Clad in a light blue khadi kurta, Sen held both his hands high when his supporters cheered him on his release. His wife Illina expressed happiness over Sen’s release, saying “Truth and justice have prevailed finally”.

    Sen said the Chattisgarh Jansuraksha movement was still in place and there were several people who have been put in jail under ‘that law’ (UAPA).

    “It is my responsibility to remind you all that many people have been troubled by such laws and I am not alone. I am a representative of the people,” he said.

    Sen, who has opposed the Salwa Judum movement against Naxals, vowed to continue doing so as “a lot of atrocities have been committed on people in course of the movement”.

    “The PUCL and my personal voice continue to be raised against the Salwa Judum. We will work for political engagement instead of military engagement. Military engagement should be stopped and peace formula should be restored. People should not be killed and political problems should be sorted out through discussions and talks,” he said.

    Sen said he had no message for the Maoists. “We have our own agenda that peace should be restored. We protest all kinds of military intervention — be that of Maoists or the state administration or structural violence that helps poverty to prevail,” he said.

    Sen was awarded the prestigious Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights for his services to poor and tribal communities and his unwavering commitment to civil liberties and human rights.

    Even before his release, Sen was so eager to meet his family members that he peeped through the iron grill to have a glance of his daughter waiting outside.

    Sen said he was looking forward to spending some time with his family and friends. “I have to pay some attention to my health,” he said.

    Sen has been living and working in Chhattisgarh since 1981 and raised his voice when the state government launched the Salwa Judum movement, a state-sponsored initiative to set up private militias to fight Naxals, saying it led to massive human rights violations.

    Rights groups, intellectuals and over 2,000 doctors from all over the world have signed petitions for his release, the clamour for which increased with Nobel laureates joining the campaign.

  2. red road said

    Binayak Sen’s release: A critical appraisal through the lens of political economy

    May 31, 2009

    Statement from Sanhati on Binayak Sen’s release

    We critically welcome the Supreme Court of India’s decision of May 25, 2009 to grant bail to Binayak Sen, a socially committed paediatrician and civil liberties activist, who had been arrested on May 14, 2007 on false charges of abetting Maoist activity in Chhattisgarh, sedition, and waging war against the State under various sections of the draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA), 2005 and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), 2004 (amended) and the IPC. While this can be certainly seen as a small victory for the human rights and civil liberties movement in India, we cannot help but point out that the real battle for democratic rights lies ahead. For we must not forget that Binayak Sen was granted bail “on furnishing personal bonds to the satisfaction of the trial court”; the trumped-up charges against him have not been dropped and, as he stated after his release, there are threats to his life from various state and non-state actors. Besides, the Indian penal system has stolen two precious years from the life of a socially committed doctor for no culpable offense; we can hardly forget that Binayak Sen was repeatedly denied bail by the Indian judicial system for two whole years. Who will answer for this unconscionable act?

    But beyond the battle for Binayak Sen’s individual rights, as he has himself always pointed out, there are larger political and social issues at stake. He was attacked by the State when he, as a functionary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, started questioning the gross human rights violations of the state police and the state-backed vigilante group Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh. Let us remind ourselves that on March 31, 2007, several adivasis had been killed by the state police who alleged that they were Maoists. A week before his arrest, when these bodies were exhumed and sent for autopsy due an order by the Human Rights Commission, questions were raised about the veracity of the police account of the incident; and Binayak Sen was at the forefront of efforts to expose the extra-judicial killings practiced by the state police. That is what drew the ire of the State.

    Unfortunately, these human rights violations continue, the Salwa Judum still roams free and voices of dissent are being as brutally crushed by the repressive apparatus of the State as before. On May 17, 2009 the premises of the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (VCA) was demolished by the local administration on the pretext that the VCA had been constructed on revenue forest land. Why was the VCA attacked by the State? Just like the PUCL, the VCA brought to public view the fake encounter killings of 12 adivasis by the police on March 30, 2009. Himanshu, the main VCA activist, had filed a case in the Bilaspur High Court furnishing the details of the fake encounter, challenging the police story of the incident and alleging that the State government, despite the order of the Supreme Court, was not allowing adivasis to return to their villages. Himanshu alleged that these vast amounts of tribal land were, instead, being given off to corporate houses.

    It is this political economy which underlies all these incidents, the brutal political economy of state-led resource grab, what geographer David Harvey has called “accumulation through dispossession”. Tribal land, and the resources that go with it, is what corporate (both Indian and foreign) capital is after. It is primarily to “clear off” the tribal population from this land, and thereby make this huge pool of resources available to corporate capital, that the State has initiated a phase of severe repression. It has given itself enormous and arbitrary powers of repression through draconian laws like the CSPSA and the UAPA; it has supplemented these “legal” measures with the extra-legal Salwa Judum. Any and every dissent is, thereby, met with with brutal violence.

    While Binayak Sen and the VCA were among the most visible targets of the attack of the State, there are thousands of other less visible activists and organization that have also faced severe repression, intimidation and harassment. Many of these less-known human rights and political activists continue to languish in jail for years without any recourse to legal mechanisms or have met worse fate in the hands of the police or the Salwa Judum. To name just a few of the cases that have come to light: Ajay T.G., Lachit Bordoloi, Prashant Rahi, Shamim Modi, Abhay Sahoo, Bhukhan Singh, Niyamat Ansari, Govindan Kutty, Praful Jha, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Ashok Reddy, Dhanendra Bhurule, Naresh Bansode; many of these activists have been charged under the draconian UAPA/CSPSA, and have been kept under prolonged detention without bail. And there are the hundreds of less celebrated cases which are not even reported, where poor villagers charged with false cases and who do not even have the wherewithal to seek legal remedies, are kept in jail for months and years.

    The reign of state terror in Chattisgarh and the rest of India must be opposed at all costs. We must demand the repeal of draconian laws like the CSPSA and the UAPA; we must demand that the Salwa Judum and other state-sponsored private militia be disbanded immediately and its acts be brought under the scrutiny of the legal system; we must demand that all state officials involved in extra-judicial killings be brought to book; we must demand that political prisoners and prisoners of conscience be treated humanely and with dignity. We hereby call on all civil liberties organizations and activists to join in a nationwide struggle for the democratic rights of political prisoners. To make our voices reverberate across the corridors of power, we must, moreover, link all these struggles for democratic rights and civil liberties to the struggle against neoliberalism that the Indian ruling classes are trying to push down our throats.

    A collection of articles on political prisoners in India, civil rights, Binayak Sen, and the political economy of Chhattisgarh:

    1. The formal order of the May 25 2009 hearing which granted bail to Binayak Sen

    2. TOI editorial on Binayak Sen’s release: argues about the right to bail as a democratic right and provides some interesting figures about the state of undertrials in India; links the arrest of Binayak with the exposing of extra-judicial killings in CG.

    3. HT editorial on Binayak Sen’s release: nicely relates the arrest of Binyak with the encounter killings in Santoshpur

    4. Another activist’s daughter awaits: Prashant Rahi languishes in jail

    5. About Binayak Sen: a biographical introduction to the socially committed doctor and civil rights activist

    6. Amnesty International’ s statement on Binayak Sen’s release on bail

    7. An International coalition’s statement on Binayak Sen’s release on bail: mentions the names of other prominent activists still in jail and points to the problems of (a) draconian laws, and (b) the plight of less visible prisoners

    8. Binayak Sen speaks on his prison experience: stresses the sheer indignity and inhumanity meted out to undertrials and prisoners alike in India

    9. The political economy of contemporary CG: an early editorial by Analytical Monthly Review in June 2007

    10. When the State Makes War on its Own People: Violation of peoples rights during the Salwa Judum; a good report on the Salwa Judum which came out in 2006

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