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Binayak Sen – A mother’s appeal

Posted by Indian Vanguard on January 5, 2008

By Anasuya Sen

I am a woman in my eighties. When we were young, people were inspired by the examples of karmayogis who were patriotic, motivated by ideals of service, wise and virtuous. We considered ourselves blessed if we could follow in their footsteps.

I had so far been a silent spectator to the injustice and violence that pervades our free democracy today, but only because I was personally untouched by it. But now, as an aged mother, and outraged by the blows of injustice, I wish to break my silence. Inconsolable in my pain at the age of eighty-one years, I now wish to make a humble appeal to the people of free, democratic India.

As perhaps many of you are aware, my son Dr. Binayak Sen is today held in jail, a victim of extreme injustice. At the age of four years, he was troubled by questions of injustice: why didn’t the boy who helped us at home not eat with us? Why did he have to eat alone on the kitchen floor? Why couldn’t he join him at meal times?

When he graduated with his first medical degree with distinction at the age of twenty two from the Christian Medical College in Vellore, he refused to heed his father’s wish for him to go to England to study for the MRCP. Whatever knowledge he needed to practice medicine in his own country, he insisted, he could acquire right here. He was subsequently awarded the M.D. in paediatrics from Vellore, and then joined JNU as an assistant professor with a wish to study for a PhD in Public Health. But he could brook no further delay. He left his academic position to take up a position at the TB Research Centre and hospital run by the Friends’ Rural Centre at Hoshangabad (MP). After a couple of years there, he found an opportunity to work among the miners in Chhattisgarh. There he joined the late independent trade unionist Shankar Guha Neogi and devoted himself selflessly to serving the daily wage labourers of the Bhilai factories and the mineworkers and their families at the mines of Dalli Rajhara and Nandini, aiding and organizing the poor and the oppressed untiringly in their daily struggles to rid themselves of their many social ills. It was here, while working with Shankar Guha Neogi’s Chhattisgarh Mines Shramik Sangh, that Dr. Sen set up a health centre run for and by the workers of the area. Within a few years this grew to a 25 bed hospital. Dr. Sen then left this hospital in the care of the workers and a few other doctors who had been inspired by his example to work there, and joined his wife Dr. Ilina Sen in Raipur in starting a NGO called Rupantar. This organization worked in the areas of community health, ecologically sustainable agriculture, helping women become independent, and formal and informal education for children and adults. Work proceeded apace in all areas successfully. When a rice research centre had opened at Bhatagaon, a scientist cited Dr. Sen in one of his works as “Dr. Binayak Sen, a farmer”. Dr. Sen also opened community health centres in the villages of Dhamtari and Bastar districts, devoted to treating patients and training health workers for administering primary health care and raising awareness of their own communities in matters of health. Primary and adult education centres were opened at various villages.

Dr. Sen’s example inspired several other doctors from famous medical institutions like AIIMS to give up lucrative careers and comfortable lifestyles to open similar health centres in Bilaspur. These centres are now running very successfully.

While working with Rupantar at Raipur, Dr. Sen joined the People’s Union of Civil Liberties as an all-India Vice President and Secretary for the state of Chhattisgarh. In the course of his medical work among the poor and the oppressed, which was already occupying all his time, he became aware of the abuses of the state towards the poor adivasis of Bastar district, and protested against the state sponsored Salwa Judum movement that pitted adivasis against one other. The state did not take kindly towards his protestations on behalf of the poor.

When the brother of an aged and ailing prisoner of Raipur Central Jail asked Dr. Sen to visit and treat his brother in prison, Dr. Sen did so with the permission of the jail authorities. The fact that the prisoner was a Naxalite gave the state an opportunity to arrest and imprison Dr. Sen on May 14, 2007 under the state’s Public Security laws. The patriot who had devoted his entire professional life to the untiring service of the poor – a record acknowledged by the Paul Harrison Award bestowed on him by his alma mater – that very person was now in jail charged with being a terrorist waging war against the state.

When the Chhattisgarh High Court denied Dr. Sen his appeal for bail, his wife Dr. Ilina Sen appealed to the Supreme Court. The date for the hearing of the bail petition was fixed for Monday, December 10 2007.

A Bench consisting of a senior and a junior judge was appointed to hear the appeal for bail. The initial junior judge was subsequently replaced by another. On December 8, the Chhattisgarh government invited the senior member of this Bench to Raipur as the chief guest at the inaugural ceremony of a Legal Aid Centre, and extended its hospitality to him till December 9 when the senior judge returned to New Delhi. The very next day, the Bench dismissed Dr. Binayak Sen’s appeal for bail in just thirty-five minutes.

Here, without casting any doubts or aspersions on anyone’s integrity, I humbly wish to pose my question to all the people and revered leaders of free, democratic India: SHOULD I REGARD AS JUSTICE the refusal of bail to one who even as a child was moved by injustice, who having devoted his entire working life selflessly to providing food and health to the poor, who without coveting wealth survived for days on dal, rice and green chillies, who is accustomed to living like the poor, who dedicated his life to serving the people of his country, and who is now arraigned for breach of public security and waging war against the state?

If this is justice, where I should I seek redress against injustice? Should I remain a victim of injustice even at this age?

Does this son of mine – a selfless, wise, virtuous, humble, peace-loving karmayogi, motivated entirely by the ideals of service, and living among the poor – have to spend his days in prison?

My simple question to all compassionate readers of this appeal is: How much longer to that day when Dr. Binayak Sen will receive justice?

I ask this question not just for myself and for my son, but also on behalf of all mothers suffering from the injustice meted out to their children. Is justice so elusive in our free, democratic country?

*************************************************

On December 10, 2007, the Supreme Court rejected Dr. Sen’s bail appeal. Please visit freebinayaksen.org and savebinayak.ukaid.org for information and activist resources on Binayak Sen

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WHO ARE THE UNDERTRIAL PRISONERS IN CHHATTISGARH JAILS?

Posted by Indian Vanguard on December 28, 2007

Source:GYANOPROBHA

According to Dr. Nandini Sundar (see her article reproduced below), in the course of his work with the PUCL investigating the conditions of undertrial prisoners in jail, my brother Dr. Binayak Sen estimated that only about 1% of the prisoners had anything to do with the so-called Naxalites (the local name for the Maoist insurgents).

The recent jail break of mostly undertrials held as naxalites from Dantewada jail has highlighted their condition again. Like my brother, the jail superintendent has also been placed under judicial custody (although I saw a report claiming that he was not arrested) for being in correspondence with Narayan Sanyal (the imprisoned septuagenarian naxalite who apparently has paranormal powers to organize jail breaks even in other states from inside prison), and for allegedly treating him sympathetically.

Dr. Sundar’s article, written in the context of the jail break and providing a detailed background to understanding the effects of the Salwa Judum campaign, has been reproduced in Chhattisgarh Net, and I am indebted to them for the text which I reproduce below. It was originally published in the Newind Press on December 25, 2007.

Who are Dantewada’s prisoners? Tuesday December 25 2007 07:42 IST NANDINI SUNDAR

PREDICTABLY, the recent jailbreak at Dantewada in Chhattisgarh has prompted calls for greater security measures, and the district has been sealed off while police undertake massive combing operations. Someone should monitor whether those who are ‘brought back’ are actually those who escaped. Certainly, when such a large number can walk out along the main road in district headquarters, in broad daylight, and that too, in a ‘sensitive’ district with such a large concentration of paramilitary forces, the administration needs to engage in some serious introspection. And while the jailor has been arrested and showcause notices issued to other cops, the man who is really responsible for the mess, Chief Minister Raman Singh, remains unaffected.

The jailbreak is only the latest in a series of incidents that show the Chhattisgarh administration in a poor light. The government claims it is protecting people from Naxalites by housing them in Salwa Judum camps but it took only one Errabor incident to show that being forcibly corralled in ‘base camps’ from which attacks were mounted on surrounding villages, actually made people more vulnerable to Maoist counterattacks. It burned village after village as part of its Salwa Judum counterinsurgency campaign, but now its own forces can’t go into those areas, because the affected people are solidly with the Maoists.

What needs to be asked, moreover, is how many of those who escaped had good reason to be in jail to begin with. Ever since Salwa Judum started in 2005, anyone not directly supporting the campaign is vulnerable to being branded a Naxalite, arrested, and even killed. Indeed, the most recent victim of such branding was the Congress MLA of Konta, Kawasi Lakhma. The district collector threatened to remove his security cover because he opposed Salwa Judum. In his case, Congress pressure got the Collector transferred, but most others have not been so lucky.

A few months before he was arrested, the General Secretary of the PUCL (People?s Union for Civil Liberties) Dr. Binayak Sen, told me about his meetings with prisoners in jail, part of his routine work as a civil liberties activist. Less than one percent, he estimated, had anything to do with the Naxalites, and yet they were all in jail on charges of being hardcore Naxalites or sympathisers. How ironic that Binayak now finds himself in the same circumstances in Raipur jail, arrested on the flimsiest of charges! One of the reasons advanced by government counsel for his alleged Naxalite connections is that he kept no medical equipment at home (never mind that he has been awarded by his alumni, the Vellore Medical college, and that he advised the state government on its Mitanin programme for health workers). Another ‘irrefutable proof’ according to the police is that he received letters from prisoners addressed as ‘Dear Comrade Binayak’! Sure, he met the Naxalite leader, Narayan Sanyal, in jail, but always with the permission of the jail authorities and occasionally, even at their request. Despite several eminent people vouching for him and calling for his release, he has been refused even bail.

A recent investigation by the International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) revealed the farce that is the criminal justice system in Chhattisgarh today. On May 17th this year, one Kawasi Baman was arrested after an ‘encounter’ in Nayapara ward of Dantewada town, and displayed to the media as a dreaded Naxalite. Eyewitnesses said that he was part of a group of migrant workers from Basaguda, seeking work in Dantewada town. They had just finished their morning meal when they were attacked by the police. Two men were killed, four managed to run away and this poor youth was caught because he was too scared to move. Local children testified that after the shooting, the police took out a muzzle- loader and put it next to the dead bodies.

Even more absurd is the case of Dodi Nanda, who was ‘lying drunk on the roadside near Jagargonda when a mine blast took place at Tarrem. He was transported by army helicopter and when he came to, he found himself in Dantewada jail!’ The IAPL found from the records, however, that he had been charged under five separate and serious criminal cases, such as attacking police stations and killing policemen. Although these cases had been assigned to various lawyers in the Legal Aid Panel, and two were at advanced stages, no lawyer had ever met him.

Both these prisoners at least have families who came and looked for them, unlike 25-year-old Dabba Bommaiah from Bhopalpatnam, who had been in jail for six months when the Independent Citizens Initiative met him last year. A labourer on a lift irrigation project, he had guided some Border Roads men to the nearest police station. When asked to join the Salwa Judum, he refused, saying he had a family to support. This was evidently enough to have him arrested. He hadn?t seen his wife or children since. When asked why, he answered: ‘They haven’t ever seen even Dantewada. How will they come to Jagdalpur?’

One could go on with several stories – young girls who were picked up on their way to market; women who were cultivating their own fields in villages which happened to be suspected as Maoist strongholds, a sick woman who could not run away fast enough when the Salwa Judum came, and was caught, raped and dressed in a Naxalite uniform in order for the police to be able to present a prize catch.

Even in ordinary cases, the legal system does not cater to adivasis, who are unfamiliar with Hindi or the kind of documentary evidence that courts require. In Chhattisgarh alone, 2.5 lakh cases were registered against adivasis for minor forest offences. Across India, many thousands languish in jail on minor charges because they cannot find the money required for bail or get any legal help. Even when their families summon all their reserves and come up with the Rs. 10,000-20,000 that lawyers charge, they are often taken for a ride. So-called Naxalite prisoners face even more serious problems – they are not produced in court on security grounds, and are routinely denied bail. Even if they are finally acquitted, most of them have already spent years inside. Apart from overcrowding, local newspapers have reported deaths in Dantewada jail recently owing to bad food and lack of medical attention.

The rate of incarceration of members of a community is one of the surest indicators of their unequal status in society. The arrest of Muslims under POTA [Prevention of Terrorism Act] in Gujarat just after the 2002 pogrom added to the widespread insecurity they were already feeling. In the US, the criminal justice system disproportionately targets young black men, while in France, immigrants are the target of anti-poor policing. It would be interesting to get a caste wise break-up of the jail population of India.

None of this is by way of justifying the jailbreak, or suggesting that Naxalites should not be arrested and tried for the crimes they have committed. But the law, in order to command respect, demands that those who enforce it be held to the same standards. While that is, perhaps, too much to expect, the least the state government ought to realise is that its policy of indiscriminate arrests – like every other aspect of its counter-insurgency campaign – is self-defeating.

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A Doctored Case

Posted by Indian Vanguard on December 18, 2007

Tehelka
Dr Sen being brought to his house during a police search
CHHATTISGARH: HUMAN RIGHTS
A Doctored Case
The apex court joins in the myopia that’s keeping Dr Sen in jail ... ...
Saikat Datta
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Doctor Or Naxalite?

  • The state alleges he’s only a “namesake” doctor. The CMC, Vellore, of which he’s an alumnus, gave him the Paul Harrison award for his work.
  • The police claim he was the courier for top Naxal leaders lodged in Raipur jail but never took action against jail authorities for failing to detect these alleged messages
  • A police press release called him an “absconder”, though he called up the police on his own and courted arrest
  • Since he has been addressed as “Comrade” in letters to him from suspected Naxalites, it’s taken as proof of his being a member of the banned CPI (Maoist).
  • Government also claims there is “incriminating evidence” on Dr Sen’s computer but the Andhra Pradesh forensic lab report says no such thing

***

It couldn’t have been more ironic. The Supreme Court chose, even though by accident, the date designated as World Human Rights Day, December 10, to turn down the bail plea of noted rights campaigner Dr Binayak Sen. In many ways,

Dr Sen’s role as an activist and his services to marginalised communities proved to be his undoing. At the end of the day, after hearing pleas from Dr Sen’s counsel, noted constitutional expert Rajiv Dhawan, and the government of Chhattisgarh, the apex court did not find any merit in granting him bail. The doctor, who was arrested on May 14, 2007, and charged under the Unlawful Activities Act and the draconian Chhattisgarh Public Safety Act, will continue to languish in custody.

What is the basis of the Chhattisgarh police’s case against Dr Sen? The chargesheet against him says he is a Naxalite sympathiser. This conclusion was reached after his name came up when the police recovered three letters from suspected Maoist Piyush Guha, arrested at the Raipur railway station. These were written to Guha by another alleged Maoist, Narayan Sanyal, presently lodged in Raipur Jail. The police claim Guha, under custodial interrogation, confessed that Dr Sen acted as courier.

Dr Sen did meet Sanyal in jail on several occasions. But each time it was with due permission from the jail superintendent and a body search before and after his meetings. And even if we were to accept that Dr Sen smuggled the letters out, what exactly was “incriminating” in them? One letter deals with farmer-related issues, the letter writer’s health and so on. In another note, Sanyal is discussing issues relating to his case and the approach his lawyer has taken in court. In yet another, he complains of there being “no magazines” to read in jail and terrible conditions in prison. Activist-lawyers like Prashant Bhushan see the framing of Dr Sen on such flimsy evidence as “a message that clearly states that people must shut their eyes to violations of human rights of the marginalised or risk arrest”.

Why and when did Dr Sen become the target of the Chhattisgarh government and police? Many say his sharp criticism of Salwa Judum, the controversial government-backed ‘movement’ against Naxals, his raising of issues of ill-treatment of suspects picked up by the police, of the pathetic conditions in jail and his criticism of the state government vis-a-vis human rights irked senior police officials. “The intelligence branch of the state police was already upset with Dr Sen raising these issues and they also found some support from their central counterparts in the Intelligence Bureau,” a senior government official told Outlook.

In framing its case against Dr Sen, the Chhattisgarh police has relied heavily on the “confessional” statements made under interrogation by Guha. This, despite it being repeatedly pointed out in various courts that custodial “confessions” are inadmissible as evidence in court.

Guha has also stated before a magistrate that he was tortured for several days under illegal detention and made to sign blank papers.

However, there is more that investigators hold up as “incriminating evidence” pointing to Dr Sen’s “deep” Naxalite connections. Among them:

  • A postcard written by Sanyal to Dr Sen with the approval of the jail superintendent. This, according to the Chhattisgarh police, “prima facie proves the deep association the petitioner has with the Naxalite leader”. Conveniently ignored is the fact that the jail superintendent himself has written letters to Dr Sen regarding Sanyal’s case!
  • Another postcard to Dr Sen from Madan Barkade, an alleged Naxalite leader lodged in Raipur jail. Unbelievable as it may seem, the state government contends on affidavit that since Barkade has referred to the doctor as “Comrade” in the postcard, it is proof enough that the latter is “a member of the banned CPI (Maoist).”
  • A press release issued by Dr Sen on the horrible conditions in jails and the plight of prisoners and undertrials. This is held as further proof that he has “espoused the cause of Naxals”.
  • Dr Sen’s visits to Raipur Jail to meet Sanyal. Though much is made of them, each visit was duly applied for and recorded in the jail manual. As the Chhattisgarh government refused to bring these records to court, it was left to Dr Sen’s lawyers to source the documents invoking the RTI act. What the government counsel also did not bring on record was a letter dated September 6, 2006, from the DIG Police which clearly states that “this office (of the DIG) has no objection” to Dr Sen visiting Sanyal in jail. A copy of this letter was also sent to Addl DGP in charge of intelligence.
  • A computer seized from Dr Sen’s house. The state government counsel claimed it had evidence against him. But the report of the Andhra Pradesh Forensic Sciences Laboratory dated June 16, 2007, does not corroborate this.

The unkindest cut comes in the second paragraph of the preliminary objections filed by the state government to the bail plea. It states that Dr Sen “is a namesake doctor.” Reason: during the search of his house the police did not find any “medical books, medicines, drugs etc”. It is another matter that Dr Sen has a medical degree from the reputed Christian Medical College, Vellore. He is also one of the founders of the Shaheed Hospital near Bilaspur and was a member of the Jawaharlal Nehru University’s faculty on community health. In 2004, he received the Paul Harrison award for his work in public health in rural areas.

Despite these gaping holes in their submissions, the Chhattisgarh government has managed to keep Dr Sen in jail indefinitely, raising serious civil liberty issues. “His arrest and efforts to keep him in jail are a major symbol of a contradiction today,” says Dr Imrana Qadeer, professor of community health and social medicine at JNU, Delhi. “The health minister (Dr Anbumani Ramadoss) wants students to go to rural areas but who will go to villages to serve the poor and the marginalised after Dr Sen’s case?” she asks.

Dr Sen’s counsel Dhawan says that he is shocked at how the “government counsel misled the court” and described the denial of bail as a “serious attack on civil libertarians and human rights”. For many like Prashant Bhushan, the arrest of Dr Sen and his continuing incarceration is the symbol of a “creeping fascism within the establishment”.

People may be shocked by the flimsy grounds Dr Sen has been arrested under, and justifiably feel that his legacy in taking healthcare to the poorest of the poor may be in great peril, but the state government thinks human rights and public health are now the gravest threats to people’s safety.

Outlook

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Supreme Court denies bail to Binayak Sen

Posted by Indian Vanguard on December 10, 2007


Supreme Court denies bail to Binayak Sen

,

The Supreme Court has declined to give bail to Dr Binayak Sen a senior civil rights activist who has been working in Chhattisgarh for several years.


Dr Sen, an office bearer of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties has been fighting to defend the rights of the tribals in the state.

He was held under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act with the government accusing him of helping Naxals in the state.

He has been a critic of the Salwa Judum – the government-sponsored movement to counter the Naxalites and supporters say this is what he’s being targeted for and also for indulging in unlawful activities.

There are allegations that Dr Sen’s activities are connected to those of Narayan Sanyal, a member of CPI-Maoist, a banned outfit.

Police suspect Sanyal’s hand in the storming of a jail in Bihar in which Maoists freed 400 inmates.

NDTV

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Why does the Prime Minister Not Lose Sleep over Dr Binayak Sen?

Posted by Indian Vanguard on November 29, 2007

Wednesday 28 November 2007, by Gabriele Dietrich

On November 2, 2007 eleven security personnel were killed in a blast and indiscriminate firing by Naxalites near Tonguda village close to the Pamed Police Station in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, not far from the Andhra Pradesh border. Grey-hounds from Andhra were brought in for combing operations. It is known that this area has been subjected to Salwa Judum earlier, a form of civil war, by the BJP Government on the Adivasi villages of Dantewada district. The investigations of numerous human rights organisations in Dantewada have brought to light extensive human rights violations earlier.

The recent incident also shows that the situation is in no way under control. It so happened that I had reached Raipur on November 3, 2007 morning in the hope to visit Dr Binayak Sen, the State General Secretary of the PUCL, in the Central Jail, where he has been held without being granted bail since May 14, 2007. Under the heightened alert, I was refused permission to visit Dr Sen on behalf of the National Alliance of People’s Movements, of which he had been a convenor in the State for several years. Dr Sen, a well-known pediatrician and an alumnus of the Vellore Medical College, also a recipient of its highest award—the Paul Harrison Award—in 2004, has been supported by a red alert of Amnesty International and numerous protests by activists, including international luminaries like Noam Chomsky, Amartya Sen and Arundhati Roy. He has run a clinic for the poor in Bagrumnala, district Dhamtari since years, was the founder doctor of the Shaheed hospital conceptualised by the legendary trade union leader, Shankar Guha Niyogi, and his main crime appears to be that he has raised his voice consistently against the human rights violations under Salwa Judum. Medical activists are keeping up the functioning of the clinic in Bagrumnala. Though no shred of evidence has been produced whatsoever, Dr Binayak Sen is depicted as a hard- core Naxalite by the State Government.

Apart from reporting on human rights violations, his “crime” is to have visited prisoners in the jail as part of his responsibility as the General Secretary of the PUCL, for which of course he had police permission. He was in particular visiting Narayan Sanyal, a senior leader of the CPI-Maoist, who has been in jail in Raipur since April 2006. There are strong indications that Dr Binayak Sen is being framed. But while the Prime Minister of the largest democracy in the world very honourably lost sleep over the case of Dr Mohammed Haneef, a Bangalore doctor, who was framed in Australia during the month of July 2007 as having been involved in the blast case at Glasgow Airport, we have not heard of him losing sleep over Dr Binayak Sen. Following are excerpts from an interview with Binayak Sen’s wife, Dr Ilina Sen, a senior activist in the women’s movement and Head of the Women Studies Department of Mahatma Gandhi International University in Wardha.

Question: How did Binayak Sen get involved with Narayan Sanyal?

Dr Ilina Sen: At the end of December 2005 a message came to the PUCL that a senior activist with Maoist background had been arrested. Journalists were not aware what this was about. When Binayak contacted Home Secretary B.K.S. Ray, he said after a few days that the arrest had been made by the Andhra Pradesh Police. At that time, the fact finding on Salwa Judum in Dantewada district by the APDR, PUCL Chhattisgarh, PUDR Jharkand and Indian Association of People’s Lawyers had already taken place. (See PUCL website of October/November 2005.)

Sanyal’s brother contacted Binayak and sought help to locate Narayan Sanyal. He reached Bilaspur on January 1, 2006 and on January 2 the habeas corpus was filed. The Chhattisgarh Police denied any knowledge, but the Andhra Pradesh Police said he had been picked up on the Andhra side, in an area bordering Dantewada. He was held in Andhra without charges till April and then released, only to be re-arrested in Chhattisgarh. Binayak took interest in Sanyal also as a doctor, because he needed a hand surgery which could not be done in the jail. This surgery was finally done successfully outside. N. Sanyal’s brother, who had brought clothes to his brother and money for the lawyer, suffered a heart attack in late 2006 and could no longer visit him. Instead, Piyush Guha, a business-man in tendu leaves from Kolkata, brought money to be given to the lawyer.

Question: What led to Binayak’s arrest?

Dr Ilina Sen: I had recently joined the Department of Women’s Studies in the M.G. International Hindi University in Wardha as HoD. On April 30, 2007, I took our daughters to Kolkata to visit Binayak’s mother. Binayak was to come on May 2. This was a family holiday planned long in advance. On May 1, 2007 Binayak held his clinic in Bilaspur. He also went to meet Piyush Guha in a hotel at 8.00 pm. The room was locked and the reception said Guha had gone out and was expected back soon. Binayak went out to take a meal, but on his return he was told that Guha had checked out without information. Binayak searched, but could not find him. He went to Kolkata as planned. On May 4, Guha’s wife called to say her husband had disappeared. Binayak referred her to the PUCL State President in Chhattis-garh, since he himself was on holiday. Guha was missing since May 1, but only on May 5 the PUCL reported it to the Chhattisgarh Police. The police said that a suspicious looking man had been arrested on way to Raipur station with a bag in which Rs 49,000 were found, Naxal literature and three handwritten letters from Narayan Sanyal; Guha is supposed to have said that Binayak gave them to him. Obviously, Binayak could not have met Guha, because he had disappeared and Binayak himself had come to Kolkata on May 2.

On May 9, friends from Raipur phoned us saying the police had put out a version that Dr Sen and his family were absconding in Kolkata. Due to this situation, his lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj had advised anticipatory bail. This could only be physically done in Chhattisgarh. So Binayak came to Bilaspur on May 14 and was arrested in Sudha Bharadwaj’s office.

Question: What is the incriminating evidence in the case?

Dr Ilina Sen: So far, not a shred of incriminating evidence has been produced. The police wanted to search our apartment on May 16, but since I am the owner and I was not present, the flat was sealed. I came on May 16 and insisted in court on May 17, 2007 that independent witnesses must be present. Already our farm house had been searched without any proper warrant. So I got a court order to bring independent witnesses for the house search and this took place on May 19. The police walked off with the hard disc of the computer, which was examined in Hyderabad. The result came on June 16, but it has not been made known. The charge- sheet was given on the 89th day after arrest. Ninety days is the limit. Binayak is supposed to be a hard- core Naxalite but the allegations made are of a completely general nature and without evidence. The postcards from Sanyal found in our house were written with permission of the jail authorities to the PUCL Secretary. The police says that Piyush Guha had three letters from Sanyal in his bag when arrested and he is supposed to have alleged that these were given to him from Binayak. Now the situation has worsened because there has been a tip-off to the police on October 31, 2007 that Narayan Sanyal had a cell phone in his underwear and a charger in his bathroom. He is said to have swallowed his SIM card.

Question: How do you experience the conditions in the jail?

Dr Ilina Sen: The food is terrible. Binayak has lost 17 kg of his weight. Half of the food supplements relatives bring are taken away by the police during fleecing. The roof leaks. Visits are only once a week for half an hour. One of the worst things is the court lock-up. The prisoners are herded to court in crowded vehicles. Binayak is kept separate for high security. The families are kept outside and yell to convey messages to the cages in the court room. Our children get very depressed by this situation.

The police suggested video-conferencing of Binayak’s case, but we refused that, because then he does not even have access to a lawyer.

Question: From November 1 to 7, 2007, the Chhattisgarh State Utsav is taking place, commemorating the formation of the State. What is your comment on “good governance”?

Dr Ilina Sen: It is a police raj. e- Governance (open source based) is advertised in view of the 2008 elections. But it is clear that the so-called peace campaign of the Salwa Judum has escalated the violence. The Utsav had to be stopped because of the ambush on the police, in which eleven policemen lost their lives. The exhibition at the Utsav displayed the guns captured from Naxalites and the police had a stand where the public could train their guns on Naxals (on mock-up screen) and practice to shoot them. The enormous poverty in the interior villages and the repression through Salwa Judum has to be addressed democratically. There is no indication of this either under the BJP Government, or in the Congress party.

Question: How do you see the situation of people’s movements in the State?

Dr Ilina Sen: The situation of the people’s movements is a tragedy, due to the overwhelming repression. Sangharsh aur Nirman was the slogan of the CMM under Niyogiji, but today where is the Mukti? The CMM and other activists are carrying on bravely and have supported Binayak with vigils and dharnas. The units in Bhilai, cultural groups and children’s groups have held up his memory as a doctor. The chargesheet depicts his medical work as negligible and just a cover. But doctors from Shahid Hospital in Dalli Rajara and Jan Swasthya Sahayog are running the clinic in Bilaspur without fail. The Jan Mukti Morcha has organised dharnas and burned the Chief Minister’s effigy. There has been an impressive expression of solidarity from the Medico Friends Circle, the Alumni of the Vellore Hospital in Tamil Nadu, the British House of Commons, Amnesty International, Noam Chomsky, Amartya Sen, Arundhati Roy and many others.

But the situation is very depressing under globalisation. The culture of Chhattisgarh is crumbling. Raipur suffocates under the veneer of glittering shopping malls and consumerism, while Hindutva tries to synthesise the cultural pluralism and streamlines the indigenous culture into sanskritised Hinduism. There is a climate of militarisation, which suffocates democracy and leads to proliferation of armed resistance. The draconian laws in force in this State, like the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 and the UAPA of 2004, had to be signed by the President when they were passed, though the first one is only a State law. This shows how extreme the situation is. They need to be revoked, because they are only used to suppress any dissent, for example against privatisation of water (Sheonath river), non- implementation of labour laws, alienation of tribals from jal, jangal aur jammeen, struggle against mafia in land, water and liquor and corporate and contract business. A large number of organisations like the PUCL, PUDR, APDR, AIPL, CAVOW, ACHR, and International Association of People’s Lawyers have conducted independent inquiries, documenting hundreds of unaccounted for killings, rapes, burning of thousands of homes, destruction of livestock, grains and clearing of hundreds of villages, amounting to displacement of almost two lakh persons.

Question: What is your appeal?

Dr Ilina Sen: It is necessary to look at the facts. The chargesheet is full of general allegations without substance. Binayak has even been depicted as a Christian Missionary. Mr Sanyal is resourceful enough on his own. Binayak only did his duty as the General Secretary of the PUCL and as a doctor. He is widely known and respected as a doctor and human rights activist. Mr Piyush Guha has recently been implicated in an old bombing case in Purulia, in which there was never mention of him earlier. The arbitrariness of the State and the police is alarming. The case must be watched when it comes up in the Sessions Court. A nationwide campaign for restoration of democracy in Chhattisgarh would be very helpful.

Mainstream

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Indian Unrest Ensnares a Doctor

Posted by Indian Vanguard on November 12, 2007

‘Rights Activists’
Such as Dr. Sen
Caught in Middle
By KRISHNA POKHAREL and PAUL BECKETT
November 12, 2007; Page A8

NEW DELHI — A rebel movement that seeks to overthrow the Indian government is gaining ground across a swath of the country’s center and south, a region rich in mineral resources but where many of the poor feel left out of the nation’s economic boom.

India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, last year called the Maoist rebel movement the most serious security challenge facing the country. The rebels are known as Naxalites, after the Naxalbari region in the state of West Bengal where the movement was born 40 years ago.

Governments in states affected by the rebellion, including the impoverished state of Chhattisgarh, have backed crackdowns on indigenous villages they suspect of supporting the Naxalites. But many of these villages sit on valuable mining lands, prompting human-rights activists to complain of a murky line between state-backed security operations and clearing the way for resource development.

[Simmering Rebellion]

In Chhattisgarh alone, an estimated 100,000 villagers have been displaced — many into temporary camps — as the state solicits foreign and domestic companies to exploit its trove of iron ore, bauxite, diamonds and other minerals.

This clash between development, the rights of the poor and the rebel movement has ensnared some people in the middle. Among the most prominent is Binayak Sen, a doctor to tribal villagers in Chhattisgarh for 25 years. He is also a human-rights activist, frequently visiting jails where he treated prisoners, including prominent Naxalites.

In May, the 57-year-old Dr. Sen was arrested and put in prison in Chhattisgarh’s capital of Raipur, charged with passing notes from a Naxalite leader he was treating in jail to someone outside the prison. He has been denied bail. Dr. Sen denies passing notes or committing any crime, and says his activities in the jail were constantly supervised by prison authorities.

Dr. Sen was a vocal critic of how the state’s development drive is hurting tribal villagers. So far, investments totaling about $21.33 billion have been proposed in the state by Indian and foreign companies, according to the Chhattisgarh State Investment Promotion Board. Most of the investments in the region have come from large Indian companies, including Jindal Steel & Power Ltd., Tata Steel and Essar Steel Ltd.

In a speech just before his arrest, Dr. Sen said, “For the past several years, we are seeing all over India … a concerted program to expropriate from the poorest people in the Indian nation their access to essentials, common property resources and to natural resources including land and water.”

The state government claims by arresting Dr. Sen it was enforcing state antiterrorism laws, enacted in 2005 to beef up the legal framework used to jail Naxalites and their supporters. “It is very much according to the laws. We have enough proof,” says Ramvichar Netam, the state’s home minister in an interview. The government claims Dr. Sen broke the law by taking letters from a Naxalite leader in jail out of the prison.

His backers say he was targeted simply because of his government critiques. “Dr. Binayak Sen is an unfortunate victim,” says Mukul Sharma, director for Amnesty International in India, saying Dr. Sen is one of several “rights activists” subjected to harassment, arrest and torture in a nation that often takes pride in being the world’s largest secular democracy.

After Dr. Sen’s arrest, Chhattisgarh police searched his house and seized his computer, a letter from a jail inmate describing deplorable conditions in prison and copies of newspapers and magazines.

Dr. Sen’s lawyers say the police used the content from these publications — including articles on jail reform, the Naxal movement and American imperialism — to criminalize “free thinking.” They have petitioned India’s Supreme Court for the denial of bail to Dr. Sen pending trial be overturned. The Supreme Court is expected to continue the hearing in coming weeks.

In written answers to questions, Dr. Sen acknowledged meeting a jailed Naxalite leader several times in prison as part of his human-rights work, adding that “the visits to the leader in question were with police permission, and always in the presence of jail authorities.” He adds, “I am not a believer in violence, and have several times critiqued Naxal violence.”

He says it was his criticism of vigilante groups, designed to root out Naxalism in villages but which also clear those villages for development, that made him persona non grata with the state.

The groups, known as Salwa Judum, have become an increasingly powerful force by filling a void left by ineffective government. “The government doesn’t have the self-confidence to maintain law and order in the state,” says Puran Lal Agarwal, chairman of the Chhattisgarh Chamber of Commerce. Instead, the Salwa Judum — “purification hunt” in a local dialect — regularly searches villages for Naxalite sympathizers, removes villagers from their land, purportedly for their own protection, and, say human-rights activists, regularly engages in killings, looting and rape.

“Salwa Judum displaces tribals and negates their land rights. This will do away with the tribes’ entitlements and open the field for industrial development and land acquisition,” Dr. Sen says, an argument he made before his detention.

The state is widely suspected of providing support for the Salwa Judum. A Chhattisgarh government spokesman said the state provides “moral support” for vigilante activities. “What can a state with a weak police force do other than help the people to defend themselves?” the official said.

Write to Paul Beckett at paul.beckett@wsj.com

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119483106350089620.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

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EMINENT JOURNALIST IN SUPPORT OF DR.BINAYAK SEN

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 17, 2007

Source: Bastar

Eminent columnist and writer Praful Bidwai and Mukul Sharma,Director of Amnesty International,India after visiting areas where Dr.Binayak Sen had conducted important activities in the health field felt that he is being wrongly held by the State Government.

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PUCL leader Binayak Sen charge-sheeted

Posted by Indian Vanguard on August 4, 2007

3 August २००७

PUCL leader Dr Binayak Sen, Maoist idealogue Narayan Sanyal and another person, who were arrested for their alleged links with naxalites, were charge-sheeted under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) एक्ट

Police filed the charge-sheets on Wednesday in the court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Satyabhama Dubey against Dr Sen, Narayan Sanyal and Piyush Guha, who allegedly acted as a courier for naxalites.

Piyush Guha, who was arrested from Raipur railway station on May 5, told police that he was carrying two letters written by Narayan Sanyal, who is presently in jail, and Dr Sen had handed over these two letters to him.

Police contended that Narayan Sanyal, who is considered a top Maoist idealogue, had handed over these letters to Dr Sen when he visited him in jail. Dr Sen, who met Sanyal 33 times, had recorded in jail records that he was Sanyal’s relative.

Subsequently, Dr Sen was arrested on May 14 at Bilaspur and later the police seized a computer processing unit from his residence.

Meanwhile, police had also filed an application under section 173 of the Criminal Procedure Code seeking more time for investigations. The court accepted the plea and directed to produce the accused during next hearing on August 16.

http://www.indlawnews.com

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