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International coalition to free Dr. Binayak Sen stages demonstration at Indian consulate in New York

Protesters demand: Repeal UAPA, CSPSA, AFSPA, Sedition laws! Release the Indian prisoners of conscience! Disband state-supported vigilante militias!

NEW YORK, JANUARY 28 2011: Spearheaded by the Free Binayak Sen campaign (www.freebinayaksen.org), over 35 activists from a global alliance comprising of civil rights, anti-war and students’ groups, south-asian diaspora groups and groups defending social justice and democratic rights, staged a spirited demonstration at the Consulate General of India in New York. The protesters condemned the life sentencing of physician-activist Dr. Binayak Sen by a sessions court in Raipur, in the Indian state of Chattisgarh, and put forward their three main demands – namely, 1) repealing repressive laws like the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act), CSPSA (Chattisgarh Special Public Security Act), AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) and the colonial-era Sedition Law, 2) releasing all political prisoners, activists and journalists incarcerated under these laws, and 3) disbanding all state- supported vigilante militia groups like Ma Danteshwari Swaabhiman Manch and Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh. On December 24th, 2010, Dr. Binayak Sen and the co-accused Mr. Pijush Guha and Mr. Narayan Sanyal, convicted under the CSPSA and the UAPA, were sentenced to life imprisonment for ‘sedition’ and ‘conspiracy’ and other charges. The Chhattisgarh High Court is presently hearing bail plea arguments by the defense counsels.

Dr. Binayak Sen is a medical doctor and public health practioner who has been working amongst working class and indigenous communities in Chhattisgarh since 1981 and a renowned civil liberties activist with the Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in India. The demonstrators believe that Dr. Sen earned the wrath of the State for exposing in facts and figures the Chattisgarh government’s arming and supporting the notorious vigilante militia called Salwa Judum which, in the guise of a ‘spontaneous and peaceful’ counterterrorism movement, has in fact terrorized and emptied more than 600 villages, forcibly displacing more than 60,000 people from their land and livelihoods as part of an ongoing corporate land grab in the mineral-rich forested areas of central India. The demonstration is part of the ongoing global day of protest being held simultaneously in more than 20 cities of the world, coinciding around the martyr’s day of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi , and was the third in the line of major protest events to have taken place in New York City since December 24th.

The demonstrators held banners and placards, and handed out fact-sheets to passers-by. “We are all, Binayak Sen; We will all, go to prison” read a placard. “If speaking the truth is sedition, charge us all with sedition”, “Binayak Sen Sangharsh karo, Hum tumhare saath hai” (Binayak Sen keep up the struggle, we are with you)- chanted protesters in unison. A dossier, including a letter addressed to the Consul General Mr. Prabhu Dayal, statements from the UN special rapporteur and Human Rights Watch, case fact sheet, a petition to the President of India, and Binayak Sen’s final statement on the case were handed over to Mr. P. K. Bajaj (Consul) on behalf of the campaign. In one part, the letter read – In this regard, we agree with Mahatma Gandhi’s comment during his sedition trial in 1922 that “affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by law. If one has no affection for a person or system, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote, or incite violence.” The petition, signed by more than 10,000 individuals from across the world, read: “Not only should Dr. Sen be released immediately from imprisonment and charges withdrawn, there needs to be a thorough inquiry against all those who have framed him so maliciously. We also demand adequate compensation to Dr Sen for being deprived of his basic freedoms and his family for being subjected to the most inhumane mental torture and persecution.”

“Dr. Sen’s trial and imprisonment is a desperate attempt by the Chhattisgarh government to divert attention from the atrocities of the Salwa Judum. Both the state and the center want to hide widespread human rights abuses committed on the indigenous of Chhattisgarh, and are trying to silence anyone who speaks about them”, said Siddhartha Mitra, a computer programmer from New York present at the protest.

In the face of serious allegations of the state’s suppressing of whistleblowers and civil dissent through political persecution and ‘punishment by trial’ came media reports (TOI Nagpur edition 26 January 2011) of the Anti-Terrorism Squad, Nagpur unit’s filing a fresh case under section 14 and 7 of the Foreigners Registration Act against Dr. Ilina Sen, Dr. Binayak Sen’s wife and professor of women’s studies at the Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University. Refusing to be silenced, Dr. Ilina Sen recounted to the world in a public meeting some of poet Faiz’s words, which best summed up the message Dr. Sen has given to the world:

bol ke lab aazaad haiN tere
bol zabaaN ab tak terii hai
teraa sutvaaN jism hai teraa
bol ke jaaN ab tak terii hai

Translation:
Speak up, while your lips (thoughts) are (still) free
Speak up, (while) your tongue is still yours
Speak, for your strong body is your own
Speak, (while) your soul is still yours.

Those words were echoed by the demonstrators in New York. “Money begets money and crime begets crime but what begets justice? This sort of control of free speech and the tyranny of government-corporate nexus cannot continue. If the government feels that we will tire out voicing for justice, then they are completely mistaken,” said Rajendran Narayanan, who had come from Ithaca to participate in the demonstration. As anguished cries drifted out with the winter winds, the message from the rally was loud and crisp – the fight for justice for Binayak Sen and the likes of him is on for long haul.

Videos and photographs from the protest (files will be emailed on request):

A) Short clips:

hum kya maange?

Binayak Sen sangharsh karo, hum tumhare saath hai

B) Medium and long clips
chants, song, reading out of letter to consul general, solidarity groups

More chants, confrontation with consulate personnel, siddharth’s interview

C)Still photographs, banners etc.

D) Petition to President of India, with over 10,000 signatures

Petition to repeal UAPA

Petition to support Sudhir Dhawale

E) Copy of the dossier submitted to the Consul general

A global solidarity campaign comprising of 57 groups and organizations (and still growing) has rallied together under the umbrella of the International campaign to free Dr. Binayak Sen. They are listed below in alphabetical order:

Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia, MIT
Alliance of South Asians Taking Action, San Francisco, CA (www.asata.org)
Act Now to End War & Racism (ANSWER), San Francisco, CA
Action for a Progressive Pakistan, USA Asian Law Alliance, San Jose, CA
Association for India’s Development (www.aidindia.org), USA
Association of South Asian Political Activists (ASAPA), UC Berkeley
Birmingham Anti-SEZ Campaign, UK Boston Coalition for Justice in
Bhopal Boston Mobilization (www.bostonmobilization.org)
Cambridge Free Binayak Sen Group, UK
Campaign against Forced Displacement, UK (http://tinyurl.com/6mgnne)
Campaign to Stop Funding Hate (CSFH), USA
CMC Vellore Alumni Association-U.K. Branch
CMC Alumni in Support of Binayak Sen, USA Culture and Conflict Forum, San Jose, CA
Defenders of the Environment and Ecology of Panjab (DEEP), UK
Dharma Megha, East Lansing, Michigan
Friends of South Asia, San Francisco, CA (www.friendsofsouthasia.org)
Gadar Heritage Foundation, Fremont, CA
Hillingdon Asian Women’s Communication Service, UK (www.hillingdonwomenscentre.org.uk)
India Foundation, East Lansing, Michigan India Relief and Education Fund, Fremont, CA
Indian American Muslim Council, USA (www.imc-usa.org)
Indian Progressive Study Group-L.A. (IPSG)
Indian Workers Association (GB)
International Accountability Project, San Francisco, CA (www.accountabilityproject.org)
International Coalition for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB)
International League of People’s Struggles, UK (www.ilps-web.com)
International Service Society, Okemos, Michigan
International South Asia Forum (INSAF), NYC
Kashmir Solidarity Network (kashmirsolidarity.wordpress.com)
Massachusetts Global Action Matahari: Eye of the Day National Lawyers’ Guild– San Jose (www.nlg.org)
Our Developing World, Saratoga, CA
Pakistan Solidarity Network, USA
Peace and Human Rights Trust, UK
Peninsula Peace & Justice Center, Palo Alto, CA
Peoples Health Movement, USA
South Asia magazine for Action and Reflection (SAMAR), USA
San Jose Peace & Justice Center, San Jose, CA Sanhati (www.sanhati.com)
Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC) Seva International, Okemos, Michigan
Sikh American Heritage Organization, USA South Asian Alliance, UK (www.southasianalliance.org)
South Asians for Progressive Action (SAPA), Boston
South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD), Canada
South Asian Progressive Action Collective, Chicago (www.sapac.org)
South Asia Solidarity Group, UK (www.southasiasolidarity.org)
South Asia Solidarity Initiative, New York South Bay Mobilization, San Jose, CA
Students for Bhopal, USA (www.studentsforbhopal.org)
The 1857 Committee (http://1857.org.uk)
Vaishnava Center for Enlightenment, Okemos, Michigan
Vedanta Society of East Lansing, Michigan
Western States Legal Foundation (WSLF) Oakland, CA (www.wslfweb.org)
Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF), San Jose, CA