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Dr Binayak Sen: An unfortunate achiever

A doctor by profession, Dr Binayak Sen is a true achiever. He left his academic career to take up tribal issues and fight their battle for human rights. His contribution, recognised by the international community, didn’t go down well with the government.

DR BINAYAK Sen is a doctor of medicine (MD) in pediatrics and and a gold medalist from prestigious Christian Medical School, Vellore. He dedicated his life to the betterment and upliftment of rural and tribal people of Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. He left his academic career to work in a community-based rural health centre in Madhya Pradesh.

Sen initiated Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha’s Shaheed Hospital. The hospital is an inimitable venture and is owned and manged by worker’s organisation.

Sen and his wife Dr Ilina Sen also founded a community based non-government organisation – Rupantar. It trains health workers and deploys them across 20 villages. Besides, training and deployment, it also monitors the work of community health workers. Sen is also a consultant to Jan Swasthya Sahyog, a healthcare organisation that provides healthcare programme in tribal areas of Chattisgarh.

He is also national vice-president of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)

He initiated many investigations into human rights violations by Salwa Judum. Salwa Judum is a state sponsored group; consist of tribal people, who claim to fight against Maoist Naxals. But reality is quite different.

According to administrative reform committee report, millions of tribal people have been forcibly removed from their homes and some 40,000 live in terrible condition in Salwa Judum camps organised by government. Salwa Judum coerces people to join them or destroy their houses and family. Sen disapproved the measures used by Salwa Judum and actively protested against it. This created a rift between him and the state.

On May 14, 2007, Sen was arrested under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. He was charge of passing letters from an ailing Naxal leader to another detained Naxal member. He was asked by the state to treat the Naxal leader and treatment was done in the presence of jail authorities. Sen’s house was searched and his computer was seized by the state authorities.

But no evidence was found that could link Sen with Naxals. His bail petition was rejected by the Supreme Court.

In April 2008, the global health council announced that Sen was selected for the highest international honour in global health and human rights, ’the Jonathan Mann Award 2008’.

The Mann award is presented to ’a practitioner who makes significant contributions toward practical work in the field and in difficult circumstances; highlights the linkage of health with human rights; works predominantly in developing countries and with marginalised people; and demonstrates serious and long-term commitment’.

Global health council and 22 Nobel laureates from around the world wrote to India’s President and Prime Minister and Chhattisgarh state authorities. They said that Sen should be allowed to travel to the United States to receive the award. But Sen remains incarcerated.