Binayak Sen in Mumbai: Repeal Sedition Law (plus Rediff Interview)

From The Hindu:

Rights activist Binayak Sen on Monday demanded repeal of sedition laws, saying they were being used to “suppress” the voice of the people.

“Sedition laws are not benefiting free people in free polity and they should be repealed. The law is being used to suppress the voice of the people,” Dr. Sen, currently on bail after being convicted on charges of sedition by a Chhattisgarh court for his alleged links to Naxals, told reporters at the Press Club in Mumbai.

He said his organisation proposed to launch a campaign against sedition laws.

Dr. Sen said the process of expropriation of resources to private interests was increasing and it was against the directive principles of state policy. “Any land acquisition which hands over the resources to private interest is not legitimate.”

On public protests against Jaitapur nuclear power plant, he said the people there do not want the project to come up. “Democracy is not limited to elections, but it is about governance by consensus. Democracy demands that people be taken into confidence. In a Sovereign state, it is the people who are sovereign.”

‘Salva Judum still in existence’

Speaking about Salva Judum, the anti-Naxalite militia movement, the activist said it was not a spontaneous movement but a programme “funded by the Chhattisgarh government”. He said notwithstanding the State government’s claim in the Supreme Court that they have ended Salva Judum, it was “still in existence”.

The apex court has on several occasions disapproved of arming of locals, who are members of the Salva Judum, to take on the Naxalites.

“I want an end to violence and it is possible only when there is equality. Violence does not solve problems…neither violence of state nor of the people against the state.”

On his appointment to the Planning Commission’s committee on health, Sen, a doctor by profession, said he was grateful for the Centre’s gesture, but Chhattisgarh government had responded “bitterly” to it.

Replying to a question on whether the proposed Jan Lokpal bill would end corruption, he said, “Lokpal Bill is an essential item to control corruption but not an answer to corruption. Corruption is happening because of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation.”

Dr. Sen, who has spent years tending to the sick in the far-flung areas of Chhattisgarh, conceded that it was difficult to find young doctors prepared to work in the jungles, but hoped that things would change.

Deploring the inadequate health care facilities in jails, he said, “One of the main lessons that one learns in prison is that it is a hopeless place.”

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India is facing a dangerous situation: Binayak Sen

From Rediff:

Dr Binayak Sen has given a double blow to the state administration of Chattisgarh. First, the Supreme Court rejected the sedition charges levelled against him for which the state courts found him guilty. And then he was appointed to the 40-member steering committee on health in the planning commission.

The Chattisgarh government has been vocally protesting against Sen’s appointment, saying that he still remains a convict out on bail and should not be a member of any national-level forum

In this interview with rediff.com’s Sahim Salim, Sen, who has just returned from South Korea where he was awarded the prestigious Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, says that the sedition laws, for which he was charged and found guilty by the state, in this country need to be repealed as they “impede the progress of democracy in this country.”

Talking about the malnutrition, Sen says, ” we are living in a situation, where we are practically walking through time with famine on our side.”

The Chhattisgarh government continues its campaign against you. Chief Minister Raman Singh has opted out of planning commission meetings because of your inclusion. He has even written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking his intervention. What are your comments on this?

See, my nomination to the special committee on health was not at my instance; it was at the instance of the planning commission. So whatever problems Raman Singh may have against this is between him and the planning commission and he may take it up with them; I have nothing to do with it.

Were you yourself surprised at your appointment?

Well, I have been working in the area of political economy of health for a long time. So, from that point of view it is not a surprise. But certainly, I am obliged to the planning commission for having considered my advice to be in accordance to their objectives. And I am grateful to the planning commission for including my name to the list.

Now that you are in the planning commission, what do you propose to do?

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