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Dr Sen’s jailing is a stain on democracy – A letter to The Guardian (UK)

The Guardian, 26 January 2011


As India celebrates Republic Day today, we draw attention to our concerns about the increasingly common cases of human rights violation and miscarriage of justice in the world’s largest democracy. The case of Dr Binayak Sen, who was sentenced to life imprisonment on 24 December 2010 on a charge of “sedition”, is particularly appalling. An acclaimed public health professional, Dr Sen has worked tirelessly for decades on issues of basic health and social justice in Chhattisgarh, one of the poorest states in India. He is also a prominent human rights defender and has been a fearless critic of the state government’s policy of arming a vigilante militia, which has committed violent crimes against civilians. In 2007 the Chhattisgarh state government arrested him under India’s draconian “anti-terror” legislation and its own Special Public Security Act. He was only granted bail after two years in jail and by the supreme court of India.

He has now been found guilty on the basis of highly suspect and often contradictory evidence, Among those who have condemned this judgment, which contravenes all international standards of fair trial, are human rights groups in India, Amnesty International and a number of British MPs.

We urge readers to join us in putting pressure on the Indian government to immediately release Dr Sen and withdraw all charges. We also request the British government to ask the Indian prime minister to intervene urgently in this case. On Republic Day, we ask Indian and world leaders: what kind of democracy incarcerates and abuses those like Dr Sen who work fearlessly for progressive change?

Priyamvada Gopal Cambridge, Amrit Wilson London, Jonathan Parry London, Darlena David London, Easterine Mills-Clarke London, Margaret Dickinson London, Agrotosh Mookerjee Norwich, Aby Jacob Southampton, Joel Almeida London, Roger Jeffery Edinburgh, Radha D’souza London, Jaykishan Godsora Birmingham, Nandini Nayak London, Mohita Bhatia Cambridge, Shalini Sharma London, Shailaja Fennel Cambridge, Perveez Mody Cambridge, Anuj Kapilashrami Edinburgh, Usha Menon London, Vaskar Saha Manchester, Joshua Chandran Bristol, Anke Holst London, Brendan Donegan London, Manan Ganguli Cambridge, Kumar Sarkar London, Aunkar Sangha Birmingham, Subir Sinha London, Abraham George Norwich, Maya Unnithan Brighton, Saleh Mamon London, Dwijen Rangnekar Warwick, Raghu Jayantiya London, Tongogara Tewodros London, Sarbjit Johal London