PUCL activist Dr. Binayak Sen in detention was honoured with gold medal
By Ch. Narendra
Dr. Binayak Sen, General Secretary, People”s Union Civil Liberties (PUCL) – Chhattisgarh has been given the prestigious RR Keithan Gold Medal instituted by the Indian Social Science Congress at the SNDT University, Mumbai on December 29, 2007 in recognition of his service to the community.
The Award was given at a function chaired by Dr. B N Mungekar, Member, Planning Commission, and Chairperson of the Indian Academy of Social Sciences, and received by his wife, Dr. Ilina Sen, on his behalf who also made the acceptance speech.
Dr Binayak Sen was kept in the prison since seven months by the Chhattisgarh government. He was arrested on May 14, 2007 under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2006 (CSPSA) which gives the state sweeping powers, for allegedly being in contact with a naxalite leader who is in jail.
The Award was instituted in the memory of the noted Gandhian activist R. R. Keithan by the Academy. The Citation given to Dr. Sen mentions that: “the Academy recognizes the resonance between the work of Dr. Binayak Sen in all it’s aspects with the values promoted by the Father of the Nation.
In bestowing the Award on him while he is incarceration and unable to receive it personally, the Academy expresses it’s solidarity with people’s movements and defenders of human rights. In so doing, it would like to recall what Gandhiji refer to the true meaning of Swaraj. ‘The real Swaraj will come not by the acquisition of authority by a few but by the acquisition of capacity by all to resist authority when abused’. “
According to PUCL Chhattisgarh unit president Rajendra Sail, the irony of the situation was that while the BJP led State Government in Chhattisgarh has falsely implicated Dr. Sen under the anti-democratic and Black Law called CSPSA for allegedly assisting the ‘naxalites”. However, the highly reputed association of Social Sciences in India had conferred on him this prestigious Award in recognition “for his lifetime association with people’s movement for health and justice and equity”.
According to the citation, “His work offers fresh and radical interpretation of Gandhiji’s core concerns, and his present personal predicament is a poser to all who profess and practice similar ideals. He has rendered a valuable service in the spirit of antyodaya to those of our people whose lives are at the margins of our consciousness, while also creating with them opportunities for their development in the truest human sense of the term”.
The Citation states categorically that Dr. Sen, a pediatrician by training, graduated as one of the top students from one of our most prestigious centers of medical education and research, the Christian Medical College, Vellore. His social concerns were evident early in the work in his M.D. thesis, which was on malnutrition, and his prize winning essay on Medical Education, which addressed the gulf between the healthcare needs of our people and the present system of medical education.
Rather than use his professional skills as a passport to personal success in urban India or abroad, Dr. Sen took the dusty road scarcely traveled by people of his ilk to rural India, to parts of rural Madhya Pradesh and present-day Chhattisgarh, which have absorbed his energies since then.”
Dr. Sen maintains that these meetings occured with the express written permission of the state. The State is yet to provide a single credible piece of evidence or a specific charge. A graduage of CMC Vellore, Dr Sen is a public health/social activist of repute, he has been working in Chhattisgarh on health, social and human rights issues for over 25 years.
He is responsible for stellar contributions to the cause of healthcare for all in Chhattisgarh including setting up the Shaheed Hospital for Mine Workers in Dalli Rajahara and the establishment of the Mitaneen program, a pioneering model putting the Village Health Worker at the forefront of rural healthcare.
Dr. Sen during his PUCL work brought to light the human rights situation in Bastar and Dantewada districts of the state, where a civil war like situation has been prevailing, even as the state propped up by providing money and arms, an organization called the Salwa Judum to supposedly counter the attendan naxalism.
In a petition submitted to the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh Dr. Raman Singh, prominent citizens and civil society activists expressed their deep disappointment at the rejection of bail for Dr. Binayak Sen, by the Supreme Court of India.
More than seven months since his arrest on vague and unsubstantiated charges under a draconian law, the State of Chhattisgarh is yet to produce any semblance of evidence against Dr. Sen and continues to drag its feet at every opportunity.
This was evident several times during the last seven months, most notably when the government only brought charges, which at best can be described as baseless, on the 89 th day of his arrest, barely meeting the 90 day limit.
Even as the State holds Dr. Sen with no credible case or evidence against him, the actual naxalite problem has only worsened in recent weeks and months. The recent escalation of violence and rise in death toll as well as the security breach in Dantewada prison, being the latest events in an increasingly violent state. Innocent people of Chhattisgarh continue to suffer even as the situation worsens.
Dr. Binayak Sen, besides doing stellar work in the fields of public health, is a strong proponent of peace and has repeatedly condemned naxalism as he did violence of any type.
In the petition, the prominent citizens demanded that Dr. Sen be immediately released and all cases against him be dropped. They urged that the Chhattisgarh Government take immediate steps to restore peace and end the violence by the naxalites as well as the Salwa Judum.
They asked the State Government end its support of the Salwa Judum immediately and the Government should looks after the interests of all citizens of Chhattisgarh including understanding the underlying reasons why the naxalite movement is gaining strength in regions of the state.