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Statement Condemning Continued Detention of Dr. Binayak Sen


A group of former bureaucrats, academicians, lawyers and social activists visited Chhattisgarh from 18 – 22 January 2008 in connection with the prolonged incarceration of Dr Binayak Sen. The team met the Governor and Director General of Police and also met Dr Binayak Sen in the central prison at Raipur. Some members of the group also visited areas in the districts of Bastar, Dantewada and Bijapur.

In the light of the information gathered, the team is of the opinion that the charges filed against Dr Sen under the IPC, CrPC and the Chhattisgarh Public Safety Act (CPSA) are unwarranted and unconstitutional. The CPSA enables the government to interpret the rendering of simple humanitarian acts as unlawful The Act defines “unlawful activity” so broadly that every act of vigilant citizenship can be construed as unlawful and anti-national. Thus it is clear that Dr Sen is being targeted in his capacity as General Secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Chhattishgarh. The reports produced by the PUCL have highlighted the anti-constitutional violence legitimized by the state through the Salwa Judum campaign.

It seems that the government is determined to destroy the human rights movement in the state. In this process, the government is eliminating the possibility of a strong civil society that can act like a middle ground between Naxalites and the government. Dr Sen represents a voice that is critical of the anti-people policies of the government, but his work is in the field of health, education and providing succor to the poor and tribal people under distress. He has been running clinics in the remote areas where the official medical facilities haven’t reached. It is ironic that on the one hand the government is planning to compel medical graduates to sign a bond to serve in rural areas, while on the other, it actively victimizes committed individuals such as Dr Sen who have voluntarily dedicated their lives to serving the neediest.

It may be noted that the Indian Social Science Congress at its annual convention held in Mumbai in December 2007, felicitated Dr Sen with a citation honouring him as a committed Gandhian.

In a meeting with the group inside the jail the team was shocked to learn that Dr Sen is deprived of basic amenities and assistance due to under-trials. He does not have access newspapers of his choice, only to one highly censored Hindi daily. His request to be allowed to use his professional skills as a medical doctor for the benefit of a vastly over-crowded jail has been refused. He is not permitted to walk in the area where other prisoners are allowed. He has lost 20 kilos and the team is seriously concerned about his health and well-being.

The team learnt with concern that at the hearing on January 17th when the court was to decide whether charges were to be framed against Dr Sen, he was not physically produced in court. Senior jail officials offered the flimsy excuse that they did not have enough guards to accompany Dr Sen. However, since the police could not have known in advance that Dr Sen would not be discharged by the court, his not being produced on that day is a serious matter.

The team also met the Director General of Police (Prisons) and requested him to ensure that Dr Sen’s rights as an under-trial are protected. The DGP assured the team that these circumstances would be rectified.

During the visit of the team to the jail, media people present to cover the visit of the team were harassed by the jail authorities. The camera of one media person was confiscated and another was detained at the jail offices. The team also complained to the DGP against the high handedness of the jail authorities and condemned the attack on the right of the media to gather information.

During the visit to the districts mentioned above, the team talked to several people and met with officials. It is evident that the government in its haste to industrialize the state and exploit the mineral resources is aggressively trampling on the rights of the people. Their right to informed and democratic consent to the official plans for mega development, and all safeguards for environmental protection and democratic decision-making and autonomy available to the gram sabhas under the Panchayat (Extension to Schedules Areas) Act, have been violated. In some areas repression of most brutal forms on any kind dissent has been used.

When the team met the Governor, they impressed on him his responsibility to use his powers under Schedule V to ensure the protection of rights of tribal people and bring about democratic functioning in the state.

Dr Sen had consistently raised these concerns, and it clear that he is being victimized for alerting the official agencies to the plight of the poor. Thus we urge the Government of Chhattisgarh to immediately release him unconditionally and withdraw all charges against him.

Amit Bhaduri, Professor Jawaharlal Nehru University Delhi
Medha Patkar, social activist, National Alliance of People’s Movements
Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Awardee
Arvind Kejriwal, Magsaysay Awardee
Manoranjan Mohanty, retired Professor (Delhi University)
Uma Chakravarty, retired Professor (Delhi University)
Gabriele Dietrich, Madurai University and National Alliance of People’s Movements
Madhu Bhaduri, former Ambassador
V S Krishna, Human Rights Forum, Andhra Pradesh
Vrinda Grover, Advocate, Delhi
Nivedita Menon, Delhi University
Gopal Iyer, Professor, Panjab University, Chandigarh
Manish Sisodia, media activist
Ravi Hemadri, The Other Media, Delhi
Swati, Parivartan
Santosh, Parivartan
Santosh Jha, Parivartan
Om Prakash, Delhi University
Mukta Srivastava National Alliance of People’s Movements