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PUCL, May 2007

Dr. Binayak Sen


I just wondered if some of you may not have realised that Dr Binayak Sen, who has been incarcerated under CSPSA, is the husband of Ilena Sen, who has attended almost all the National Conferences of the Auotonomous Feminst Movement; and who is actually a member of this very list.

Dr. Sen's friends from the alumni of the Vellore Christian Medical College have been trying to tell people about who Dr Binayak Sen is.

They have pointed out that he has 30 years of involvement with Primary Health care, with Mitanin programme, TB, in a hospital for mine workers in MP, now in Chattisgarh.

He is also a civil rights activist, who has brought to light custodial deaths, 'encounter deaths', malnutrition deaths, and 'Salva Julum'. Perhaps its the last mentioned which has brought him to prison.

His medical friends have the following to say about this aspect of his involvement:

"His concern about the public health situation particularly in troubled parts of Chhattisgarh.30,000 people have been displaced and are living in deplorable condition in Salwa Judum Camps set up by the Government. The camps lack basic health facilities and have had severe outbreaks of malaria, gastroenteritis and measles. Many Primary Health Centres have been occupied by the security forces and therefore people are not able to access the health facilities in these camp villages. In villages where people have refused to move out of their villages into these camps, the state government has withdrawn all public health services. The basic health infrastructure has therefore collapsed in over 500 villages of Dantewada district.

Binayak is a person who has extended the role of a doctor beyond caring for sick, or dealing with community health problems to the social responsibility of a doctor in times of civil strife. He has shown that a doctor should eschew violence either by the state or revolutionary groups. That when a doctor witnesses infringement of civil liberties it is their responsibility to speak up. We feel that he is being falsely accused in the context of his human rights work".

Dr Binayak has been arrested under the Chattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005. This Act permits arbitrary detention, with no remedy of appeal or review for a maximum period of seven years for any "expression or act which the state may deem to be disturbing public order".

They have suggested that all those who support Dr Sen demand:

a.The safe release of Dr. Binayak Sen and withdrawal of all charges against him.

b. Repeal of laws such as CSPSA, 2006 that are being indiscriminately used to stifle democratic dissent.

c. The need of the Chhattisgarh state Government to provide health care facilities to all people without discrimination. These seem to me to be eminently sensible and just demands.

A man who has worked for 30 years as a doctor with the poor, should be respected; even if he/she is not given any awards; not arbitrarily thrown into jail without appeal. He should be held up as an example of how brightly Indians can actually shine. One fears that false documents might be planted by the Chattisgarh police to indict him.

On 20th May, page 7 of the Sunday Times of India has carried a report, mainly sourcing the Chattisgarh police. It says that the police has found "incriminating documents" from Binayak Sen's house.

The doctor friends of Binayak have said: "The police took some papers, books and their computer. Both the police and Ilina videoed the process. They took Binayak back to jail and Ilina and the girls are now at home. He is due to be produced in court on Monday."

The items confiscated by the police according to them and Ilena are:

1. Article by Vasantha Kannabiran on the women's movement and naxalite movement. This was from Hyderabad. It is a published document.

2. People's March a magazine that comes in the post.

3. a hand written note on ‘how to build a front against US imperialism’

4. 2 letters from jail that have come through the jail superintendent in the post. One requesting the PUCL to look into conditions in the jail and the other from a maoist prisoner requesting that his case and health be looked into

5 Five CD’s that have been made by the PUCL on human rights in Jarkhand and Chattisgarh that have already been distributed. The Times of India, Mumbai edition has also carried a picture (more suggestive to readers), of 7 men and women standing in a row in a clearing surrounded by some dried up trees. (Noone who has ever been near an actual forest can call it a forest; its so arid). They are wearing army-like clothes and hoisting up some sort of longish guns Could be anyone, anywhere. Could be LTTE for all we know, except that Sri Lanka has not got such denuded 'forests'! This is a training camp of 'Naxalites', at a base in some Abujh Marh Forsts of Chattisgarh, according to the ToI. It seems that the 'red rebels' have put up recruitment posters asking men to "spill blood in the fight for justice", and are offering Rs 3000 pm stipend. Well, that is as maybe.

But the implication is that Dr Binayak Sen is part and parcel of this call 'to spill blood' etc.

Anyone who has at least met Binayak Sen will find this a hard lump to swallow. Binayak is to be produced in court today or tomorrow.

Hoping for the best,

Ammu Abraham, 18 MAy 2007

ps: can write to Ilena c/o jan Swasthya Sahyog janswasthya@gmail.com or pucl.cg@gmail.com

People's Union for Civil Liberties, 81 Sahayoga Apartmrnts, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110091, India. Phone (91) 11 2275 0014