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PUCL, June 2007

Release Dr. Binayak Sen, repeal Chhattisgarh Act

16 June 2007

We, the undersigned, are dismayed at the continued detention of Dr Binayak Sen, General Secretary of the Chhattisgarh People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), since 14 May. Dr Binayak Sen is also National Vice-President of PUCL, one of the oldest civil liberties organizations in India.

Dr Sen epitomises a dwindling tradition in India of public health professionals taking health care to the poorest sections and most underdeveloped regions of this country. For the past 30 years, he has been promoting community rural health care centres. He was a member of the state advisory committee that piloted a community-based health worker programme in Chhattisgarh. He also helped establish the Shaheed Hospital in Dalli Rajhara, set up and operated by workers for over 25 years.

We believe that the arrest of Dr Binayak Sen is a grave assault on the democratic rights movement in India. PUCL Chhattisgarh has been one of the foremost independent organizations to draw attention to the excesses committed by the Chhattisgarh government under its Salwa Judum campaign. The fake encounters, rapes, burning of villages and displacement of adivasis in tens of thousands and consequent loss of livelihoods have been extensively chronicled by several independent investigations. Dr Sen's arrest is clearly an attempt to intimidate PUCL and other democratic voices that have been speaking out against human rights violations in the state. In recent days, the targets of state harassment have widened to include Dr Ilina Sen, who for years has been active in the women's movement, Gautam Bandopadhyaya of Nadi Ghati Morcha, PUCL's Rashmi Dwivedi, and other activists of PUCL.

Dr Sen has been detained under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2006 and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004 on charges that are completely baseless. Both these extraordinary laws have been criticized by numerous civil rights groups for being extremely vague and subjective in what is deemed unlawful, and for giving arbitrary powers to the State to silence all manner of dissent. As was feared, these undemocratic laws have been used to target Dr Sen and PUCL Chhattisgarh.

We demand
1. That all charges against Dr Sen be dropped and that he should be released immediately;
2. That the threats to and harassment of other activists be stopped immediately;
3. The immediate disbanding of the Salwa Judum; and
4. That the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2006 and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004 be repealed.


Signatories

1. Professor Noam Chomsky
2. Professor Romila Thapar
3. Professor Irfan Habib
4. Dr Ashok Mitra
5. Habib Tanvir
6. Arundhati Roy
7. Professor Amiya Bagchi
8. Professor Prabhat Patnaik
9. Rajendra Yadav
10. Professor Sumit Sarkar
11. Dilip Chitre
12. Professor Jean Dreze
13. Professor Utsa Patnaik
14. Professor Namwar Singh
15. Shyam Benegal
16. Professor Jayati Ghosh
17. Anand Patwardhan
18. Professor Utsa Patnaik
19. Professor Imrana Qadeer
20. Dr Rama Baru
21. Dr Ritu Priya
22. Professor Tanika Sarkar
23. Anand Swaroop Verma
24. Sayera Habib
25. Professor Abhijit Sen
26. Geetha Hariharan
27. Professor Jasodhara Bagchi
28. Dr Uma Chakravarti
29. Professor Anand Chakravart
30. Gopa Sen
31. Krishna Suman
32. Dunu Roy
33. Dr K. J. Mukherjee
34. Amar Kanwar
35. Vrinda Grover
36. Dr Mohan Rao
37. Professor K.R. Nayar


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