Fact sheet on the case of Dr. Binayak Sen
(compiled by Ilina Sen, August 2008)
- Dr. Binayak Sen was arrested on May 14, 2007. He was charged under sections Section 2(b) (d), 8(1, 2 & 5) of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005.of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA), sections under Sections 10(a)(1), 20, 21, 38, 39.2(b) & (d) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 of the UAPA, and sections 121A and 120 B of the IPC.
- He continues to be incarcerated in jail despite widespread national and international public outcry. Bail application was dismissed by the Supreme Court without a reason being provided.
- In his trial which began a year after his arrest, and has been proceeding since May 2008, the state has produced no credible evidence or witnesses in support of his case, despite repeated dark claims of the existence of such. Evidence tampering and fabrication have been observed in court.
- Dr Sen is a 58 year old paediatrician and public health physician with a 25 year record of providing health care to the adivasi people of Chhattisgarh. His path breaking work has been recognized through the various awards, the Paul Harrison award from his alma mater, the CMC Vellore (2004), the RR Keithan Gold medal from the Indian Academy of Social Sciences (2007), and the Jonathan Mann Award for Health and Human Rights from the Global Health Council (2008).
- Dr Sen was also closely involved with civil liberties and human rights work- he was first drawn to this area through his investigations into hunger deaths and the causes of malnutrition in Chhattisgarh, the “Rice Bowl of India.” He was General Secretary of the state unit of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and its National Vice President.
- His work was in the voluntary sector, but he cooperated closely with the government , especially in conceptualizing and designing the Mitanin programme in Chhattisgarh that went on to provide the model for the ASHA of the National Rural Health Mission. He was a member of the State Advisory Committee on Health Sector Reforms during the Ajit Jogi government in Chhattisgarh.
- Although he was often critical of state policy, and particularly the execution of such policy, his engagement with the government was never abandoned.
- His work was entirely transparent and in the public domain.
- The new state of Chhattisgarh grew more and more disturbed after 2000 with the Maoist insurgency on the one hand, and state-supported counter insurgency on the other. The situation took a turn for the worse with widespread forced displacement, strategic hamleting, and well-documented human rights violations.
- Binayak was the first to draw public attention to the widespread human rights violations in the wake of the Salwa Judum, and an all India team investigated and published a report on Salwa Judum in November 2005, at his behest.
- After this report was published, the then DG Police, Chhattisgarh made threatening remarks about PUCL which are on record, specifically that a new law was being formulated that would ‘take care’ of ‘naxal supporters’ in the state.
- Binayak, along with the rest of PUCL opposed the passage of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act that gave sweeping powers to the state on the lines of TADA and POTA. He was one of the first victims of the new Act.
- Although Binayak took up the cases of Maoist prisoners among others, and on several occasions, organized legal aid for them, he is a firm believer in peaceful development, and has spent his entire life working for that. He opposes violence in all forms by all individuals and groups. He has gone on record expressly stating that the Maoist approach is invalid and unsustainable. However, he has also criticized the creation of a state-sponsored militia in the form of the Salwa Judum, a position with which the Supreme Court has since agreed; and he has criticized fake encounters and human rights violations by state police. The latter two positions have drawn the ire of the state.
- The targeting of a person like this by the government blurs the middle ground between extremism and state repression. People who are able to view the situation in other than black or white terms and have credibility with the masses, are crucial in the restoration of peace in Chhattisgarh.
- It is increasingly believed that the purpose of Binayak’s arrest and incarceration is to send a chilling message to human rights workers to refrain from challenging or criticizing the government’s actions.