On May 13th/14th, 2008, Dr. Binayak Sen, an activist with a lifelong commitment to the issues of community health and human rights, will complete his first year of unjust imprisonment at the Raipur Central jail in Chhattisgarh. Organizations across the globe will be holding events on the evening of May 13th, 2008 to mark the one year anniversary of his imprisonment. We appeal to your organization to hold rallies, candlelight vigils, or lectures against his unconstitutional detention. Please let us know at <firstname.lastname@example.org> if your organization would endorse this appeal.
Dr. Sen’s life has been focused on providing healthcare to the most marginalized sections of the society. By setting up the unique Shaheed Hospital and the community-driven work of Rupantar, and with his broader involvement with Jan Swasthya Abhiyan — the Indian circle of the People’s Health Movement — Dr. Sen has made healthcare available to people who have been ignored by government and private systems.
As the State Secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties of Chhattisgarh and the national Vice President, Dr. Sen has uncovered human rights violations by the state and other armed groups. He has highlighted starvation deaths, dysentery epidemics, poor conditions of under-trial prisoners, custodial deaths, and extra judicial killings. Dr. Sen has also worked on the issues of right to food, work, health, and education. He has been amongst the most vocal opponents of Salwa Judum — a private militia movement armed by the Chhattisgarh Government to combat Maoist insurgency — that has contributed to a spiraling increase in violence and displacement of thousands of tribals. Even the Supreme Court of India has issued a strong disapproval of the Salwa Judum, citing concerns similar to those raised by Dr. Sen.
On May 14th, 2007, Dr. Sen was arrested in Raipur under the repressive Chhattisgarsh Special Public Security Act, 2005 (CSPSA) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 2004 (UAPA) on charges of sedition, conspiracy to wage war against the state, and conspiracy to commit other offences. The continuing detention of an activist committed to non-violence and social justice is a mockery of justice itself. He now remains imprisoned for a year without trial or bail, including a cruel spell of solitary confinement.
Dr. Sen is victim to an increasing trend of arresting human rights activists in India for challenging state authority. Lachit Bordoloi, a human rights activist from Assam; Prashant Rahi, journalist from Uttarakhand; Govindan Kutty, editor of People’s March in Kerala; Praful Jha, a journalist from Chhattisgarh; Vernon Gonsalves, an activist from Nasik; Arun Ferreira, Ashok Reddy, Dhanendra Bhurule, Naresh Bansode, activists from Vidarbha have all been charged under the UAPA and kept under prolonged detention without bail.
We appeal to the international community to speak out against the stifling of pro-poor and democratic voices such as Dr. Binayak Sen’s. The international community has already shown its appreciation by bestowing the Jonathan Mann award for public health and human rights on him. In addition, the UAPA and the CSPSA must be repealed, and the Chhattisgarh government should stop its support for Salwa Judum.
Association of India’s Development, <www.aidindia.org>
Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia, MIT, <www.alliancesouthasia.org>
Friends of South Asia: FOSA, <www.friendsofsouthasia.org>
International South Asia Forum: INSAF, NYC, <www.insaf.net>
Peoples Health Movement, USA, <http://www.phmovement.org/cms>
Campaign to Stop Funding Hate, <www.stopfundinghate.org>
For more information, please see:
A petition to free Dr. Sen:
Statement of solidarity with Dr. Sen from internationally renowned intellectuals:
Announcement of the Jonathan Mann Award for Dr. Sen:
An article on Dr. Sen’s imprisonment in the context of the political economy of Chhattisgarh:
Medico Friend Circle Brochure on Dr. Binayak Sen:
An analysis of Dr. Sen’s case from the PUCL website:
Background information on the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2006:
Background information on the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004 from Human Rights Features:
Information on other activists under the UAPA, 2004:
Amnesty International on journalists Prashant Rahi, Govindan Kutty and Praful Jha:
Frontline Defenders on Lachit Bordoloi of MASS:
Background on the arrest of Vernon Gonsalves, Shridhar Shrinivasan and Adv KD Rao:
Background on Arun Ferreira:
Information about Salwa Judum: When the State Makes War on Its Own People — A report from human rights organizations in India, 2006: