(Cross posting to greenyouth & fourth-estate-critique)


Dr. Binayak Sen – paediatrician, public health professional and civil
liberties activist – was arrested by the Chhattisgarh police on 14th May
2007 at Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh. Asked by the Superintendant of Police to
appear for recording a statement, he was placed under arrest when he
reached the police station. This had been preceded by a week of
maligning police statements in the press labeling him as a "dreadful
terrorist" and a "hardcore naxalite" who was "absconding". He is
currently being held in Raipur Central Jail under two draconian state
and national laws – the Chattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005
(CSPSA) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) 2004.

The legal proceedings have been marked by delays. Dr. Sen’s petition for
bail was rejected by the High Court at Bilaspur on July 23rd. On
December 12th the Supreme Court dismissed the special leave petition for
consideration of bail. At the hearings in the District Sessions Court at
Raipur, where he is to be tried, the jail authorities did not produce
Dr. Sen on the plea of lack of security, and instead arranged for
video-conferencing. At the last hearing of the court on 28th December
2007, however, he was brought to hear the framing of charges. His
application for parole to receive the Keithan gold medal awarded to him
in December 2007 by the Indian Academy of Social Sciences was also
rejected on technical grounds.

Who is Dr. Binayak Sen?
What are the allegations against him which
have resulted in such harsh and unjust
treatment from the Government?


Binayak joined CMC as an undergraduate in 1966 and took his MD in
Paediatrics. His thesis on 'Marasmus and Malnutrition in Children'
initiated a deep involvement in issues related to hunger,
malnutrition, poverty, mortality and morbidity.

Between 1976 and 1978 he taught at the Centre of Social Medicine and
Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Then,
leaving academics, he joined a rural community health project at the
FRIENDS RURAL CENTRE in Hoshangabad, Madhya Pradesh, where he focused
on the problem of tuberculosis. In the early 1980s he and his wife
Ilina moved to southern Chhattisgarh to work with the iron ore mine
workers and their organisation based in Dalli-Rajhara. They have now
been living in Chhattisgarh for more than a quarter century working in
the areas of health, human rights and sustainable development. Dr. Sen
has particularly focused on the provision of health care to the
poorest and neediest sections in Chhattisgarh.

In 2004 Binayak Sen was awarded the Paul Harrison Award from the
Christian Medical College, Vellore. It recognises ex-students of CMC
for their outstanding contribution to society. The citation describes
him thus:

"Dr. Binayak Sen has been true to the spirit and vision of his alma
mater and has carried his dedication to truth and service to the very
frontline of battle. He has broken the mould and redefined the
possible role of the doctor in a broken and unjust society, holding
the cause more precious than personal safety. CMC is proud to be
associated with Binayak Sen and his wife Ilina. A role model for the
students and staff of CMC, he is someone who stands out for his
literal pursuit of the founding values of CMC."

Dr. Sen has made significant contributions
in the public health field.

In 1981, Dr. Sen joined well-known trade union leader Shankar Guha
Niyogi at Dalli-Rajhara. There he started working among the iron ore
mine workers and their trade union, the Chhattisgarh Mines Shramik
Sangh (CMSS) and their wider rural mass organisation, the Chhattisgarh
Mukti Morcha (CMM). He worked with the CMSS to plan the Shaheed
Hospital at Dalli, established in 1982. This pioneering effort by
workers to build and run their own hospital and health programme for
the benefit of common people has become a model for provision of
effective, low-cost, general and specialised medical and surgical care
for the poor. Dr. Sen was also a strong supporter and advisor in other
constructive programmes of the CMM.

  From 1988 to 1992, Dr. Sen was based at the Mission Hospital, Tilda,
although his association with CMSS and CMM continued. Following
Niyogi's untimely assassination in Bhilai in 1991 and a police firing
upon on a month-long peaceful workers' dharna there on 1st July 1992,
a Bhilai Firing Relief Committee was set up. Dr. Sen managed this
Committee, running clinics among the urban industrial workers and
their communities in Bhilai and Birgaon for more than a decade.

In 1994, Ilina and Binayak Sen together set up a voluntary
organisation in Raipur named RUPANTAR. One aim was to extend medical
and health work into the neediest communities. To start a community
health programme, Binayak chose Bagrumnala, a remote tribal village in
Dhamtari District inhabited by people displaced by a dam on the
Mahanadi river. The programme links health work with the people's
living conditions and includes provision of low-cost effective health
care services. Apart from running a weekly clinic, Binayak selected
and trained health workers from among the local people. After initial
on-site training, the health workers' skills have been enhanced by
exposure at Shaheed Hospital and at Jan Swasthya Sahayog, a voluntary
community health programme based at Ganiyari, Bilaspur. The health
workers are now able to manage the clinic at Bagrumnala, treating old
patients and referring those who need specialised care. This clinic is
widely recognised as a reliable and precious resource by people of
this area, which remains largely untouched by the public health

Over time the Bagrumnala clinic's reputation has grown among both
people and health authorities for low-cost effective treatment of
malaria and tuberculosis. In 2001 the health workers identified 1000
cases of falciparum malaria and referred them for treatment, averting
a large number of fatalities. In Dhamtari block the clinic is known as
"TB ka dawakhana" and Binayak as "TB ke daktar". According to the
health workers, the local prevalence of TB and malaria has
significantly reduced. Despite a designated DOTS centre in the
government PHC, the local people opt for treatment by the Rupantar
team at Bagrumnala. During our visit as members of Medico Friend
Circle in June 2007, people told us of how Binayak had himself carried
unconscious persons to his vehicle for transporting them to a
hospital, and also how he had borne the treatment costs of poor

Dr. Binayak Sen is an esteemed member of the board of Jan Swasthya
Sahyog (JSS), Bilaspur, an effort aimed at finding solutions to the
vast unaddressed problems of rural health. Set up in 2000, JSS is run
by a group of young doctors from AIIMS, Delhi with a team of seventy
full-time personnel. Theirs is a replicable model of low-cost,
rational and comprehensive medical and surgical care through a
hospital, community health centre, and rural outreach programme based
in Ganiyari town of Bilaspur District. It serves a largely tribal
population confronted by extreme poverty and hunger, aggravated by
lop-sided development.

Over the last few years, Dr. Sen has been officially engaged in
monitoring the health and nutritional status of Chhattisgarh's people.
He was associated with the State Health Resource Centre at Raipur. He
was also a member of the Advisory Committee set up by the Chhattisgarh
Government to pilot the Mitanin Programme, a community-based health
worker programme and fore-runner of the ASHA programme of the National
Rural Health Mission. Furthermore, he has helped draw up the list of
essential drugs and guidelines for standard treatment for the State
Health Department as part of efforts to promote rational use of drugs.
For over 30 years Binayak Sen has been a consistent and active member
of the Medico Friend Circle (MFC). MFC is an all-India group of
socially conscious medical, public health and social science
professionals and researchers, as well as community health and women's
health rights activists, united by common concerns about health status
and health services in the country. Through regular annual meetings
and a bi-monthly bulletin, MFC members debate and discuss critical
health issues that arise locally, regionally and nationally and work
towards evolving solutions suited to the needs of India's people. Like
many others in MFC, Binayak is associated with the Jan Swasthya
Abhiyan, the Indian chapter of the worldwide People's Health Movement,
a coalition working for people's right to health and access to


As the Harrison award citation states, Binayak has redefined the
possible role of a doctor in our "unjust, broken society". Over the
past three decades he has always extended his sphere of work into what
public health professionals, researchers, and health workers now refer
to as the "social determinants of health" – what we see in the larger
social context as "human rights". Moving beyond medical service,
Binayak has demonstrated how medicine and public health can contribute
to the broader struggles for basic rights to food, health and
education as well as for democratic rights.

Reflecting on his ability to reach out, people at Bagrumnala told us,
"Doctor Binayak has done much more than just curative work in this
place. He worked with us with his hands to construct a pond." During a
drought in 2001, initially he helped organise emergency grain
distribution, then he enabled the people to set up a grain and seed
bank called "Chaarjhaniya". He connected this to a biodiversity
conservation programme combining the objectives of protecting
traditional seeds and ensuring community food sovereignty, both
threatened with extinction by unregulated growth of agro-industry.
Adopting the model, the State Government subsequently set up grain
banks in 17 villages, and seed banks in 25 villages. Under Binayak's
encouragement, villagers have contributed from their wages to a local
"Nirmaan Samiti".

Binayak has engaged widely in debates on sustainable development,
including in the Socialist Front and in the National Alliance of
Peoples' Movements (NAPM). In 2001, he took an active interest in
organising the Desh Bachao – Desh Banao Yatra when it passed through
Chhattisgarh, and the Rozgar Guarantee Yatra in 2004.

Over the last 15 years Binayak has worked for legal entitlements of
adivasis in the forests near Bagrumnala. When he found the entire male
population of village Piprahi Bharri belonging to the Kamaar primitive
tribe jailed for 'encroaching' on forest land, he arranged for the
legal defense. On behalf of the people of Kekrakholi, Futhamurha and
other villages where land entitlements were contested, he negotiated
with officials.

Similarly, in Dugli village loans were sanctioned on paper to many
villagers by the lead bank and the money was shown as given to them.
It was part of a major fraud and no loans were actually received by
the villagers named as beneficiaries. When they got recovery notices
from the bank and were harassed by bank officials, they approached
Binayak. Following his request to the Reserve Bank at Nagpur to
inquire into the matter, an inquiry team was sent and the matter was
resolved in the villagers' favour.

Binayak's civil rights activism dates from 1984, when he joined the
PUCL team that enquired into an incident of firing on textile workers
at Rajnandgaon near Dalli-Rajhara, in ertstwhile Madhya Pradesh. The
People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) is a well-known human rights
organisation that has its origins in the complete suspension of all
fundamental rights during the emergency period in the 1970s. The
peaceful campaigns by the PUCL then helped to turn the tide for the
restoration of democracy. Since 1997-'98, Binayak has been associated
with the Chhattisgarh branch of PUCL, and he has recently been elected
General Secretary for his second term. In 2002 he was elected
Vice-President, National PUCL and he continues in that office. Thus,
as a key-office bearer, he has organised fact-finding investigations
at state level into human rights violations ranging from hunger deaths
and dysentery epidemics to the welfare and rights of under-trial
prisoners, to custodial deaths and fake encounter killings, and the
findings have been announced in public forums.

According to PUCL, since 2005 the Chhattisgarh Government has a
growing record of "crimes against humanity", using excessive and
unwarranted police power in the name of resolving the "naxalite
problem". PUCL-Chhattisgarh and other democratic rights activists have
been raising their voices and campaigning against the "Salwa Judum"
and fake encounters in Chhattisgarh, of which there were 155 in
2005-'06. In May 2007, PUCL publicly demanded a CBI enquiry into all
extra-judicial killings in the state since 2005. One instance is that
of the supposed "encounter deaths" of 12 innocent adivasi youths in
Santoshpur village by the Chhattisgarh Police in March 2007. After a
sustained campaign by PUCL the State Government was forced to order an
investigation and only recently charges have been filed against some
of the involved policemen. Similarly, PUCL has demanded official
investigation into killings and other illegal acts by the so-called
Salwa Judum movement in Dantewada district with the connivance of the
State Police.

In a letter to the Chief Minister and at a meeting with him after Dr.
Sen's arrest, the PUCL explained that as a human rights worker and an
active office-bearer of PUCL, Dr. Sen was duty-bound to bring to light
the human rights violations of both state and non-state actors.
Contrary to the impression created by the police, Dr. Sen had publicly
raised the issue of human rights violations by both the state and the
naxalites, and had condemned the killings caused by the Maoist
violence. His concern throughout has been for an end to such acts. He
had appealed to both Government and Maoists to find a political
solution through negotiations and dialogue with all those concerned,
including political parties, NGOs and naxalites. He had stressed that
such a process was overdue to find the way out of the tragic situation
in Chhattisgarh. PUCL has also been demanding the withdrawal of the
Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA) which was shown to be
liable to misused by the police.

The Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005 has been shown to be
anti-constitutional and anti-democratic in nature. Various political
parties, peoples' organisations, journalists' associations and both
national and international human rights organisations have pointed out
the illegal and repressive features of this Act. Among its arbitrary
and dangerous features are the vague definitions of "illegal" and
"unlawful" activities and of so-called "support" to organisations
engaged in illegal activities. The definitions are such that even
peaceful forms of democratic protest and ordinary civil disobedience
can be brought under its purview and declared "unlawful activity" and
any protesting group can be declared "unlawful". The Act also does not
include the ingredient of 'nature of association/intention', whereby
activities done unknowingly can be punished. Apprehensions are that,
in using its discretion, the Government could misuse the Act for
settling scores with political opponents. In fact, the State
Government did ban some organisations under the CSPSA even before the
Advisory Board was constituted under the Act. Banning of such
innocuous organisations as the Adivasi Balak Sangh raised doubts that
even children below the age of 18 years in the tribal-dominated areas
would be arrested. Among those arrested since the enactment of the law
is a girl student of 12th standard.


On 14th May 2007, Dr. Sen had just returned to Bilaspur from a visit
to his ailing mother in Kolkata. He was in the office of Advocate
Sudha Bharadwaj when they received a message from the Bilaspur City SP
asking him to go to the police station to record a statement. Dr. Sen
asked if he could do it the following day, after returning from his
weekly clinic in Bagrumnala. As this request was turned down, he and
his advocate went to the TarBahar police station. The two were made to
wait there for a long time. Then he was abruptly told that the Raipur
SP was arriving to place him under arrest. A medical check-up was
done, after which he was given the option of getting hospitalised or
going to jail, and he chose the jail.

Dr. Sen was arrested under Sections 10(a)(1), 20, 21, 38 and 39 of the
UAPA, and Sections 2(b)(d) and 8(1)(2)(5) of the CSPSA, comprising the
following charges:

Being a member of an unlawful association
Being a member of a terrorist gang or organisation
Holding the proceeds of a terrorist act
Giving support to a terrorist organisation, and
Aiding an unlawful organisation.

He has also been charged with sedition, conspiracy to wage war against
the state, and conspiracy to commit other offences. However, no
evidence has been given in support of any of the charges. More than a
month after his arrest, despite having no evidence, the police added
charges under sections 120(B), 121(A) and 124(A) of the IPC.
Arguments on the framing of charges against Binayak Sen and others
took place only on December 28 2007, and the actual framing of charges
was scheduled for January 17, 2008. The application of defense for
discharge on grounds of lack of evidence has been rejected, and all
the charges of the prosecution have been retained. Binayak and the
others were not produced in court on 17th, and are to be produced on
2nd February, when the charges against them will be read out and the
order for commencement of trial will be made.

The evidence that the police claim to have is the record of various
visits made by Dr. Sen to Mr. Narayan Sanyal, a 70-year old undertrial
in Raipur Central Jail. Mr. Sanyal sought to bring to the notice of
the jail authorities, as well as the national and state human rights
commissions and several human rights groups, his health condition and
his desire to get legal aid as his right under the laws. In his
capacity as a PUCL member, Dr. Sen met Mr. Sanyal in jail to provide
him with both medical and legal assistance. As a civil liberties
activist it was his legitimate task to meet detainees and ensure that
their fundamental rights are respected and that the due process of law
is being observed. These visits by Dr. Sen were in the due process of
law and in the presence of the ail authorities, as provided for in the
Jail Manual. He was searched at the point of entry both before and
after the visits.

The police have confiscated what they claim to be "incriminating
documents" from Dr. Sen's residence. The CPU of their computer was
seized and sent for forensic examination to Hyderabad. Aside from
newspaper clippings, the confiscated materials include five CDs
containing interviews pertaining to PUCL investigations on fake
encounters, which have been distributed by the PUCL in the last two
years. There is a post-card from Narayan Sanyal dated 3rd June 2006
regarding his health as well as his legal case, duly signed by jail
authorities and carrying their seal. There is another letter from a
prisoner, a member of the Communist Party of India-Maoist, about the
inhuman conditions and illegal activities in Raipur Central Jail,
which was subsequently sent to newspapers and electronic media by the
PUCL and prominently published in some newspapers. Additionally, there
is a copy of an article subsequently published in the Economic and
Political Weekly, a CPI (Maoist) document on recent police activities
and labourers, a book by the Committee of Tribals affected by the
Salwa Judum and an article on 'Globalisation and the Service Sector in

The court proceedings to hear Dr. Sen's bail application have seen
delay after delay. In the High court the bail application travelled
from one bench to another, as the concerned judges said that they were
members of an advisory committee constituted under the CSPSA to review
the banning of specific organisations. For several hearings in the
District Sessions court at Raipur where Dr Sen is to be tried, he was
not produced in court on the pretext of security concerns. While
rejecting his bail plea on July 23rd, the High Court relied solely on
the allegations of the prosecution, all of which associate Binayak
with unlawful organisations and individuals only by implication, and
failed to give adequate consideration to the defense arguments. On
July 31st, at the first Supreme Court hearing on the special leave
petition to consider bail, the two-judge bench ordered a notice to be
sent to the Chhattisgarh Government in this matter. The response to
this notice was obtained only in December, after four-and-a-half
months. Following that on December 10th the Supreme Court dismissed
the special leave petition for consideration of bail in a one line
order, without naming any reasons.

Ø At the bail hearings in the High Court Dr. Sen's counsel pointed out
that Mr. Sanyal, whose messages Dr. Sen is alleged to have carried out
of the jail, was charged under the CSPSA and UAPA only after having
been in police custody for 15 months, on 19th June 2007. That, too,
only after Dr. Sen's bail application had been filed in the High
Court. Until the 18th of June Mr. Sanyal had not been declared a
member of an organisation banned under the CSPSA.

Ø Raipur Central Jail, where Dr. Sen is incarcerated, is hardly a
kilometer from the District Sessions Court. Yet, on several occasions
the jail authorities have refused to produce him in court on the
pretext of insufficient "security". In lieu of personal appearances
they arranged for video-conferencing. Thereby, Dr. Sen was denied his
right to be present and heard at the trial court. Instead he was kept
in an intimidating situation in a prison room under heavy guard and
without the presence of his lawyers, family and friends. He was shown
only the face of the judge and could not even see his lawyer. At least
on this matter, however, the Court has now clarified that it has
passed no such orders, and that at the times of framing of charges,
examination of evidence and cross examination of witnesses, it would
ensure that the accused is physically present and personally heard.
Ø At the time of the arrest in May, the police seized the CPU of Dr.
Sen's computer from his house and sent it for analysis to CFSL,
Hyderabad. The Prosecution failed to hand over a DVD of the CPU as
evidence in the trial court, or to the defense, on the grounds that it
was an "article" (property) and not a "document". The counsels of Dr.
Binayak argued that computer evidence is treated as document and the
accused was entitled to a copy of it. Thereupon the Additional
District Judge ordered the prosecution to hand over the DVD, and
subsequently it was submitted to the court. Only in early December was
it given to Dr. Sen's family. In addition, the prosecution engaged in
such a way that the independent witness ordered by the court to be
present during the examination of the CPU at Hyderabad was prevented
from being there. The circumstances whereby the examination was
manipulated in order to exclude the witness have been intimated to the

Ø In Raipur Central Jail, Dr. Sen is kept in a barrack along with some
other prisoners. He suffers from several serious ailments
(hypertension, gout, angina) and in over eight months of detention he
has lost 20 kilograms. His application for urgent attention to his
medical condition was noted by the court on 28th December, asking for
his health records to be sent from the jail. In the Sessions court
hearing on January 17th the jail authorities filed an unsubstantiated
medical report with a long list of dates on which Binayak was
medically examined, claiming that he was of ideal weight for his
height and age.

Ø The central jail authorities have classified Dr. Sen as a "hardcore
naxalite criminal" even before the police investigations were over and
the chargesheet filed, leave alone a trial having taken place. Letters
from the Jail Superintendent to the district Police authorities for
security to escort him to court for extension of remand refer to him
to in these terms. Family members visiting Dr. Sen are made to sign in
a special register pertaining to naxalite prisoners.
Ø Even prior to Dr. Sen's arrest on May 15th, a vicious media campaign
was mounted against him. Later that month a similar campaign was
launched against his wife Prof. Ilina Sen alleging that her
relationships are suspicious and stating that her activities would be
investigated. A Police Special Investigating Team visited Ilina's
mother's home in Kolkata, enquiring about her antecedents and why the
couple had chosen to work in Chhattisgarh. Such police intrusion
violates the fundamental liberties of Indian citizens guaranteed by
our Constitution to live and work in any part of India as well as to
hold dissenting political positions.


PUCL-Chhattisgarh had apprehensions about repressive action against
human rights activists raising such civil liberties issues, as the
state police officials and Ministers had threatened to use CSPSA
against the PUCL activists. Since early May in press briefings the
police had specifically named several people, including Dr. Sen.
Democratic rights organisations at national level, such as PUCL and
PUDR (People's Union for Democratic Rights), had been expressing
concern over harassment and threats by the Superintendent of Police,
Raipur, to activists of PUCL and other social activists in the state.
In a combined press statement they said,
"The PUCL-CG and other democratic rights activists have been raising
their voices and campaigning against these illegal and inhuman
practices of the State Government. For this service to democracy the
familiar allegation of being 'Maoist' is made against them."
So what is Dr. Binayak Sen's "crime"?

Thus, it seems that Dr. Sen's "crime" – or contribution – consists of
the selfless, fearless and uncompromising pursuit of truth and
dedication to his work. This he was carrying out not just through
clinical practice but also by pursuing an alternative public health
approach, by working as a civil liberties activist to uphold the
constitutional commitments of the Government towards its citizens, and
by speaking up for justice and dignity of the marginalised and the
impoverished. Binayak is what the renowned 19th century physician,
pathologist and public health pioneer Rudolf Virchow would have
described as a "natural advocate for the poor". His activities through
CMSS and CMM, through RUPANTAR, PUCL, JSS, etc., indicate his
commitment to constructive, and open, democratic forms of political
action and engagement.

The R.R. Keithan Gold Medal, awarded to Dr. Sen in absentia at Mumbai
on 29th December 2007 highlights this in its citation:
"The Academy recognises the resonance between the work of Dr. Binayak
Sen in all its aspects with the values promoted by the Father of the

To those who are able to visit Binayak in jail, he makes the mission clear:
"We must not personalise the issue of
my arrest, but focus on the wider issues
for which I was arrested."

These issues are: the worsening of human development indices for the
majority, the deepening social and economic disparities, the erosion
of nutritional security and sovereignty, and the impact on public
health of corporate-led industrialisation and increasing
militarisation. Binayak's message, following from Virchow, is that all
physicians who look at the social aspects of health must reach beyond
the sphere of clinical medicine, and maybe harassed by the state for
doing so.

The arrest of Binayak Sen needs to be viewed in the background of the
kind of development that has been going on in India for over a decade
now. The pursuit of neo-liberal policies has, among other things, led
to large-scale land acquisition for mining, industrial growth and
special economic zones, and to promotion of corporate capital. These
have in turn led to disruption of livelihoods, displacement of large
sections of the population and loss of forest cover, especially in the
tribal regions of central India. The tribal districts of Chhattisgarh,
Jharkhand, Orissa, Karnataka and Maharasthra are the destination of
some US $ 85 bn of promised investments, mostly in steel and iron
plants, and mining projects. In Chhattisgarh itself 9,620 acres of
land is already under process of acquisition. There are plans by many
big companies for new or expanded steel and aluminium plants in the
state. For instance: Essar Steel is acquiring 900 ha, and the Tatas
4500 acres for their steel plants in Dantewara. Any questioning of
these policies, and resistance by local people to the land-acquisition
is being labelled by the government as being `anti-national', or
`anti-development' or as being a `naxalite'. Many of these protests
are being put down by the state by use of force.

Binayak Sen, through his activities as public health worker was not
only raising questions about such `development'. As a civil liberties
activist within Chhattisgarh he was also highlighting and leading the
campaign against the violence against its own citizens by the state in
the form of hunger deaths, custodial deaths, fake encounters,
destruction of democratic institutions like gram sabhas, etc, and
against the repressive measures adopted by the state in these
`development processes', and in putting down dissent to its policies.
These are the "crimes" for which the government has therefore chosen
to malign him through media, and arrested him in an attempt to silence
his voice, as also that of all others questioning and resisting the
official policies.

As pointed out by the PUCL, the choice to not to use well-established
ordinary laws of the land, like the Indian Penal Code and Criminal
Procedure Code, and instead to detain Dr. Binayak Sen under the
repressive CSPSA and UAPA laws demonstrates an inherent bias and
political motivation.

We also see that after his arrest he is also being denied several
basic rights due to him as an undertrial prisoner (as is happening to
other prisoners), and there is substantial delay in the legal

The treatment and arrest of Binayak is an indictment of all human
endeavours to heal, and to work for a just, egalitarian, peaceful
society, for a better nation. Imposition of charges such as sedition
against such human rights activists is also a grave threat to freedom
and democracy.

What concerns emerge from this account
for doctors and public health professionals?

# The arrest of Dr. Binayak Sen is a test case for the present
Government at both state and national level. On the one hand, the
Government has initiated such constructive programmes as the National
Rural Health Mission through which it aims to provide equitable,
accessible and quality health services and achieve some of the
Millenium Development Goals. On the other hand, committed public
health workers and activists such as Binayak are harassed and
victimised. This raises questions about the Government's seriousness
about improving the status of health and healthcare services for the
rural poor. It laments the lack of committed doctors and other health
professionals willing to work in rural areas and for the poor, but by
persecuting those who are working in such situations what message does
the Government send out to young health professionals?

# Today clinicians are increasingly faced with the direct effects of a
dehumanising and marginalising neo-liberal market. The present
paradigm of development rests upon and engenders a pattern of
'structural' violence against the poor and marginalised. All over the
world over such forces are increasing inequalities. Chattisgarh, in
terms of natural resources one of the richest states in India, is
among the states with the worst health indices. Dedicated and rare
physicians like Binayak Sen recognise and question such policies and
strive to push for a difference in the scenario.

# Any professional who takes up public health work today has to
understand and grasp the impact of the neo-liberal economic policies
and the importance of human rights and constitutional entitlements for
the health and wellbeing of the poor. Will she or he take up this
challenge and tackle the social determinants of health? Or, take the
softer path of serving merely as a clinician in the already
over-served urban areas?

As a concerned and responsible citizen and a public health
professional, we hope that you will join us in standing up for Dr.
Binayak Sen and all that he represents in contemporary India, a land
of increasing inequalities and disparities in every sphere including
in health and healthcare.

What can we do? How can we
participate and support?

Social activists and health professionals from across the country,
including many graduates from Dr. Sen's alma mater CMC Vellore, have
condemned his arrest. More than 2000 persons from India and across the
globe have endorsed a petition highlighting the importance of his work
and asking for his release. This has been submitted to the Chief
Minister and other concerned authorities. (See these websites:
http://www.freebinayaksen.org, http://www.pucl.org, http://www.pudr.org).

Public meetings have been held in various parts of the country to
discuss these issues. On 31st May 2007, the first public meeting was
attended by about 700 people at Raipur, including groups and
individuals from different organisations and institutions, such as CMC
Vellore, PUCL units from several states, local organisations including
CMM, several women's organisations, Narmada Bachao Andolan and
university students and teachers. Parallel rallies and public meetings
were held in Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Lucknow and
Jaipur. After the rally a delegation comprising doctors and PUCL
members met the Chief Secretary, Chhattisgarh, to discuss and apprise
him of Dr.Binayak Sen's work and the issues he was raising. The Medico
Friend Circle has also organised four press conferences in
Chhattisgarh in the past six months, at Raipur and Bilaspur.

What more can we do?

Get well acquainted with the issues involved, including the case
against Binayak, his decades-long constructive work in Chhattisgarh,
his findings as a civil liberties activist, and the gravity of
arresting such committed doctors.

Create forums for wide involvement of health professionals, not only
in the issue of his release from detention, but also in the issues
that he was raising and working on.

Discuss how the crisis in Chhattisgarh is affecting the health of the
people there, and the role of a medical doctor in situations of civil
strife with encounter killings, torture and custodial deaths, and the
broad violation of civil rights of citizens.

Work to focus and sustain public attention among the media and
Government on the issues. Write articles for newspapers and magazines
in local and national languages.

Write to professional bodies and medical journals about Dr. Sen's
arrest, highlighting the issue of human rights violations as a
"medical" issue, which needs to be supported by the professional

Organise local meetings to sensitise public, medical professionals and

Support and sustain Dr. Sen's clinic at Bagrumnala in Dhamtari Block
by devoting time to help run the clinic or with monetary support for
medicines etc.

Raise financial support for a long drawn-out
legal struggle. Send cheques to:
Continue getting new people to add their names to the ongoing online
petition. You can find it on:

http://home.cmcvellore.ac.in/petition/petitionpage1.html .

Make frequent, planned, co-ordinated visits individually or in groups
to Raipur, particularly coinciding with the court proceedings, to
express solidarity, support and concern.
Volunteer for medical and health-related work.
Network with other organisations that are striving towards securing
Dr. Sen's release.

A team of individual doctors associated with prestigious institutions
like CMC and AIIMS can be requested to periodically check on the
health of Binayak while he is in custody.
Send a solidarity message to Dr. Sen on a reply-paid postcard in
English or Hindi at this address:
Dr. Binayak Sen,
Raipur Central Jail
Raipur 492001
(Please note that letters will be
read by the jail authorities.)

Join hands in the campaign
for release of Dr. Binayak Sen –
public health and human rights
activist, prisoner of conscience

A Special Appeal
As many of you may know, on December 10, 2007 the Supreme Court of
India rejected the special leave petition of Binayak Sen to consider
grant of bail. Ironically it was International Human Rights Day,
dedicated this year to defenders of Human Rights. This rejection has
been a great disappointment. It comes at a point when the trial is
about to begin in Raipur, and we need to garner our forces for the
case to ensure that Binayak has the best legal defense. It also means
that all of us have to work much harder in making known the context
and significance of Binayak's quarter century of constructive and
non-violent work. He was simply struggling to make a difference in an
unjust social system. I would like to appeal to all friends and
believers in the values of equity and democracy to rally round in
solidarity and support at this time of crisis. Apart from physical and
material resources, we also need volunteers to help with the day to
day nitty-gritty of the case. We need all your support and solidarity
in every way. I am sure that together we will emerge victorious in the
end. – Ilina Sen
- - - - -
Targetting Human Rights Activists
In a public statement immediately preceding
his arrest, Dr. Binayak Sen declared,

"For the past several years we are seeing all over India, and as part
of that in the State of Chhattisgarh as well, a concerted programme to
expropriate from the poorest people in the Indian nation, their access
to essentials, common property resources and to natural resources
including land and water... The campaign called the Salwa Judoom in
Chhattisgarh is a part of this process in which hundreds of villages
have been denuded of the people living in them, and hundreds of people
- men and women - have been killed. Government-armed vigilantes have
been deployed and the people who have been protesting against such
moves and trying to bring before the world the reality of these
campaigns. Human rights workers like myself have also been targeted
through state action against them. At the present moment the workers
of the Chhattisgarh PUCL (People's Union for Civil Liberties) the
Chhattisgarh branch of which I am General Secretary have particularly
become the target of such state action. I and several of my colleagues
are being targeted by the Chhattisgarh state in the form of punitive
action and illegal imprisonment. These measures are being taken
especially under the aegis of the Chhattisgarh State Public Security
Act (CSPSA)."

The Fake Encounter Killings
at Santoshpur, March 2007
Upon orders from the State Human Rights Commission, the bodies of the
victims were exhumed from a mass grave in the week immediately
preceding Dr. Sen's arrest. The Director General of Police in
Chhattisgarh also ordered a police probe into the incident on 5 May
2007. According to a police official monitoring the investigation,
autopsy reports confirmed that three of the victims were hit by
bullets at close range on the head and waist while others were axed to
death. This account was corroborated by a videotaped interview with
the Santoshpur sarpanch.
Concern in the British House
of Commons
An Early Day Motion on 7th June 2007, entitled 'Arrest of Dr. Binayak
Sen' and supported across party lines by several Members of
Parliament, begins:
"That this House is concerned at the arbitrary arrest of the human
rights activist and General Secretary of the Chhattisgarh unit of the
People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Dr. Binayak Sen, in the
Indian state of Chhattisgarh; notes with concern that this arrest has
taken place in the aftermath of the alleged involvement by the police
in the unlawful killing of 12 adivasis or tribal people".
It ends by calling for Dr. Sen's immediate release and an end to the
harassment of the other human rights defenders in the state.

Since June 2005 the Chhattisgarh government, with support from the
Home Ministry, has been carrying on a counter-insurgency operation,
called Salwa Judum, against the naxalites in Dantewada district.
According to the government it was a spontaneous, peaceful campaign by
the local people against the Maoists. The district administration
claims that it is sheltering the people in relief camps, as they are
deserting their villages in the forests because of Maoist violence.
However, reports by several fact-finding teams have established that
far from being a peaceful campaign, there was eviction of villagers
and their re-location to camps, by members of salwa judum accompanied
by security personnel, and this was achieved by threat, coercion,
violence, killings, looting and burning of villages, and sexual
violence against women. It has been also established that the salwa
judum is being actively supported by the state government, which gives
military and weapons training to salwa judum members, as part of an
official plan to create a civil vigilante structure to fight the
naxalites. At least a lakh people have been displaced thus, and lives
of many more completely disrupted. A preliminary visit to Dantewada by
some members of MFC in June 2008 showed that life in the salwa judum
relief camps is miserable, and pervaded by severe restrictions on
movement, food and livelihood insecurity, and constant threat of
violence and terror due to continuous presence of armed salwa judum
members and security men. An equally serious fact is that people who
have not come to the camps, and continue living in villages are deemed
`Maoists' and are not being provided ration and health facilities at
all for more than a year. A large number of people are thus being
denied their basic rights. For the detailed reports see: www.pudr.org,
http://cpjc.wordpress.com; www.phm-india.org.

Published by the Medico Friend Circle
A nationwide network of health professionals
and health activists since 1974

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