Strange and dubious case of Dr. Binayak Sen (Part 1)

Dr. Binayak Sen, a civil liberty and human rights activist, was arrested by the Chhattisgarh police on May 14, 2007 under the provisions of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005, (CSPSA) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 on the charges of treason, sedition, criminal conspiracy, links with Maoists and acting as a courier for Maoist leader Narayan Sanyal.

Earlier on May 6th 2007, the Chhattisgarh police had arrested a Kolkata-based businessman Piyush Guha, a tendu leaves trader, from Raipur following recovery of some letters written by jailed Maoist leader Narayan Sanyal from him. Guha’s confession about the involvement of Binayak Sen in passing on these letters to him had led to Sen’s arrest.

Dr. Binayak Sen, accompanied by his wife Ilina Sen, came to Raipur in the late eighties and worked among the tribals in the area promoting health care activities. He founded an NGO called ‘Rupander’ that trained community health workers to work in villages. He was also a noted civil rights activist who maintained close links with the Maoists in the area. Dr. Sen was also in the forefront in launching a campaign against the “Salva Judum”, a people’s resistance movement against the Maoist activities in the area.

Arrest of Binayak Sen in May 2007 had led to wide-spread protest programmes by civil society groups both within Bharat and outside. In December 2007, while Sen was lodged in jail, the Indian Academy of Social Sciences (IASS) declared Binayak Sen as the winner of RR Keithan Gold Medal for ‘his outstanding contribution to the advancement of science of Nature-Man-Society and his honest and sincere application for the improvement of quality of life of the poor, the downtrodden and the oppressed people of Chhattisgarh’.

Binayak Sen was honoured with this award in absentia by Balachandra Mungekar, President of the Indian Academy of Social Sciences and Member of Planning Commission at the 31st Indian Social Science Congress held at SNDT university, Churchgate, Mumbai on 29th December 2007.

The UPA government obviously found nothing wrong in a dignitary like the Planning Commission Member honouring a jailed pro-Maoist leader at an official function. (esocialsciences.com).

Again in April, 2008, while Sen was still in jail, the Global Health Council nominated him as the winner of the 2008 Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights. Following the announcement of this award, 22 Nobel laureates had made an appeal to the government of Bharat to allow Dr. Sen to travel to Washington DC to receive the 2008 Jonathan Mann award in person at the end of May 2008. (www.binayaksen.net).

Following the rejection of this appeal, Sen’s wife Ilina Sen had received the said award. All efforts by Sen to come out on bail remained unsuccessful for next two years. He was finally granted bail by the Supreme Court on May 25, 2009.

On December 24, 2010, Civil rights activist Binayak Sen, Naxal ideologue Narayan Sanyal and Kolkata businessman Piyush Guha were found guilty of sedition by a Raipur court for helping the Maoists in their fight against the state. All the three were sentenced to life imprisonment by the Additional District and Sessions Judge of Raipur, B P Verma.

The civil society organizations conducted rallies in different cities in Bharat and also in some cities in North America and the UK on 30th January, 2011, the day of Gandhi’s martyrdom , in protest against the life sentence awarded to Dr. Binayak Sen and seeking his immediate release from the jail. They also sought the abrogation of Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 and the alleged colonial-era sedition law.

Protest demonstrations were also held in front of Bharatiya consulates in New York, San Francisco, Washington DC, Vancouver and London on that day. The civil rights groups which took a leading role in organizing the protest rallies in western countries on 30th January included rights groups like the Asian Law Alliance and the People’s Health Movement, anti-war groups like Answer Coalition and the Boston Mobilisation, women’s rights groups such as the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and students groups from Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley.

A coalition of 55 civil society groups from the US, the UK and Canada also launched an on-line signature campaign for a petition to be submitted to the President of Bharat. (www.srai.org). The petition besides seeking the immediate release of Binayak Sen, also demanded the repeal of alleged draconian sedition laws and the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and disbanding of civil militia such as the Salva Judum and the Maa Danteshwari Swabhiman Manch.

A group of 40 Nobel laureates from 12 countries had also send a joint petition to the Prime Minister of Bharat expressing their astonishment and dismay at the unjust life sentence handed down to Dr. Binayak Sen and seeking his immediate release on bail.

Meanwhile the Chhattisgarh government had granted permission to a eight member delegation from the European Union to watch the Chhattisgarh High Court’s hearing on rights activist Binayak Sen’s bail plea and appeal against his life sentence on 24th January, 2011.

Earlier the ministry of external affairs (MEA) had forwarded a request from the eight-member European delegation seeking permission to watch the court proceedings in Bilaspur on 24th January to the Chhattisgarh government. The Chhattisgarh government forwarded the request to the High Court, leaving it to the judiciary to take a decision.

The Observer Mission included representatives from Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Sweden and the UK. Binayak Sen’s plea for bail and suspension of the charge of sedition and links with Maoists was however rejected by the Chhattisgarh High Court on February 10, 2011. (www.deccanherald.com)

Sen’s links with Maoists

Dr. Binayak Sen is the all India Vice President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), a civil society group. Originally known as the People’s Union for Civil Liberties and Democratic Rights (PUCLDR), it was founded by veteran sarvodaya leader Jayprakash Narayan in 1976 as a non-political platform for all the political parties to come together for the defence of civil liberties and human rights. The organization was re-christened as the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in 1980 and senior lawyer V.M. Tarkunde was elected as its first President.

Over the years it has however lost its image as an independent civil liberty organization because of its increasingly pro-naxal leanings. Presently it is functioning like an over-ground front of the CPI-Maoist outfit. Like other civil society groups, it also supports various militant movements in the country like Islamic terrorists, Kashmiri separatists, LTTE, United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and North East insurgents. Binayak Sen is thus a supporter of not only the Maoist movement, but all the militant and secessionist movements in Bharat.

Binayak Sen has also been a staunch opponent of the “Salva Judum”, which is a people’s resistance movement against the Maoist movement. Besides extorting money from the tribals in the area, the Maoists were also asking every tribal family to spare atleast one member, either a boy or a girl, to join the Maoist cadres. Children of those who resisted the Maoist dictate were kidnapped and forcibly made to join the Maoist cadre.

Many of those who dared to oppose the extortion and kidnapping were brutally killed. It was under the backdrop of such Maoist atrocities that the Salva Judum was formed. It was supported by all political parties, including the congress and BJP.

It is true that that the state government also supported the Salva Judum, as it was complementing the government efforts to curb the Maoist influence in the area. However the Maoists and the civil society groups like the PUCL opposed the Salva Judum movement vehemently and they also accused the state government of encouraging fratricidal killings among the Adivasis of the area by supporting the Salva Judum.

The civil society groups however managed to use their tremendous influence among the legal fraternity to keep a lot of restrictions on the functioning of the Salva Judum. Binayak Sen was in the forefront in organizing the anti-Sava Judum campaign in Chhattisgarh, clearly showing his pro-Maoist leanings.

– By N.T. Ravindranath

(To be continued..)

(The story was published on vpmthane.org and has been reproduced here in full with minor edits to conform to HinduPost style guide)


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