I’ve been on vacation for the past two weeks so I’ve not been able to join the condemnation (until now) of the flawed conviction in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh of Dr. Binayak Sen, a pediatrician and human rights activist, of terrorism charges. His conviction, if upheld on appeal, will mean a life sentence for a man who has passionately defended the rights of indigenous peoples in his state and has saved the lives of countless children in his medical practice.
Dr. Sen is a recognized human rights activist who has done some amazing work on behalf of the organization called the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL). The PUCL is very much analogous to the ACLU or Amnesty International USA here in the United States and his arrest, imprisonment and now conviction is akin to one of us here in America being arrested for human rights or civil liberties work. He was convicted of “sedition” and conspiracy under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act, 2005, and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 2004. After being convicted, Dr. Sen was taken into custody and is now considered a Prisoner of Conscience.
Dr Binayak Sen is a pioneer of health care to marginalized and indigenous communities in Chhattisgarh, where the state police and armed Maoists have been engaged in clashes over the last seven years.
He has reported on unlawful killings of adivasis (indigenous people) by the police and by Salwa Judum, a private militia widely held to be sponsored by the state authorities to fight the armed Maoists.
Dr Binayak Sen was detained without proper charges for seven months, denied bail, and kept in solitary confinement for three weeks. Many of the charges against him stem from laws that contravene international standards. Repeated delays in the conduct of his trial have cast doubts about its fairness.
Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Chhattisgarh authorities to immediately drop all the charges against Dr Binayak Sen. Amnesty International will be campaigning very hard for this injustice to end, not just for Dr. Sen, but for all human rights violations in Chhattisgarh.