Oppose the Judiciary’s Conviction and Verdict of Life Imprisonment for Dr. Binayak Sen!

Resist the Indian State’s War on People and assault on Democratic Rights!

The JNU Forum Against War on People

The They -a new virulent form of fascism, marked by alliances between the ruling government, the hindutva forces, domestic and international capital, the armed forces of the state and the judiciary- have come for Dr. Binayak Sen this time. Two days back on 24thDec 2010, the Raipur sessions court handed down the verdict of life imprisonment, finding Dr. Sen guilty under Sections 124 A (sedition) and 120 B (conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and various sections of the Chhattisgarh Public Security Act and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

-Martin Niemöller

His crime- he forsook the comforts of academic life, which includes two-years of  teaching  in JNU between 1976 and '78, and chose instead to work among some of the most marginalised communities in the country fighting for the rights of the disadvantaged. He was associated with Chhattisgarh Mines Shramik Sangh from 1981, and helped establish the Shaheed Hospital which provides affordable healthcare facilities to the adivasis and the working people of the region even today. His efforts to bring healthcare to the doorsteps of the needy -primarily the workers and peasants who are left to perish without even the basic treatment- resulted in bulding the role model that was adopted for the Mitanin programme of the Chhattisgahr government and ASHA  of the National Rural Health Mission. He was active in the civil rights movement in the country, acting as the General Secretary for the Peoples' Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Chhattisgarh and as its National Vice-President, and it is his persistent vocal opposition and exposure of Salwa Judum that offended the fascist rulers of the country. He helped organize fact finding campaigns into human rights violations in the state including custody deaths, fake encounters, hunger deaths, dysentery epidemics and malnutrition. Instead of turning a blind eye to the large scale corporate loot of natural resources and the destruction of peoples livelihood he chose instead to side with the common people, campaigning intensively to draw attention of the coutry and the world to the large-scale atrocities committed by the Salwa Judum in Bastar, highlighting shocking cases of malnutrition, hunger and the systematic oppression by the state authorities- the murder, rape and loot of the indigenous people in the region. While Binayak Sen, who has dedicated his life to the cause of the underprivileged, has been pronounced to be a threat to the country, the scamsters, hoarders, mass murderers, communal lumpens etc. Are having a field day with full immunity from the judicial system.

Dr. Sen was first detained without any charge on the 14th of May 2007, and was imprisoned for seven months under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005, and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Repeatedly denied bail, and kept in solitary confinement for three weeks, he spent two years in jail before his release on bail in May 2009 on the order of the Supreme Court. Sen's unjust imprisonment is only one among the thousands, who languish in the jails all across the coutry for years without charge or even a trial. Most of them are Muslims, people from various nationalities, dalits and other oppressed castes, people accused of being naxalistes or Maoists, and so on. Justice for them has become a mockery. The Indian state has armed itself with laws that gives itself sweeping powers to exercise uinrestrained violence and persecute dissenters. While UAPA gives the power to imprison virtually anyone without any charge for six months, while as per AFSPA the Indian armed forces can shoot to kill on mere suspicion.

These draconian laws are specifically designed to throttle the right to free speech, and dissent, to trample the fundamental rights, to restrict the right to hold public meetings, organise public protests and oppose government policies through the media. In Kunti district of Jharkkand on the 30th October these very same laws along with Arms Act and Explosive Acts were used to arrest three minor school going girls without any substantial or concrete evidence. These girls, the youngest of them being of 13 years, were arrested and shown as adults and are still languishing in jails. Presenting them at a press conference as Naxalites makes it possible for the government to continue using the pretence of Naxal activity in the region as an excuse for gross violation of the constitutionally guaranteed rights. In a blind pursuit of neo-liberal policies, large-scale land acquisition for mining, industrial growth and SEZs, the Indian state plans to rope in US$85 billion in foreign investments primarily in steel and iron plants and mining projects in the tribal districts of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka Maharasthra and Orissa, even if it is at the cost of many lives and enormous displacement of people. In Chhattisgarh alone the government has forcibly acquired 9,620 acres of land for such purposes. This comes at a time when the Indian army is being deployed into these areas in ever-increasing numbers and is setting up more camps to train government armed vigilantes such as the Salwa Judum. Meanwhile all those such as Dr. Sen who have been protesting and questioning such polices and have been trying to bring out the reality behind these extermination campaigns are arrested and thrown in jail, labelled by the government as being 'anti-national', or 'anti-development' or as 'naxalites'.

This judgement, based as it is on filmsy charges and cooked up 'evidence', undermines the image of the judiciary as a neutral arbiter of justice as well as any assumption of democracy in the country. It makes a mockery of the legal system which now dangerously resembles a kangaroo court in a banana republic. A judgment of life imprisonment despite the failure to provide any concrete evidence linking Dr. Sen to any 'illegal activity' clearly shows that Dr. Sen was indeed successful in exposing and highlighting the plight of the people of Chhatisgarh as a result of state policy, the gross violation of democratic rights and civil liberty by the Indian armed forces and in opposing the Salwa Judum. It is therefore meant as a threat to anyone who dares to recognise, expose and resist the reality of Operation Green Hunt as a concerted programme to expropriate the land and livelihood from the poorest of the people of country, their right to a dignified existence.

The JNU Forum Against War on People condemns and protests this verdict of life imprisonment handed down to Dr. Binayak Sen and demands his immediate release. We also demand the scrapping of all draconian laws including the UAPA, NSA, AFSPA and the Chhattisgarh Public Security Act.