In a victory for human rights defenders in India, Dr. Binayak Sen was released on bail last week by India’s Supreme Court after appealing his life sentence for sedition and treason. From the beginning, Dr. Sen – a doctor and human rights activist in Chhattisgarh, one of India’s poorest and most violent states – maintained his innocence. During his trial Dr. Sen stated:
“I submit that my prosecution is mala fide; in fact it is a persecution. I am being made an example of by the state government of Chhattisgarh as a warning to others not to expose the patent trampling of human rights taking place in the state.”
In Chhattisgarh and other parts of rural India violence between armed Maoist insurgents, state-sponsored militias, and government security forces have resulted in increased hardship for local residents, mostly poor adivasis. Dr. Sen and other human rights activists have struggled to provide services to locals and highlight the human rights abuses they suffer, often at great risk to their own lives and livelihoods. Take action now to call for the release of Kartam Joga, another human rights activist jailed in Chhattisgarh for his criticism of the state government and advocacy on behalf of civilians caught in the conflict.
Many other groups inside and outside India and across all political spectrums spoke out on behalf of Dr. Sen.
Sen’s wife Ilina, who has spoken strongly against her husband’s imprisonment thanked human rights organizations for its involvement in the case. The Indian human rights group the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) – of which Dr. Sen is the vice-president, stated:
“it is time to revisit laws related to sedition that have been subject of rampant abuse by the central and the state governments. We believe that there are thousands of Binayaks languishing in several jails in the country in the name of sedition while they merely exercised their democratic rights of opposing government policies or held views contrary to the establishment.”
Kartam Joga is one of these human rights defenders caught in the net of an arbitrary law called sedition.
Dr. Sen’s release is undoubtedly a reason to celebrate. It is the product of the hard work and dedication of activists around the globe, and allows a champion of human rights to continue his valuable work. At the same time, there remains much work to do in Chhattisgarh, Kashmir and other parts of India to ensure better lives for all Indians. Keep up the good work everyone and let’s free Kartam Joga!
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