Kartam Joga, now languishing in jail, copyright: Amnesty International
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.
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Binayak Sen being led to court in Chhattisgarh
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.
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