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About 150 people marked the Martyrs Day Sunday by staging a protest in Mumbai as part of a nationwide agitation against the life imprisonment awarded to rights activist Binayak Sen.

The group that included artists, activists and common people chanted slogans like “Shame on you, Chhattisgarh government” and “Free Dr. Binayak Sen”.

Calling the judgment by a Chhattisgarh court against Sen a travesty of justice, director Mahesh Bhatt said: “I can be safe only when people around me are safe and have the right to say what they want to say.”

“Dissent without the fear of backlash is the right of the citizen in a democracy, a right that has been violated in the case of Dr. Binayak Sen,” he said.

Documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan told: “Jan 30 is Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination day. It’s a day of mourning. But it is also a day for us to look at what is happening in our country today. We see immediately before our eyes, the case of Binayak Sen and (Dalit activist) Sudhir Dhawale, who have been wrongly accused of sedition.”

Like Sen, Dhawale, editor of Marathi magazine Vidrohi, was arrested by police at Gondia in Maharashtra Jan 2 and charged with sedition and various provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

“It is a strange irony that sedition charge was applied on Mahatma Gandhi also. It shows that we are continuing on the same path that the British had embarked upon, which was to exploit the people and loot their resources. Binayak Sen stood up against that and he has been put in jail,” Patwardhan added.

Actor Joy Sengupta, who has worked in films like “Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa” and “Aladin”, said: “What is important for all of us is to express our solidarity. We should not go on with our lives as if nothing has happened.”

Protests were also reported from other parts of the country as part of a nationwide coordinated effort against the verdict against Sen. In Jaipur, 250 activists led by Aruna Roy were reported to have courted arrest.

The doctor-turned rights activist Sen is at present lodged in a central jail in Raipur after he was sentenced to life term by a trial court in Raipur Dec 24 on sedition charges over his links with Maoist ideologue Narayan Sanyal.


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