‘Cultural protest’ against Binayak Sen’s jail Tuesday

Director Aparna Sen, musician Rabbi Shergill and writer Ashok Vajpeyi will be among those who will gather Tuesday for a “cultural protest” against the life term of human rights activist Binayak Sen.Sen, whose bail plea was rejected by the Chhattisgarh High Court Feb 10, is at present held in a jail in Raipur. He was sentenced by a trial court Dec 24 on charges of sedition and links with Maoist ideologue Narayan Sanyal and Kolkata-based businessman Piyush Guha.

A statement Monday said: “On Tuesday afternoon, there will be a cultural protest by artists, musicians, poets, film directors and writers against the persecution of Binayak Sen under the banner of Artists for Human Rights.”

Among those who will participate in the protest at Jantar Mantar in central Delhi are film directors Aparna Sen, Gautam Ghose and Sudhir Mishra, musician Rabbi Shergill as well as poets and writers like Ashok Vajpeyi, K. Satchidanandan, Kuwar Narain, Mangesh Dabral, Gagan Gill, Khursheed Alam and Gauhar Raza.

There will also be a music performances by some artistes and student bands from different colleges of Delhi to express solidarity with Binayak Sen, the statement added.

Binayak Sen’s bail plea rejected

A court in Chattisgarh has rejected the bail application of Dr Binayak Sen. He was sentenced to life in prison in December after he was convicted of sedition on the basis of his alleged links to Naxals in the area.

Binayak Sen’s wife, Ilena expressed her disappointment at today’s court order. She told NDTV, “We will fight it out and try and file a petition in the Supreme court.”

The verdict outraged civil liberties activists at home and abroad.

Dr Sen has been recognized with international awards for his work with tribals in the Chattisgarh area. He has been praised for his commitment to promoting public health and human rights in one of India’s most impoverished areas.

Yesterday, 40 Nobel laureates sent a letter to the Indian government urging it to ensure that Dr Sen is given a fair trial, and asking for him to be released on bail.

“Dr. Sen is an exceptional, courageous, and selfless colleague, dedicated to helping those in India who are least able to help themselves,” the laureates said in the statement, posted on a website campaigning for Sen’s release.

Actors, filmmakers protest Binayak Sen’s jail term

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.

ABVP protests against Jethmalani, EU observers

lawyer Ram Jethmalani

An eight-member team of European Union, which arrived here on Sunday night to witness Human rights activist Binayak Sen’s bail hearing tomorrow, faced protests from lawyers and ABVP workers who showed EU representatives black flags and shouted slogans against them.

The team that arrived at the airport with eminent lawyer Ram Jethmalani, a BJP MP, faced protests from members of bar council and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, who shouted “European Union go back” and alleged the 27-member body of influencing judicial process in India.

“EU representatives come as observers but try to influence judicial process in India. We will not tolerate this,” a protester said.

Jethmalani refused to comment on the protests. The European Union delegation include representatives of Delhi based diplomatic missions from Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Sweden and the UK.

The hearing is scheduled to take place at the Chhattisgarh high court in Bilaspur on Monday. The bail plea comes exactly after one month of Binayak’s conviction for sedition, and sentencing to life.

Civil rights activists have been demanding his release.

High Court seeks records in Binayak Sen conviction

The division bench of Chhattisgarh high court in Bilaspur on Friday sought case records of the trial court that awarded life imprisonment to rights activist Binayak Sen on December 24.

The court had posted January 24 as the next date for hearing Sen’s bail application.

The division bench has sought the record from the trial court while admitting criminal appeal against Sen’s conviction and set January 24 as the next date for hearing on his bail application, Sen’s counsel Mahendra Dubey told reporters.

Dubey had filed an appeal in the high court on Wednesday challenging the decision of Raipur district and sessions court that convicted Sen under various charges including sedition and criminal conspiracy. The rights activist was sentenced to life imprisonment along with Naxal ideologue Narayan Sanyal and Kolkata-based businessman Piyush Guha.

India urged to repeal sedition law

The Indian parliament should repeal the colonial-era sedition law which it said was employed to silence peaceful political dissent, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

And the Indian government should drop sedition cases against prominent activists such as Binayak Sen, Arundhati Roy and others, the US-based body said.

In two recent cases, in New Delhi and Chhattisgarh, the authorities have pursued sedition charges against activists, despite a long-standing Supreme Court ruling that prosecution under the sedition law requires incitement to violence, which was not alleged in either case.

‘Using sedition laws to silence peaceful criticism is the hallmark of an oppressive government,’ said Human Rights Watch.

‘The Supreme Court has long recognized that the sedition law cannot be used for this purpose, and India’s parliament should amend or repeal the law to reflect this.’

On Dec 24, a court sentenced Binayak Sen, a critic of the Chhattisgarh government’s counter-insurgency policies against Maoist rebels, to life in prison for sedition.

The judge found no evidence that Sen was a member of any outlawed Maoist group or that he was involved in violence against the state. Police had arrested Sen in May 2007, accusing him of carrying messages from a jailed Maoist ideologue.

In New Delhi, a magistrate directed the police in November 2010 to investigate sedition charges against writer and columnist Arundhati Roy even though the government had decided against filing such charges.

The allegations against Roy and five others stemmed from speeches they made Oct 21 in New Delhi supporting Kashmiri secession.

Kolkata doctors protest for Binayak Sen’s release

Expressing anguish and dissent over the life imprisonment of rights activist Binayak Sen, city-based medical practitioners, professors and students Tuesday held a protest here and started a signature campaign demanding his release.

Over 250 doctors and students who assembled under the banner ‘Doctors in Solidarity: Free Binayak Sen Campaign’ joined the protest.

‘Binayak Sen was a true patriot and he has been falsely charged in a sedition case by the state. We demand his immediate and unconditional release,’ said doctor Abhijit Chowdhury, a protest organiser.

‘We have also held a signature campaign. We will write letters to President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging them for Sen’s immediate release. The photocopies of the signatures will be attached with the letters,’ he said.

The protesters said they will continue agitating till Sen is released.

Sen, 59, was Dec 24, 2010 sentenced to life imprisonment by a Chhattisgarh court for sedition and his links with the Maoists. The conviction triggered angry reactions from within and outside the country.