Dr. Binayak Sen, a medical practitioner and a civil liberties’ activist, has been sentenced to life imprisonment in Chhattisgarh. Amnesty International calls him a ‘prisoner of conscience’ because he never advocated violence and was a champion of human rights causes in the state but was unduly targeted by the state.
His wife Ilina Sen, who is a Professor at the Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya in Wardha, was in Lucknow as a key resource person for a programme against domestic violence and women equality issues.
“As I fight the long and painful legal battle to extricate Binayak from the clutches of the penal administration, I realize that this battle is as much mine as that of any Indian citizen. Today, at many levels and in many fora, the people of India are struggling for the establishment of accountability and transparency in our governance structures as befitting our status as the world’s largest democracy. However, it is a sad reflection on our system that once a false case is registered in the name of security, it is almost impossible to turn the clock back, even if facts stare us in the face that indicate that the case had no basis. To this, if we add dimensions of face saving, prestige, and drubbing the nose into the ground of uncomfortable critics, we have Chhattisgarh and Binayak Sen,” said Ilina Sen.
Binayak Sen has been convicted of sedition and of violating sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Chhattisgarh Special Public security Act and sentenced along with two others to rigorous life imprisonment. His application for suspension of sentence and release on bail pending appeal, has been rejected by the Chhattisgarh High court. His jail ticket notes his provisional date of release as 2028.
According to Sen’s wife that the conviction has followed an unfair prosecution and prejudiced judgment based on confessional statement recorded. In the absence of any visible crime, the first arrest and the so called ‘preliminary investigation’ become the ‘incident’ around which the case is woven, Ilina Sen added.
Ilina Sen also emphasized that Binayak is also supposed to have a prior acquaintance with Sanyal and facilitated the hiring of a house by him. This is based on the testimony of a landlord who, while testifying to this fact also alleges that Sanayal was arrested from his house, which is contrary to the facts brought on record during this trial.
So what is the ‘evidence’ against Dr. Binayak Sen? According to Ilina Sen, the ‘evidence’ against Binayak Sen in court is as follows:
– Hearsay evidence from police officers about Binayak’s presence in naxal meetings, his supposed association with ‘hard core naxals’ who are not even named in any case anywhere in the country
– Supposed seditious literature pertaining to resistance of US imperialism and atrocities committed during the salwa judum seized from their house during police search
– Correspondence addressed to the ISI (not Pakistan’s ISI but to Walter Fernandez, Director of Indian Social institute (ISI) in New Delhi)
– Correspondence with people bearing Muslim names constitutes the rest of the evidence
“Both the trial court as well as the appellate court have gone on record that the situation of violence and uncontrolled Maoist bloodshed calls for non application of any grounds for leniency in sentence. This is without any clear establishment that Binayak Sen had any involvement in any such bloodshed, in fact even the court does not allege this. How criminal justice can be based on the doctrine of lateral responsibility is mind boggling. Clearly the verdict and the sentence are both intended to make an example of a civil society activism, and to send a message to all of us who are asking any kind of questions. The issues in this case thus go beyond the case itself and the fight for justice for Binayak becomes the struggle of all of us for the Rule of Law in our polity,” said Ilina Sen. (CNS)