Binayak Sen free on bail
A World to Win News Service.
The Indian Supreme Court ordered Binayak Sen freed on bail 25 May. Lower courts had denied him bail and the high court had refused to hear an earlier petition, but support for the doctor has been building up in India and globally. Recently a former Supreme Court judge wrote an open letter saying that the case against him should be dismissed. At the same time, there have been fears for the 57-year-old Sen’s life, because of a heart ailment that Ilina Sen, his wife, warned could be used by the state authorities to kill him.
A graduate of one of India’s leading medical schools, Sen has been working in the state of Chhattisgarh since 1981. He and Ilina Sen run an NGO that trains rural health workers in adivasi (tribal) and poor peasant areas, organises rural clinics and promotes campaigns against alcohol abuse and violence against women. These and other public health programmes Sen has been associated with have reduced the deaths of children due to diarrhoea and dehydration, helping to bring down the overall infant mortality rate in the state. All this has made him one of India’s most prominent public health specialists.
He earned the wrath of the Chhattisgarh authorities because of his political advocacy for adivasis and his vocal opposition to the Salwa Judum, a state-backed militia formed to fight the Maoist-led revolutionary movement among them.
His 2007 arrest came shortly after he exposed a massacre of tribal people. At that time he was charged with sedition and waging war against the state, allegedly by passing along letters from an accused Maoist he had treated in prison. As the former Supreme Court judge pointed out, at his trial, which has now gone on for more than a year, the state has failed to produce any evidence against him.
Sen considers himself an advocate of non-violence. His supporters report that on 17 May, state authorities bulldozed the Vanvasi Chtna Ashram, also run by Ghandian non-violence advocates, in revenge for its opposition to the Salwa Judum. The group had exposed the phoney “encounter” killing of 12 people in late March and subsequently filed a court case against the Chhattisgarh government
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