Activists to fast demanding release of Binayak Sen

Activists to fast demanding release of Binayak Sen

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Hundreds of human rights activists will begin a ten-day fast from June 16 demanding the immediate release of public health expert and activist Dr. Binayak Sen, a critic of the Chhattisgarh government's Salwa Judum policy who has been in jail for more than an year under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005.

The fast, to be organized in Chhattisgarh's capital Raipur, will end on June 25 - the day emergency rule was imposed in the country on 1975, the activists declared on their website announcing the "Solidarity fast in support of Binayak Sen".

A recipient of the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights (2008), Sen was arrested May 14, 2007, for allegedly passing letters from a Naxalite leader - who he had been treating - to another inside the Raipur jail.

Sen, a member of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), has been a vocal critic of the Chhattisgarh government's sponsoring the Salwa-Judum campaign which allegedly thrives on extra-constitutional violence and pits tribals against tribals.

In April this year, the Supreme Court expressed its disapproval of the constitution of the 'Salwa Judum' (self-defence groups) by the Chhattisgarh government and giving them arms to tackle the naxal menace. "These draconian laws sanction the violation of due process by the state, and thus contravene internationally accepted norms of jurisprudence as well as democratic governance," said Dr. Sandeep Pandey, Ramon Magsaysay Awardee (2002). He is also a noted social activist heading the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM).

"The fast is to ensure that human rights of marginalized people are not trampled upon and human rights defenders continue to work fearlessly," Pandey said.

President of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) K.G. Kannabiran has written to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which, following the Supreme Court's order, is examining the allegations of excesses in the Chhatisgarh government's Salwa Judum programme.

"The Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, both operate by criminalizing the very performance of civil liberties activities, and culpability is decided upon not by direct proof, but through guilt by association" said Kannabiran in the letter. An NHRC team visited Chhattisgarh's Bastar region in May to probe into alleged human rights violations by the Salwa Judum.

The probe team's Chhattisgarh visit follows a Supreme Court order April 15 asking an NHRC committee to look into alleged human rights violations by Salwa Judum cadres and submit a report within eight weeks.

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