Chomsky, 81 others, bat for Binayak Sen

Monday, December 27, 2010

NEW DELHI - Support continued to mount for jailed rights activist Binayak Sen, with noted American scholar Noam Chomsky and 81 other intellectuals and academicians Monday expressing shock at the life sentence awarded to him and a protest staged here to demand justice for him.

“Doctor Binayak Sen has never resorted to violence against any other person, never incited anyone else to resort to violence, never entered into any conspiracy against the constitutional order of the country and never entered into regular service of any organisation that was involved in any such conspiracy, for furthering its cause,” a statement issued by Chomsky and the others said.

“Yet he has been handed down this sentence whose savagery is unbelievable. Such an action on the part of the state in the name of preserving the constitutional order will only serve to undermine that constitutional order itself,” the statement, signed by professors, activists, lawyers and eminent personalities like Romila Thapar, Mushirul Hasan, Ashok Mitra, Prashant Bhushan and Teesta Setalvad, said.

The Raipur district and sessions court Dec 24 sentenced Sen, a doctor by training, to life imprisonment for sedition and links with the outlawed Maoists.

“The damage done by this shocking verdict to our constitutional order must be undone. The higher judiciary of the country must hear his appeal expeditiously, must grant him immediate bail till the end of the appeal process, and must judge his case with enlightened reason,” the statement maintained.

Others who signed the statement were from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi University, Jadavpur University, Columbia University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cambridge of United States, Tata Institute of Social Science and Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata, among others.

Speaking out against the judgment at a protest rally here, activist and author Arundhati Roy said there was lack of evidence in Sen’s case and while they know that they can appeal in the higher courts, “the process is the punishment”.

Sahba Hussain, a researcher, asked: “If the government can do this with Binayak Sen, a person who has worked so much for the poor and is internationally acclaimed, then what hope is there for the common man?”

The protesters, numbering about 300, also sang songs reiterating their demand. They also carried huge posters with an enlarged photograph of Sen looking through the barred window of a police vehicle and with the words “Brazen Injustice” imprinted on it.

According to Gautam Navlakha, an activist, the court ruling was “a miscarriage of justice”.

Social activist Swami Agnivesh said: “The allegations are wrong. If someone sees the content of the letter they will laugh. As for the allegation that he met Maoists in the jail, it was for their medical treatment.”

Meanwhile, former Delhi High Court chief justice Rajinder Sachar, who is also member of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) of which Sen is a vice president, said protests and candlelight marches will be organised across the country.

“An intolerant atmosphere is created in India such that whoever speaks against the government is in trouble. Civil liberties are in danger,” Sachar said.

“We will go to the higher courts and appeal. But we will also have protests all over India to highlight this issue,” he added.

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