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Protest outside Indian Embassy in London 14th May 2 pm - on Civil Rights Record

anon | 12.05.2009 15:07 | Health | Repression | Social Struggles

Since May 2007 award winning paediatrician and human rights activist, Binayak Sen has been held at Raipur Jail on false charges. Protest outside the High Commision of India, Aldwych.

Binayak Sen has been working with the adivasi (tribal) communities in Chattisgarh (Central India). He was instrumental in setting up the cooperative hospital for mine workers and, later, was a member of the state advisory committee initiating community based worker programmes across the state. he is a recipient of the Jonathan Mann Award by the Global Health Council.

The story of Binayak is just the most high-profile example of hundreds of unnamed individuals like him, caught in the cross-hair of a State at war with its own people. Like theirs, his story is the story of suspended reason, suspended logic and suspended freedom that is the inevitable outcome of a State that paralyses itself with the scare of “national security.” In many ways, Chhattisgarh is now seen as the epicenter of a Maoist insurgency that cuts across 13 states. In Chhattisgarh, by the government’s own admission, most of Bastar and Dantewada are out of its jurisdiction. This is undoubtedly a difficult situation. Each year, hundreds of policemen, hapless tribals, and symbols of the state — bridges, jails, telegraph poles — are blown up by extremists. By Home Ministry estimates, there were 311 casualties in Chhattisgarh in 2007; 571 nationwide. Sympathisers will tell you Maoists have local support — how much of this is voluntary, how much coercion, one can never accurately tell: the only way you can report on the Maoists is if they take you into the jungles to their camps. What you get then is obviously selective information. Typically though, all the regions under Maoist influence are regions where the government has been culpably remiss. Either schools, primary health care, roads, electricity, livelihood — all the benign functions of State — are completely missing. Or, the government is on a rampage of development and industrialisation, which is at odds with local aspirations and needs.

With predictable myopia, the Indian State has been meeting grievance with violence, illness with extermination. Not cure. Draconian laws. CRPF battalions. IRP battalions. Increased militarisation. Thousands of crores for upgrading police. Special funds for Naxal-affected States. An invitation to competitive violence: that has been the government’s response to grassroots militancy. In Chhattisgarh, this manifested itself particularly harmfully in 2005 as the government-sponsored counter-revolution(by establishing an armed militia): the now infamous Salwa Judum, which pitted villager against villager and triggered a bloody civil war. 644 villages have been forcibly evacuated by the government, their residents forced into sub-human camps. Smoke out the support, is the State’s war cry. Civil rights activists tell you, the State’s real quarry is not even the Maoists, but the iron-rich soil, ready to be handed to private corporations, Nandigramstyle. There are rumours that the makeshift camps are now going to be turned into official revenue villages, which will force tribals to abdicate all the original evacuated land to the government. All of that is speculation still; but the excesses of the Salwa Judum are real.

In December 2005, Binayak led a 15-member team from different organisations and published a scathing report on the Salwa Judum. It was the first of many reports that would expose and embarrass the government.

It’s this back story that made Binayak so unpalatable to the government. Consciously or subconsciously, it wanted to make a lesson of him. Perhaps even that is to accord more coherence to the State than it deserves. The real story of Binayak is the myopia of an unintelligent, scare-mongering State. Having declared Maoists as the “gravest threat to national security”, the Indian government has got itself into a George Bush like-twist. It sees weapons of mass destruction where there are none. Men like Binayak Sen start to look like Osama Bin Laden. Such are the perception tricks the “national security” prism can play on you.

Please support the world wide campaign to release Dr Sen immediately on Bail pending a Fair and Prompt trail.

Demonstrate to mark the second anniversary of Binayak Sen's imprisonment -outside the Indian HighCommission in Aldwych , London (nearest Tube Holborn) From 2-6 pm.