Written evidence submitted by Release
Binayak Sen Now Campaign (UK)|
1.1 This submission emphasizes that DFID must
not play a mere passive role in the giving of aid but also ensure
that its aid is used in the most effective manner so as to help
in attaining the millennium development goals and maintenance
of the rule of law. This submission is important for the DFID
as we focus on the link between protecting human rights and promoting
sustainable development, as a truly democratic environment and
access to basic human rights of people are the minimum requirements
for the kind of sustainable development the DFID would wish to
and indeed need support.
1.2 This submission highlights importance of
DFID aid to India for tribal rights and human rights violations
in Central India and the manner in which DFID can and ought to
intervene in the welfare of victims of human rights violations
in that region and prevent the persecution of activists working
for such causes. On a rather specific note, this submission highlights
the manner in which DFID ought to intervene in the case of renowned
doctor and human rights defender, Dr Binayak Sen, who has been
sentenced to life imprisonment for "Sedition" by a Sessions
court in Chhattisgarh on 24 December 2010 despite the absence
of any substantive evidence of wrong-doing.
1.3 The submission describes the condition of
human rights and the persecution suffered by human rights activists
in many parts of India. The submission has been drafted by the
"Release Binayak Sen Now Campaign UK", which
is a civil society campaign group consisting of academics, doctors,
lawyers, students, workers and other individuals from around the
UK. The "Release Binayak Sen Campaign UK" is supported
by a number of organizations including Amnesty International.
Sources of information for this submission are almost entirely
in the public domain. Some additional sources include the work
and research carried out by campaign members in the Indian state
of Chhattisgarh and reports produced by the People's Union for
Civil Liberties (PUCL).
1.4 In brief, we first argue that considering
that DFID gives more than £110 million to aid programs for
tribal welfare in conflict regions in central India, it must not
choose to ignore the human rights violations occurring on innocent
tribal populations as a result of the conflict. Second, if the
Millennium Development Goals must be achieved through the giving
of DFID aid, this must also involve monitoring the effective implementation
of the rule of law and the prevention of human rights violations
in Central India through the giving of aid. Third, the DFID must
also play a role in preventing the blatant persecution of human
rights activists in the region. Such persecution is best indicated
by the manner in which the Government has charged Dr Binayak Sen
in clear violation of due process and constitutional tenets. The
later part of this report seeks to present evidence of the character
and integrity of Dr Binayak Sen and suggest that when evidence
of his innocence is clearly imputable and that the international
community is openly coming out in support of him; DFID must not
stand in ignorance of the issue and in light of the objectives
of the Millennium Development Goals, come out in support of him
and ask for the immediate release of such person.
1.5 Section 2: Outlines the issue at hand and
the manner in which the DFID can justify its intervention in the
cases of human rights violations in Central India.
Section 3: A summary of some of the remarkable work
carried out by Dr Binayak Sen over a period of 30 years in the
field of health, welfare, subsistence and other development areas
in some of the poorest parts of India.
Section 4: A description of the political persecution
Dr Sen has been subjected to since 2007. We also describe the
worldwide condemnation of his persecution and the ever-increasing
support for Dr Sen which includes the support of 40 Nobel Laureates
in February 2011.
Section 5: A summary of the issues which the DFID
need consider both in respect of the human rights situation in
parts of India, and of Dr Sen's persecution. We also outline our
recommendations on the DFID's role in the protection of human
rights which we believe is a fundamental necessity for supporting
real and actual development.
DFID AND HUMAN
2.1 Globalisation is greatly increasing the divide
between urban and rural India while at the same time creating
a climate in which a high priority is given to the development
and the growth of the economy as a whole. However the picture
has been marred in the past few years by human rights violations
to populations occurring as fallout of the development program.
DFID rightly recognized this tension and has sought to achieve
a development policy in harmony with human rights practices. The
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) seek to achieve this aim.
2.2 While various groups have presented different
perspectives on this tension, we would like to address the issue
of human rights violations on tribal populations in Central India
and the persecution of activists who seek to work for the welfare
of such people.
2.3 Since 2007, the DFID has been actively involved
in the development of rural and tribal regions in central India.
More than £110 million pounds have been sanctioned for the
development and protection of tribal communities in these regions.
The situation however, is far worse than it has been represented
in earlier reports.
2.4 Much of the following relates to Chhattisgarh
and while we note that DFID's assistance to tribal regions has
mainly been to projects in Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal,
we would argue that the problems of development in the tribal
belt need to be considered as a whole. The state borders do not
neatly coincide with ethnic or linguistic divisions and although
the political history of each state is distinct there are common
themes, one of which is the economic marginalization of tribal
populations and their neglect by and alienation from the state.
Related to this is the fact that armed insurgents attached to
the CPI (M) operate in parts of all the states in the tribal belt
and frequently cross borders. The different states have adopted
slightly different legal and policing strategies but in all there
appears to be an increasing tendency to try to suppress the insurgency
by force despite evidence that people in the affected areas have
genuine and serious political and economic grievances which police
action is aggravating. In Chhattisgarh large numbers of people
have been displaced, and many fled across state borders.
2.5 The tendency which particularly concerns
us in Chhattisgarh but which we think is common to several of
the adjacent states is the extent to which Maoist insurgency is
being used as an excuse for neglect, oppression and rights violations
across the state and in some cases linked to the clearances of
population to make way for mining and processing. In Chhattisgarh,
the year 2005 witnessed the creation in the Bastar region of a
state-sponsored militia named "Salwa Judum" that together
with the state police and security forces began to engage the
Maoist insurgent forces in quasi military clashes. The most controversial
aspect of these operations was the harassment and displacement
of civilian tribal populations. In 2006, Human Rights Watch reported
that in just the two districts of Dantewada and Bijapur in the
state of Chhattisgarh, there were more than 45,958 tribal
people displaced as a result of the conflict and given the status
of "Internally Displaced People" (IDP). Reports also
indicate that in the initial years of the conflict, more than
5,000 people lost their lives, 230 villages were burnt and thousands
of innocent tribal people were missing. All this testifies to
the condition of an "armed conflict" triggering the
protection of the Geneva Conventions in international law.
2.6 The now discredited "Salwa Judum"
was formed shortly after the state election in which the BJP toppled
the former Congress Government but one of the principle advocates
for the militia was the Congress politician, Mahendra Karma, and
the industrial and business elite of the state, irrespective of
party affiliation, largely supported the development. Official
rhetoric represents "Salwa Judum" as a "response"
to the Maoists and in particular to an escalation of the insurgency.
Yet evidence for an escalation prior to 2005 is limited and it
is certainly the case that well before the creation of Chhattisgarh
State Maoists had a presence in some peripheral forest areas and
had made parts of the Bastar region "no go" areas for
the police. It is important to bear in mind that both before and
after 2005 the Maoist presence has been limited to sections of
the State's most thinly populated areas. The government counts
as affected 10 and of 18 districts but in most of these the towns
and densely populated rural areas are unaffected. So, it is clear
that the vast majority of the population including some in tribal
villages are untouched. The point here is to suggest that the
authorities exaggerate the extent and the significance of the
insurgency and that it is disingenuous to blame it for the generally
poor standard of public services and civil rights. There is no
reason why the presence of a few armed guerrillas in a Bastar
forest should prevent the government educating children in a Raipur
2.7 Intense criticism of "Salwa Judum"
by national and international organisations has apparently had
some modest influence in so far as the Chief Minister, Raman Singh,
announced in February 2011 that the militia under that name was
abolished. Currently the official position appears to be that
it was an experiment which failed. This development is too recent
to tell whether it signals a retreat from the use of force in
Bastar but so far this seems unlikely. Reports of violence by
and an organisation very like "Salwa Judum", the "Danteshwari
Adivasi Swabhiman Manch", is still operative. There is certainly
no evidence of a softening towards local critics of "Salwa
Judum" and it is notable that the conviction of Dr Binayak
Sen in a local court, in the circumstances described below, took
place only a month before the announcement that "Salwa
Judum" was disbanded.
2.8 The negative fallout of the anti Maoist campaign
does not only affect tribal communities. People and solidarity
groups that are involved in the protection and welfare of tribal
populations are being persecuted. An obvious example in Chhattisgarh
is the destruction of the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, in Dantewada,
a Gandhian NGO which had been working with tribal communities
in Dantewada for 17 years and since 2006 had been helping some
of the victims of "Salwa
Medecines Sans Frontiers and the Red Cross have also had their
activities in Chhattisgarh curtailed after accusations, denied
by those organizations, that they had helped people linked with
Journalists are being harassed if their reports displease the
security forces or state supported militias, as in the recent
case of death threats made against journalists by Danteshwari
Adivasi Swabhiman Manch
Moreover, although the Maoist affected areas bear the brunt of
the anti Maoist campaign some measures threaten civil liberties
throughout the relevant states. Chhattisgarh Special Public Security
Act, for example, removes many safeguards against arbitrary arrest
and imprisonment and, by defining as an offence almost any contact,
inadvertent or not, with members of the CPI (M), it effectively
criminalises large sections of the population who live in areas
where some contact is inevitable.
2.9 The pattern of repression has extremely serious
implications for development because it creates a climate of fear
which deters anyone from speaking out against the numerous scams
which are known to subvert development initiatives. A recent study
of a Jharkand village,
for example, details a pattern of complicity between village elites
and local administrators which perpetuates the marginalisation
of the tribal poor who fail to claim their right to services or
their share of development funds. While it is naïve to assume
that social activists and journalists generally work for greater
transparency or civic probity it is certain that the campaign
of arrests, harassment and threats documented in Chhattisgarh
reduces the likelihood of any attempting to do so. It is notable
that Binayak and Ilina Sen and Himanshu Kumar, the founder of
the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, stood out among social activists for
their critical and independent thinking.
2.10 Insofar as DFID's programs are targeted
at the development of the tribal populations in Central India,
DFID needs to monitor direct and indirect effects of human rights
violations in the regions. DFID programs also have the ability
to prevent or at least reduce human rights abuses. It is widely
recognized that the giving of aid may not just directly contribute
to development and improvement of quality of life of human rights
victims but also has an indirect ability to exert pressure on
groups and government to prevent further human rights abuses.
2.11 The Millennium Development Goals have a
common aim of making globalization fully inclusive and equitable
so that it may benefit all peoples. Along with having aims of
reducing poverty, hunger, democracy and good governance, the Millennium
Declaration also enjoins nations to take measures to prevent human
rights abuses wherever possible. Aid programs can also be used
to achieve such purposes.
2.12 The tribal regions of central India are
perhaps the most mineral rich areas in the world. Nevertheless,
Government of India Planning Commission statistics
show that they are among the poorest regions in the country. Some
observers have linked the deteriorating human rights situation
with increasing pressures from industry to exploit mineral resources,
a suspicion which colours the controversy surrounding the UK based
Vedanta group and its activities in Orissa and Chhattisgarh. Certainly,
the violence in the region coincides with a rapid increase in
forest land being taken for extraction or industry
DFID needs to be alert to the possible connection between development
and oppression in the region and should ensure that its own policies
and aid are directed towards the protection of and prevention
of exploitation of the tribal populations.
2.13 Along with emphasising the importance of
aid for the development of such regions, it is our submission
that DFID must also play a role in monitoring human rights situations
in Central India and prevent the arbitrary persecution of journalists,
organisations and individuals working in the region. Considering
the amount of aid being given to the development of populations
in the region, DFID cannot and must not play a passive role and
tolerate such abuses.
3.1 DFID sees the Millennium Development Goals
in health as critical milestones in its aim of helping maximise
and sustain high levels of growth in India because high growth
levels require an educated, healthy and diverse workforce. To
further these objectives DFID has worked with national and state
partners to catalyze systemic change in primary education, maternal
mortality, infant health, water and sanitation and malnutrition.
Significantly, as we discuss below Binayak Sen's work and contributions
are exactly to these areas.
3.2 In addition as the share of DFID's total
India aid framework going to health has increased from 27% in
2005-06 to an estimated 44% in 2009-10. DFID has moved from disease-specific
projects to supporting national programmes on Reproductive and
Child Health and tuberculosis, which set policy directions and
are targeted at the poorest states. Dr Sen's work too targeted
reproductive health and Tuberculosis and helped to introduce new
3.3 Introduction to Dr Binayak Sen
Dr Binayak Sen is a pediatrician, public health specialist
and a promoter of sustainable development. Dr Sen and his wife,
Dr Ilina Sen (Head of Department, Gender and Women's Studies,
Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University, Wardha, Maharashtra
state, India) are the founders of Rupantar, a community-based
non-governmental organisation that, through trained female community
health activists, focused on tuberculosis and malaria, activities
to counter alcohol abuse and violence against women, and promotion
of food security. This programme also focused on the idea of health
as a human right and of developing that consciousness in the community
through the activists.
3.4 A distinguished academic career
In 1972, Dr Sen graduated in Medicine from the Christian
Medical College (CMC), a prestigious teaching hospital of national
and international repute, a number of whose alumni hold senior
positions in the NHS and research centres in the UK. Dr Sen went
on to specialise in pediatrics at the CMC exploring hunger, malnutrition,
poverty, morbidity and mortality in his thesis "Marasmus
and Malnutrition in Children".
After teaching at the Centre of Social Medicine and
Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi between
1976 and 1978, he joined a rural community health project supported
by the Quakers at the Friends Rural Centre in Hoshangabad, Madhya
Pradesh state focusing on the problems of tuberculosis.
3.5 Contributions in medicine and public health
From the early 1980s on, Dr Sen and his wife have
worked in the Chhattisgarh region closely associated with government
In 1981, Dr Sen joined a clinic for workers in iron
mines run by their trade union
and helped develop it into a hospital (which now provides low-cost,
general and specialised medical and surgical care for the poor
and is funded entirely by mineworkers). He remained associated
with the hospital in an advisory position.
Alcoholism was a serious problem in this community,
caused by long hours in the mines. Dr Sen and his co workers resolved
this by training women to take financial responsibility for their
families and empowering men and women to be responsible for their
health and civic needs. Dr Sen eventually left the hospital and
set up similar campaigns elsewhere. . Between 1988 and 1992, he
worked at a Mission Hospital in the region in pediatrics and community
3.6 Contributions to community development
In 1994, Dr Sen and his wife set up a voluntary organisation,
which worked amongst marginalised communities practicing health
in the fullest sense. The work (severely affected since his arrest)
involved training health workers, addressing illnesses such as
malaria and tuberculosis which are highly prevalent in the area,
raising health awareness, providing primary education, organising
literacy camps, promoting organic farming (particularly of indigenous
varieties of rice) and setting up grain banks for food security.
In addition to the work at Rupantar, the Sens also remained associated
with community development initiatives in Chhattisgarh and the
local government recognized the value of their work.
3.7 Working closely with the government
Both Dr Binayak Sen and his wife have contributed
enormously to the state health and education programmes. For example,
Dr Sen was engaged in monitoring health and nutrition status in
Chhattisgarh and was closely associated with the State Health
Resource Centre at Raipur, Chhattisgarh. He became a member of
the Advisory Committee set up by the Chhattisgarh government to
pilot, Mitanin, a community-based women health worker scheme,
partly based on the model of community health activists that the
Sens had initiated through Rupantar. He also helped to draw up
a list of essential drugs for the State Health Department and
established guidelines for standard treatment as part of the rational
use of drugs. Rupantar took the lead role in implementing the
Mitanin training programme that was later adopted by the Accredited
Social Health Activist initiative, a key component of the National
Rural Health Mission of the Indian Government preparing a volunteer
force of 60,000 women community healthcare workers. Dr Sen was
a member of the State Advisory Committee which conceptualized
and set up operational guidelines of this programme which was
described by Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Ajit Yogi as "an
ambitious innovative programme launched by the Government of Chhattisgarh
with the active partnership of civil society and with the financial
support of the European Union.
3.8 An advocate of universal health coverage
In January this year, The Lancet published
a series of articles examining the state of India' health care
provision in this period of its fast economic growth. The series,
India: Towards Universal Health Coverage, included a contribution
from Dr Sen, titled "Securing the right to health for all
in India". He wrote, "The health status of people transcends
the health-care sector, and the social determinants of health,
such as food, water, sewerage, and shelter, still elude large
numbers of the poorest citizens of India". In this context
the recently prepared National Health Bill (2009), addresses,
for the first time, questions of equitable entitlements to essential
health facilities, goods, drugs, services, and conditions for
all, especially marginalised and vulnerable people. The Jan Swasthya
Abhiyan, the Indian chapter of the People's Health Movement (see
3.7 below) had a major role in lobbying for and preparing the
grounds for the draft bill. Unfortunately, Dr Sen was unable to
attend the launch of the Lancet series or participate in the panel
discussion in London because of his imprisonment.
3.9 To help health professionals understand the challenges
of health care in marginalised communities, CMC, Vellore asked
Dr Sen to develop a pioneering course, "Social determinants
of health and the effects of inequities in health care",
for its undergraduate curriculum for medical students.
Unfortunately the work too remains unfinished because of his imprisonment.
3.10 Dr Sen represented the National Alliance
of People's movements on the National Council of Jan Swasthya
Abhiyan and took part in the People's Health Assembly in Dhaka
in this capacity. He was the General Secretary of the People's
Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) unit of Chhattisgarh which investigated
the extent of poverty (for example, starvation deaths) in the
districts of Dantewada and Bastar and recommended measures for
avoiding such deaths in the future. He was also Vice President
of the National PUCL.
Dr Sen also spoke out against the violation of fundamental
human rights such as the Right to Health and the Right to Food,
eloquently summarising these concerns in an address, Hunger, Dispossession
and the Quest for Justice, to the Asian College of Journalism
on 3 May 2010.
An excerpt from the lecture is given below:
"Most people think that genocide has to do only
with large scale direct killing, but the declaration of the Convention
on the Prevention of Genocide, which was issued on 9 December
1948, one day before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
tells us clearly that in addition to killing, the creation of
"physically and mentally hazardous conditions which could
put the survival of particular communities at risk" would
also come within the ambit of genocide. Evidence that what is
happening in central India is tantamount to genocide on a massive
scale stares us in the face. What is shocking is the inability
of large sections of our leadership to read the writing on the
. In a country where 33% of the adult population
have a BMI below 18.5, and which also has 1/6 of the world's population
and 1/3 of the total global burden of tuberculosis, one would
think that the bidirectional association between malnutrition
and tuberculosis would be the focus of intense study. This is
not the case. India is the single largest contributor to the global
burden of morbidity, mortality and drug resistance in tuberculosis.
An estimated 8.5 million Indians suffer from tuberculosis. There
is an annual incidence of 87,000 cases of multidrug resistant
tuberculosis ,and an estimated annual mortality of 370,000 persons.
Certain groups like scheduled tribes and women [experiencing]
life threatening levels of under-nutrition
this is a stark
illustration of the adverse synergy of the epidemics of under
nutrition and tuberculosis
. The need to address the nutritional
needs of poor patients with tuberculosis is an urgent imperative
on scientific, ethical and humanitarian grounds."
3.11 As a civil rights activist
Dr Sen's work was initially concerned with investigating
and intervening in cases of torture, deaths and rape in police
custody. The victims were invariably poor adivasis. By 2004, Dr
Sen raised his concerns over the worsening human rights situation
in Chhattisgarh with a growing number of custodial deaths, fake
"encounter" killings and state violence against civilians.
In particular, he was alarmed by the meteoric rise of deadly armed
militia groups, such as the Salwa Judum, which involved the state
training and arming civilians, allegedly to "combat Maoists".
As a first-hand witness of the atrocities committed by these armed
militias, he was deeply concerned by the condition of the poor
in this anarchic civil war and as a doctor he was grieved by the
impact of forced displacement on the health of the poor. He appealed
to the human rights community to intervene and stop the violence.
A 14 member team from five organisations then carried out an investigation
in Dantewada to document the killings by the state-backed Salwa
Judum and the Maoists. The record of deaths, interviews with the
local people and other findings of this investigation was compiled
in the PUCL report"When the State makes war on its
We would recommend that DFID examine this and other
reports on the human rights situation in India since it is highly
relevant to DFID's concerns with health and human rights and also
would help understand why Dr Sen has been subject to political
persecution since 2007.
3.12 Awards and Commendations
Paul Harrison Awardawarded by Christian Medical
College Vellore on 25 October 2004
"Dr Binayak Sen ... has carried his dedication
to truth and service to the frontline of the battle. He has broken
the mould, redefined the possible role of the doctor in a broken
and unjust society, holding the cause much more precious than
R R Keithan Gold Medalawarded by The Indian
Academy of Social Sciences on 29 December 2007
"The Academy recognizes the resonance between
the work of Dr Binayak Sen in all its aspects with the values
promoted by the Father of the Nation."
The Jonathan Mann AwardAwarded by the Global
Health Council for global health and human rights on 21 April
"Dr Sen's accomplishments speak volumes about
what can be achieved in very poor areas when health practitioners
are also committed community leaders' He staffed a hospital created
by and funded by impoverished mine workers, and he has spent his
lifetime educating people about health practices and civil liberties
- providing information that has saved lives and improved conditions
for thousands of people. His good works need to be recognized
as a major contribution to India and to global health; He is certainly
not a threat to State security."
Dr Nils Daulaire, President of The Global Health council.
3.13 Binayak Sen and the Social Determinants
of Health in the context of Millennium Development Goals 4 and
- (a) The Alma Ata Declaration 1978 recognized
the social determinants of health and gave a central place to
the importance of equity in health so that no one should be disadvantaged
from achieving their potential for: "the highest standard
of health" because of their social position. Disparities
in health and health inequities stand in the way of India's commitment
to reduce child mortality by two-thirds (MDG 4) and maternal mortality
by three-quarters (MDG 5) by 2015. Data on the health status of
Adivasis in India have highlighted the extreme health disparities
in this group of vulnerable people. The maternal mortality rates
(Chhattisgarh's (including Madhya Pradesh) MMR at 335SRS
04-06) is above the national average of 254. The IMR (SRS 2007)
is at 57 (SRS 2007). India still carries a disproportionate amount
of the burden as it accounts for 21% of the under-five children
dying in the world. Dr Binayak Sen, as a scientist and public
health physician, recognized this in the studies that the Rupantar
organization did in the villages in which they worked.
- (b) Action on the social determinants of
health is necessary to reduce child mortality by two-thirds (MDG
4) and maternal mortality by three-quarters (MDG 5) by 2015. In
the last 200 years, increases in life expectancy owe much to clean
water, safe housing, healthier food and education, social and
health services. Meaningful work and the ability to earn a livelihood
free of exploitation have played a crucial role in ensuring people's
- (c) To Binayak Sen, like Virchow before him,
the bodies of his patients told the story of generations of inequity.
The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), based on Amartya Sen's
capability approach developed and applied by the Oxford Poverty
and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) corroborates these findings
in their assesses a range of critical factors or "deprivations"
at the household level: from education to health outcomes to assets
and services. There are more MPI poor people in eight Indian states
alone (421 million in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh,
Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal) than in the
26 poorest African countries combined (410 million). They found
that the India's Scheduled Tribes have the highest MPI (0.482),
almost the same as Mozambique, and a headcount (the percentage
of people who are MPI poor) of 81%. This is the reality that Binayak
Sen chose to see, and then to highlight, and to intervene to make
health a reality for the most vulnerable.
- (d) As a public health physician cognizant
of the fact that social inequities in health are systematic differences
in health status between socioeconomic groups, as measured by
income, education and occupation. These inequities in health are
both unfair and avoidable, as they are caused by unhealthy public
policies and lifestyles influenced by structural factors (Whitehead
& Dahlgren, 2006). They also contradict the basic human rights
principle that everyone has "the right to the highest attainable
standard of physical and mental health" (Kälin et
- (e) Binayak Sen steadily highlighted and
then tried to implement strategies to increase equitable access
to healthmaking health care affordable, accessible and
available to the most vulnerable people, based on health equity
and the principles of primary health care that had been so successfully
used in the famous Jamkhed model in India and on a larger scale
among communities in Brazil.
- (f) In the face of the swamp of disparities,
as a socially committed health worker Binayak Sen also tried to
work on the wider social determinants of health, in the context
of Chhattisgarh such as access to food and the right to life.
3.14 In view of the description of Dr Sen's work
and its broader context, we request the DFID to review Dr Sen's
work and achievements with a view to understand his significant
contribution to India's development, the reasons for his political
persecution and the possible repercussions of his persecution
for sustainable development in India.
4.1 On 14 May 2007 Dr Binayak Sen was arrested
after he had voluntarily visited a police station in Bilaspur,
Chhattisgarh to quell the rumors he had heard about police allegations
being made against him. The case against him was based on the
allegations that he was acting as a courier on behalf of Narayan
Sanyal, a 79 year old Maoist ideologue and political prisoner,
who Dr Sen had been treating for his medical condition whilst
in prison. This fabrication of the Prosecution relates to Sen's
prison visits to Sanyal in a Raipur jail, after a request was
made by Sanyal's family for Sen to visit him following concerns
of his welfare and health. (Dr Sen had been concerned with the
rights of prisoners in his capacity as a Human Rights worker).
Sen facilitated Sanyal's surgery and kept his family informed
about the process.
"During this period there was considerable
correspondence between the prisoner's family, jail administration
and medical authorities, of which copies were marked to me."
A Statement by Dr Binayak Sen
Dr Sen was accused of having passed letters onto
one Piyush Guha, who was then supposed to have passed them on
to a Maoist group. This was defined by the Prosecution as a "chain
of conspiracy". The fact remains that Dr Sen has ever meet
or had even heard of Piyush Guha. The entire incidents were total
fabrications used to accuse Dr Sen of Maoist sympathies and Sedition.
(Dr Sen has never been a Maoist sympathizer and has in the past
spoken out publicly against both their and the Salwa Judum acts
4.2 Following his arrest, Dr Sen was incarcerated
for over two years without bail. He was finally granted seven
months bail in 2009 after his health condition deteriorated. This
followed several refusal by prison authorities for Dr Sen to be
allowed to visit a hospital of his choice (as is lndian law).
On 24 December 2010 a Sessions Court in Chhattisgarh sentenced
Dr Sen to life imprisonment. On 9 February 2011 the High Court
of Chhattisgarh refused to grant him bail. The case has now been
referred to the Supreme Court of India.
4.3 The legal counsel for Dr Sen has highlighted
major flaws and fabrications in the politically motivated case
against him. The arguments of the defense include the following:
- The Case against him is based on circumstantial
- There can be no conviction on suspicion, surmises,
- No presumptions can be raised against an accused
unless it is permitted by Law.
- Inadmissible evidence.
- Inadmissible confessions by a third party.
- The evidence of the jail officials is that no
letters could have been passed to Dr Sen by Sanyal during the
- Important omissions of statements.
4.4 The facts: Full permission was obtained from
the police authorities for all of Dr Sen's visits to Narayan Sanyal.
All visits were under the strict supervision of prison guards
who later refused to testify against Sen of any suspicious or
in-appropriate behavior during these prison visits.
4.5 Sen suffers from a heart condition and his
health condition deteriorated significantly in prison. Sen has
also been forbidden to treat his numerous inmates suffering from
TB without any medical care. (For a doctor of his humanitarian
nature, not being allowed to treat fellow prisoners for a disease
that is easily curable is tantamount to a form of torture).
4.6 While in jail in December 2007, Dr Sen was
awarded the RR Keithan Gold Medal for his Gandhian services to
humanity by the Indian Academy of Social Sciences. The citation
begins: "Dr Binayak Sen's work offers fresh and radical interpretation
of Gandhiji's core concerns and his present predicament is a challenge
to all who profess and practice similar ideals."
4.7 This perspective was reflected by Nobel Laureate
Prof Amartya Sen: (8 January 2011 in The Times of lndia)
that the life sentence given to the doctor-activist looked like
a "miscarriage of justice".
A. Sen also hoped that the judgment convicting Binayak,
will not "survive the challenge made to the higher courts
of the country." A. Sen was addressing the book launch
of: "A Doctor to Defendthe Story of Binayak Sen"
written by journalist and documentary filmmaker Minnie Vaid. He
referred to the "exemplary" work Dr Sen did to
reach healthcare to people in rural Chhattisgarh and said "the
judgment also raises some questions about India's democracy, legal
framework and Indian engagement with issues of equity."
"As Indian citizens, we have right to pose questionslike
how some petty thinking became so dominant in the Indian legal
system. In a democracy, we have no obligation to air only patriotic
sentiments. If some people don't understand it...this is about
the foundation of democracy."
To a question whether this judgment would discourage
physicians who want to work in remote rural areas, he replied:
"It can be a discouragement if it survives
the challenge made to higher courts."
A social worker Abdul Jabbar reflected this view
by saying: "If Binayak Sen, who has worked in remote areas
of the country and fought for the causes of downtrodden, can get
convicted it means no activist is safe in the present situation.
We should fight till he gets justice".
A crucial point raised: The effect of Dr Sen's persecution
on the willingness of present and future physicians, development
workers and human rights activists to work in remote rural areas
of lndia is an extremely significant issue which the DFID should
give serious consideration to and assess.
4.8 On 9 February 2011, a group of 40 Nobel Laureates
from 12 countries made the following statement demanding the immediate
release of Dr Sen. The statement reads:
"We, the undersigned Nobel Laureates, respectfully
express our astonishment and dismay at the unjust life sentence
handed down last month in India to a fellow scientist and human
rights advocate, 61-year-old Dr Binayak Sen. We note that, when
Dr Sen was on trial in 2008 and many of us appealed for his release
on bail, a year later the Supreme Court of India concurred with
our opinion and ordered his immediate release. Several months
after voicing our concern about Dr Sen's detention, one of us
traveled to Chhattisgarh; met government officials; consulted
Dr Sen's family, lawyers, and colleagues; visited his remote clinic
to learn more about his selfless work with the Adivasis; and,
after a few days and many hours spent waiting in the Raipur prison
yard, finally met with Dr Sen himself in the presence of the prison
warden. We have seen that Dr Sen is an exceptional, courageous,
and selfless colleague, dedicated to helping those in India who
are least able to help themselves. Yet his recompense has been
two years in prison under difficult conditions, a blatantly unfair
trial lasting two years in the so-called "Fast Track"
Sessions Court, an unjust conviction of sedition and conspiracy,
and condemnation to life imprisonment. We earnestly hope that
our renewed appeal is heard. We know that there are leaders in
India who have the power, humanity, patriotism, and decency to
speak out against this injustice. We entreat those leaders to
act now, to urge Dr Sen's immediate release on bail, and insist
that this time his appeal is heard without delay under the highest
standards of Indian law. Surely, those who would see the largest
democracy in the world survive and thrive can do no less at this
crucial time for both Dr Sen and for the future of justice in
India." The signatories were Peter Agre, (Chemistry 2003),
Kenneth J Arrow, (Economic Sciences 1972), Richard Axel, (Medicine
2004), David Baltimore, (Physiology or Medicine 1975), Martin
Chalfie (Chemistry 2008), Claude Cohen-Tannoudji (Physics 1997),
Robert Curl (Chemistry 1996), Johann Deisenhofer (Chemistry 1988),
Richard R Ernst (Chemistry 1991), Edmond H Fischer (Physiology
or Medicine 1992), Walter Gilbert (Chemistry 1980), Roy J Glauber
(Physics 2005), Paul Greengard (Physiology or Medicine 2000),
David J Gross (Physics 2004), Roger Guillemin (Physiology or Medicine
1977), Dudley Herschbach (Chemistry 1986), Antony Hewish (Physics
1974), H Robert Horvitz (Physiology or Medicine 2002), François
Jacob (Physiology or Medicine 1965), Daniel Kahneman (Economic
Sciences 2002), Eric R Kandel (Physiology or Medicine 2000), Lawrence
R Klein (Economic Sciences 1980), Roger D Kornberg (Chemistry
2006), Sir Harold W Kroto (Chemistry 1996), Finn E Kydland (Economic
Sciences 2004), Yuan T Lee (Chemistry 1986), Rita Levi-Montalcini
(Physiology or Medicine 1986), Roderick MacKinnon (Chemistry 2003),
Sir James Mirrlees (Economic Sciences 1996), Joseph E Murray (Physiology
or Medicine 1990), Douglas D Osheroff (Physics, 1996), John C
Polanyi (Chemistry 1986), V Ramakrishnan (Chemistry 2009), Sir
Richard Roberts (Physiology or Medicine 1993), Jens C Skou (Chemistry
1998), Jack Steinberger (Physics 1988), Sir John Sulston (Physiology
or Medicine 2002), Charles H Townes (Physics 1964), Klaus von
Klitzing (Physics 1985), Torsten N Wiesel (Physiology or Medicine
1981). We request the DFID to review the statement made by these
40 Nobel Laureates to understand the reasons why the British Government
should proactively support this statement and urge for the release
of Dr Sen.
4.9 Similarly on 9 May 2008,
in a letter to the Indian Prime Minister 22 Nobel Laureates raised
concerns that Dr Sen appears to be incarcerated solely for peacefully
exercising his fundamental human rights, in contravention of Articles
19 (freedom of opinion and expression) and 22 (freedom of association)
of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rightsto
which India is a state party. Further it says "
is charged under two internal security laws that do not comport
with international human rights standards".
We request the DFID to review the statement made
by these 22 Nobel Laureates to understand the reasons why the
British Government should proactively support this statement and
urge for the release of Dr Sen.
4.10 The Global Health Council
expressed its concerns in a statement of support on 21 April 2008
by stating that "the distinguished jury of public health
and human rights experts who decide this award each year selected
Dr Sen on the basis of his service in poor and tribal communities
in India, his effective leadership in establishing self-sustaining
health services where none existed and his unwavering commitment
to civil liberties and human rights. We also would like to convey
our concern and dismay that Dr Sen remains imprisoned, after nearly
one year without trial, on allegations that he passed notes from
a rebel leader, whom he treated in jail to a person outside the
prison." We request the DFID to review the statement made
by the Global Health Council to understand the reasons why the
British Government should proactively support this statement and
urge for the release of Dr Sen.
4.11 The repercussions and larger context of
Dr Sen's persecution has been analyzed in a report compiled by
nine doctors and a civil rights lawyer/teacher/author who knew
Sen personally and possessed an innate understanding of his work.
This report includes an appeal to fellow citizens, doctors and
health workers to join the Release Binayak Sen Campaign. They
wrote: "We believe that it is our duty as doctors and
public health workers that we inform ourselves of the developments
in the country which are going to have long term impact on the
health of our people. ln the context of Binayak Sen's arrest we
need to perhaps understand the root cause of the Naxalite movement
so that we better understand why the State has tried to frame
Dr Sen as being a Naxalite and denied his contribution in the
field of public health by calling him a namesake doctor."
4.12 In Dr Sen's absence approx 260 villages
in rural Chhattisgarh are being denied attention from their doctor
and proper medical care. Consequently many of his patients have
died or their health conditions have deteriorated. Others have
had to resort to desperate measures to be able to access and afford
alternative health services, many clinics being over 40 km from
their homes and often having to be reached by foot.
4.13 To date there have been two Early Day Motions
(EDM 1615 on 5 June 2007 and EDM 1441 on 6 May 2009) in the UK
Parliament in support of Dr Sen (Give number and link). George
Freeman MP and Alistair Burt MP have expressed their support for
Dr Sen and the leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas MP has
written to the Prime Minister of India in support of Dr Sen and
demanding his release. In formulating its response the DFID may
want to consult the various MPs who have signed these EDMs and
supported Dr Sen.
4.14 The worldwide campaign to Release Dr Binayak
Sen includes group and individuals throughout India and around
the world. Individuals who have come out in support of Dr Sen
include Activists, lawyers, doctors, writers, artists, journalists
and filmmakers and some politicians and former Supreme Court judges.
Other supporters include 55 solidarity groups in the UK, US and
Canada, and the global voices of Amnesty lnternational, Human
Rights Watch, the Global Health Council and Physicians for Human
Rights. Indigenous communities around India have come out in support
of Dr Sen and have participated in mass rallies and hunger strikes.
Dr Sen had also worked for the Bhopal Gas tragedy victims
and a large number of the survivors from the gas disaster have
also participated in mass rallies. The political empowerment of
indigenous communities through participation in this campaign
is something which the DFID should support.
4.15 Within India, critics of Dr Sen's life sentence
include senior judges like Justice Rajinder Sachar, who stated
"Denial of bail for Binayak Sen is a blot on the Indian
judiciary". The former Attorney-General and noted jurist,
Soli Sorabjee, said it was the "tone and the tenor"
of the ruling that was "worrying". He added that there
was "an atmosphere of paranoia."
4.16 The European Union
and some of its member-States sent representatives as "observers"
during the High Court hearing of Dr Sen's bail application in
the Chhattisgarh High Court at Bilaspur. Daniele Smadja, Ambassador,
Head of Delegation of the European Union (EU) to India, said that
apart from the EU, individual member-States such as Belgium, Germany,
France, Denmark, Hungary, the United Kingdom and Sweden would
send their observers for the hearing."There are EU guidelines
on human rights defenders. We give utmost attention to cases of
individuals involved in the upholding of human rights. We have
informed the Indian government of the decision to send observers,"
she remarked. Ms. Smadja said she was mandated by her colleagues
in the EU to take up the matter. The EU observers were not welcomed
in some quarters, especially by some politicians from the party
that forms the state government of Chhattisgarh.
4.17 Significantly, there is a general feeling
of discontent within the state government of Chhattisgarh that
the life sentence to Dr Sen is now attracting worldwide attention,
thereby exposing the fabricated evidence used against Dr Sen,
therefore the unlawful practice of the judicial system.
4.18 Significantly, the case also highlights
the wider picture of the State and corporations colluding to create
(in 2005) fund and maintain the Salwa Judum; an armed vigilante
group used to forcibly clear indigenous Adivasi peoples from their
land in order to gain the lands for industrial developments, from
both State, lndian and foreign investors.
5.1 The DFID need to continue giving aid for
tribal welfare in Central India. Grave human rights violations
have occurred in the region and aid will surely help in mitigating
the suffering and welfare of such people.
5.2 The DFID need also condemn human rights violations
in the region and take decisive measures to prevent the same.
5.3 DFID must intervene in the persecutions of
human rights activists working in the region; most notably Dr
Binayak Sen. Dr Sen (together with his wife Dr llina Sen), has
gained remarkable results from actively working on Development
issues as well as proactively lobbying for a Democratic environment
and access to basic rights of people; the minimum requirements
for sustainable development. Consequently, he has been subjected
to growing political persecution since 2007.
5.4 The DFID and the British Government cannot
afford to ignore the case of Dr Sen and the cases of other human
rights defenders who are currently being subjected to similar
persecutions. At a time when the international aid being given
to India has not been reduced, there is a risk that ignoring these
human rights violations could lead to the British government being
seriously criticized for its "narrow vision of development",
the continuation of a "colonial mindset" and the refusal
to acknowledge the acts of lndian State funded atrocities being
carried out alongside projects that are actually funded by DFID
5.5 Dr Sen's case is not simply a legal issue
neither an anomalous case of political persecution in Chhattisgarh.
It is, rather, an issue that seriously affects the real and sustainable
nature of the development of India as a whole. This is due to
the case being representative of the alarming condition of human
rights violations in Chhattisgarh and other parts of India; the
safeguarding of human rights being a fundamental necessity for
real and actual development.
5.6 In the immediate short term the DFID should
request the Government of India to make an in-depth investigation
into the case of Dr Sen. The DFID should convey the concerns and
issues raised in this report to support the validity of issues
5.7 In the immediate short term the DFID should
urge the Government of India to urgently intervene in the case
to secure the immediate, safe and un-conditional release of Dr
5.8 In the medium to long term the DFID should
be willing to fully understand and embrace the human rights issues
Dr Sen was engaged with, including the use of armed militia and
the effect of forced displacement on the health and development
of the displaced communities and especially in the areas the DFID
are supporting. By their very nature, these human rights issues
are integral to development issues.
5.9 The DFID is in a strategic position to observe
and ratify the work of people such Dr Sen, and to offer protection
and support when subjected to political persecution. Defending
human rights activists and development workers such as Dr Sen
is in the interest of sustainable development, indeed it cannot
be separated from these issues. The funding of aid to some of
the poorest and most vulnerable people in India is a high priority
of the DFID. This funding relates to the interest of the British
taxpayers who support the £280 million annual international
aid to India. The British public should not be kept ignorant of
the extraordinary achievements of such people as Dr Sen whose
past and future works only offer expertise and success to DFID
initiatives. Dr Sen's incarceration is not only of a personal
loss, but a severe impeachment to the development of the disaffected
people in lndia, many of whom the DFID hopes to reach and actually
We appreciate and have welcomed this opportunity
to provide written evidence to the UK Parliament's International
Development Committee's inquiry into the country's bilateral program,
and an assessment of the DFID's programme in India.
30 March 2011
32 Report by the Human Rights Watch titled, Being
Neutral is our biggest Crime, available at www.hrw.org. Note
that this data represents only the displaced till June 2006. Two
years hence, the numbers have increased substantially if not doubled. Back
Chhattisgarh Net Digest Number 2473 21 February 2011. Back
, June 6 2009 Back
(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12247693) 21 January
Jan 6th 2011. Back
Alpa Shah, In the Shadows of the State, Duke University
Press, 2010. Back
Planning Commission Report, "Chronic Poverty in Remote Rural
Area: Evidence from the Central Tribal Belt of India",
http://www.newkerala.com/news/world/fullnews-163043.html 7 March. Back