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Justice, where art thou? Two years of Dr Binayak Sen's imprisonment

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Jonathan Mann awardee (2008), Dr Binayak Sen, who is a well-known paediatrician and human rights defender, will complete two years on 14 May 2009 in a Raipur prison on false charges of abetting Maoist activity in Chhattisgarh, sedition, and waging war against the State. This committed advocate of civil liberties has spent over three decades in the service of some of the poorest and most underserved communities and raised his voice relentlessly against atrocities in the State of Chhattisgarh. The imprisonment of Dr Binayak Sen is symbolic of gross injustice and violation of democratic values by the State and the suppression of the voices of human rights defenders.

Not only in India, but in countries around the world the pressure is mounting for the release of Dr Sen.

Last year, twenty-two Nobel laureates from around the world had appealed to the Indian government to allow Dr Binayak Sen to receive the 2008 Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights in person at the end of May 2008. But Indian government denied the permission and Dr Sen's wife had received the coveted global health award on his behalf.

Dr Binayak Sen of Raipur, Chhattisgarh, India, who has helped establish a hospital serving poor mine workers in the region, founded a health and human rights organization that supports community health workers in 20 villages, and is the general secretary of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), has been imprisoned in Raipur for more than a year now without trial as a result of allegations that he violated state antiterrorism laws. Not only Dr Sen denies committing any crime, but his lifetime contribution to strengthen democracy and fight for the most underserved communities defies such accusations.

The PUCL-Chhattisgarh Unit, with Dr. Binayak Sen's active leadership as its General Secretary, had exposed the government sponsored so-called campaign Salwa-Judum in Chhattisgarh which legitimizes extra-constitutional violence and pits adivasis against adivasis.

Activists like Dr Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Awardee (2002) and member, National Presidium, Lok Rajniti Manch (People's Politics Front - PPF) are leading a candle light vigil in Lucknow, India, to mark the completion of 2 years of Dr Sen's imprisonment and demand his release. Similar protests and demands for his release are being echoed from communities across the country. Let's hope these voices reach the corridors of power.
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Bobby Ramakant is a development journalist and has been writing on development issues since 1991. Health is one of the key focus areas he writes on. He is also a World Health Organization (WHO)'s WNTD awardee for 2008

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