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PUCL, July 2007

Committee for release of Dr. Binayak Sen

18 July 2007

PRESS RELEASE: A Committee for the Release of Dr Binayak Sen, General Secretary PUCL Chattisgarh, has been formed in Delhi. The committee comprises a number of democratic rights organizations and individuals associated with them, women's groups, public health organizations and eminent individuals. The announcement was made here at a press conference addressed by, among others, the senior journalist Prabash Joshi, Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, and academic Dr Nandini Sundar. Dr Binayak Sen, health care activist and General Secretary of the Chattisgarh People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has been in judicial custody since 14 May, over two months. He has been wrongly detained and repeatedly been denied bail despite widespread protests in many cities and signature campaigns on his behalf.

PUCL Chattisgarh has been one of the few organizations in Chattisgarh to draw attention to the excesses committed by the Chattisgarh government under its Salwa Judum campaign, which is why Dr Sen and PUCL have been targeted by the government. Since the Salwa Judum was initiated by the government two years ago, about 60,000 poor adivasis have been forcibly displaced, numerous villages burnt, women attacked and raped, and agriculture and adivasi livelihoods affected. Dozens of people have been killed by state forces in fake encounters. Violent attacks by the Maoists on state forces have followed in this context. All these facts have been extensively documented by numerous respected and independent civil rights and women's groups. Dr Sen has been detained under the Chattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2006 and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004, both laws that have been criticized for being extremely vague and subjective in what isdeemed unlawful.

Absurd charges of waging war against the state were later slapped on him. We wonder why the Indian government considers a threat to public order a doctor who has taken health care to the poorest in the region for over 25 years, one who was a member of a state advisory committee itself on community-based health! But because such a respected doctor and public intellectual dared to raise his voice against state excesses in Chattisgarh, a vicious media campaign has been orchestrated by the government and a pliant media to present Dr Sen as a Maoist 'extremist' and PUCL as a Maoist organization. Nothing could be further from the truth. We believe that the arrest of Dr Binayak Sen is one of the gravest assaults on the democratic rights movements in India in recent years and has wider implications for democracy in this country. We demand: That all charges against Dr Binayak Sen be dropped and that he be released immediately;

The immediate disbanding of the Salwa Judum That the Chattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2006 and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004 be repealed.

APOORV ANAND NAGRAJ ADVE SADHNA SAXENA RANJANA PADHI For Committee for the Release of Dr Binayak Sen Tel: 26495976, 9811153254, 26856749 Address: 125, Shahpur Jat, New Delhi.

People's Union for Civil Liberties, 81 Sahayoga Apartmrnts, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110091, India. Phone (91) 11 2275 0014