Donnerstag, 6. Januar 2011

India: Dr Benayak Sen sentenced to life in prison

3 January 2011. A World to Win News Service. With the 24 December sentence of life imprisonment for Dr Benayak Sen, another travesty of justice has taken place in the Indian courts. Despite the clearly fraudulent evidence in the case and protests in India and from international figures, the Indian government is calculating how far they can go with a clampdown on those from different strata who oppose Operation Green Hunt and other state crimes committed against the masses of India.



Operation Green Hunt is an unprecedented military offensive against the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and the masses hungry for radical change who make up the army they lead. This war is being waged in the jungles and forests that are home to the tribal peoples known as Adivasis in central and eastern India (the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal). That large swaths of these areas are under the control of the Maoists is intolerable to the Indian government. And it is desperate to ensure that India's continued economic growth and heightened role in the global economy remain unhindered by any vision and struggle for an alternative to the present system of poverty and humiliation for the masses.



The legitimacy of Operation Green Hunt has been sharply called into question by many well-known intellectuals, activists and academics. Whether or not the Indian government can silence them will have serious repercussions on both the government's ability to carry out this military offensive and the struggle to make revolution in India.



A graduate of one of India’s leading medical schools, Sen has been working in the state of Chhattisgarh since 1981. He and Ilina Sen train rural health workers in Adivasi and poor peasant areas, organise rural clinics and promote campaigns against alcohol abuse and violence against women. Their work has substantially reduced the deaths of children due to diarrhoea and dehydration, helping to bring down the overall infant mortality rate in the state. This success has made Sen one of India's most prominent public health specialists.



As a senior member of People's Union for Civil Liberties that works for the tribal poor, he earned the wrath of the Chhattisgarh authorities because of his political advocacy for Adivasis and his vocal opposition to the Salwa Judum, a state-backed militia formed to fight the Maoist-led revolutionary movement among them. His 2007 arrest came shortly after he exposed a massacre of tribal people. He was charged with sedition and waging war against the state.



Dr. Sen spent two years in prison before he finally won bail. Two co-defendants, Narayan Sanyal (said to be a senior Maoist leader) and Piyush Guha, were not granted bail and have remained in custody. Sen is accused of passing letters from the imprisoned 74-year-old Sanyal, whom he visited in his capacity as a physician. The letters were allegedly found on Guha.



To prevent planting of evidence, Indian laws require that material seized from an accused's home be signed and sealed before witnesses. At his court statement, Sen described the police process in the raid on his house:



"Several policemen in the search party were involved in the process of the search at my house. Having found a document, the person finding it would hand it over to Mr Rajput. Mr Rajput would first read it, and then hand it over to me for my signature. He would also sign it himself. After we had both put our signatures on the document, he would dictate to TI Jagrit what was to be written in the seizure memo. Mr Jagrit would then make the entry, following which Mr Rajput would then hand over the document to Mr Jagrit. In this manner, each document was seized, signed, and entered in the seizure memo. None of the documents were signed by the public witnesses in my presence. Nor were the documents sealed in my presence. At the end of the search process the documents were carried away in a paper bag in an unsealed condition." The manufactured letter that is the ''key'' to Sen's conviction is a simple computer printout. It is not signed either by Sen or the police who raided his house and is not mentioned in the list of seized material taken from his house.



According to an article in Economic and Political Weekly, Sen's visits to Sanyal were so closely monitored that even their conversations were listened to. Sanyal's jailers denied the police story about passing letters. The prosecution could not prove that Sen ever met Guha. Witnesses who came forward in support were discredited as Naxalites, as Maoist revolutionaries are called in India.



Sen's wife, who is also a doctor, says she will challenge his conviction and launch an international campaign. She and her family no longer feel safe in India as they face continuous harassment and threats by the authorities and others. She has publicly stated they may have to request political asylum.



In another blatant case of injustice on the same day in Chhattisgarh, Asit Kumar Sengupta – former publisher of the English-language edition of A World to Win magazine – was sentenced to eight years in prison. (See the CPI (M-L) Naxalbari press release included in this news packet and AWTWNS090629 for background on Sengupta.)



Arundhati Roy, also a well-known opponent of Operation Green Hunt and India's bloody repression of the Kashmir struggle for self-determination, has also been threatened with arrest for sedition. While no formal charges seem to have been filed against her so far, despite howls from the media demanding that she been imprisoned, her home was attacked by a mob organized by the Hindu fascist BJP in what she called a government act of "outsourcing" repression.



In response to the outrageous sentencing of Sen and Sengupta, the CPI (Maoist) has called for a week-long protest starting 2 January 2011.

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