Fifty international groups organize support in the USA for the Raipur Satyagraha in India  Simultaneous protests held in 3 US cities.



San Francisco, CA, New York, NY and Washington DC, 28 March, 2009:  Verve and vigor marked the  simultaneous protests held at the Indian embassy and consulates in Washington DC, New York City and San  Francisco on March 27th, demanding the immediate release of Dr. Binayak Sen, an end to the repressive  Chhattisgarh Special People’s Security Act (CSPSA) and disbanding of the state-sponsored militia, Salwa  Judum.  Activists from Association for India’s Development (AID), Friends of South Asia (FOSA), South Asia  Solidarity Initiative (SASI), International League of People’s Struggles, students and faculty from local  universities participated in these protests, coinciding with the Raipur Satyagraha, the ongoing mass civil  disobedience action in the city of Raipur where Dr. Sen is incarcerated.  Over 50 groups from the US, UK and  Canada have written to the Chhattisgarh government and offered their support  to the Raipur Satyagraha, and  nearly 600 individual faxes have also been sent to the Chhattisgarh government from around the world.   


The 22-month long, unjustifiable detention of Dr. Binayak Sen has become a rallying point for human rights and  peace and justice groups in India and internationally.  A pediatrician by training who chose to work with the  marginalized and malnourished people in remote villages of Chhattisgarh in central India, Dr. Binayak Sen has  been recognized for his contributions to public health and human rights with the Paul Harrison award by his  alma mater, the Christian Medical College, Vellore, the R.R. Keithan gold medal from the Indian Academy of  Social Sciences, and the Jonathan Mann Award by the Global Health Council in Washington DC.  As Vice- president of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Dr Binayak Sen was instrumental in bringing to light  the excesses of the Chhattisgarh government’s security apparatus, notably the Salwa Judum, a state-sponsored  militia which has wreaked havoc in the villages of south Bastar district. Activists and intellectuals, including  Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, George Galloway, Mahashweta Devi, over 135 faculty members and 22 Nobel  laureates from around the world have joined in urging the Indian government to free Dr. Binayak Sen and stop the  harassment of human rights activists.   


Anu Mandavilli, with Friends of South Asia (FOSA), reminded the protestors in San Francisco, that the one-year  long trial of Dr. Sen, which included testimonies from over 50 government witnesses, has not produced a shred  of evidence or a single witness who could corroborate the Government’s claim that Dr. Sen engaged in seditious  activities. “Yet, the courts have denied Dr. Sen’s bail application three times. It is interesting to note that men  from Shri Ram Sene, who beat up women in Mangalore pubs in front of cameras, were released on bail within 6  hours.  Whereas Dr. Sen, with an impeccable 25-year record of public service, and no evidence against him, has  been in jail for 22 months now.”   


Angana Chatterji, associate professor, California Institute of Integral Studies, cited the harassment of other  human rights defenders in Orissa and Kashmir, stating that Dr. Sen’s case represents an alarming trend where the  Indian state is using draconian laws to silence those who oppose state repression. Indeed, Dr. Sen is only the  most prominent among numerous human rights defenders and public intellectuals who languish in Indian jails  because they dared to speak truth to power.   


In New York, activists gathered outside the Indian consulate to read Dr. Sen’s New Year Letter from jail, recite  poems from around the world in support of Dr. Sen, and sing songs of collective action. Jinee Lokaneeta of the  South Asia Solidarity Initiative (SASI), and on the faculty at Drew University, drew attention to the fact that  notwithstanding the floundering case against Dr. Sen, the government has recently produced an additional  supplementary charge  sheet against him.  “By repeatedly denying Dr. Sen’s bail application, and purposefully  prolonging a meaningless trial, the state is ensuring that Dr. Sen stays in prison a long time, even if charges  against him are never proved.”   


Murli Natrajan, also of SASI and a faculty member at William Paterson University, added, “The laws used by  the state to arrest Dr. Sen are truly draconian.  These are the latest in the tradition of other harsh laws, such as  MISA, TADA and POTA, each one of which had to be abandoned after being declared unconstitutional by the  highest judicial authorities, and after gross misuse by the state’s security apparatus became apparent.”   


Somu Kumar, with Association for India’s Development (AID), and one of the organizers of the protest at the  Indian embassy in Washington DC, highlighted that these protests are not limited to demanding the human rights  of just one individual, Dr. Binayak Sen, but are in opposition to a system which criminalizes those who point out  its shortcomings. “At this point, Dr. Sen is a symbol of many other ongoing struggles in India-especially those of  the adivasis, the indigenous inhabitants of the mineral rich areas, who are resisting displacement by large mining  companies, and whose rights Dr. Sen was championing.  These protests are also to demand consideration for the  human rights of the adivasis of Chhattisgarh, more than 100,000 of who are officially internally displaced people  due to the actions of the state-sponsored Salwa Judum.”   


A letter signed by more than 50 international peace and justice groups, and a list of individuals who have faxed  letters to the Chhattisgarh and central governments, were submitted to the Indian consular staff at each city who  have guaranteed their delivery to the desks of the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, the President and Prime  Minister of India, and the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission. Some activists voiced their  disappointment that the government of India had yet to acknowledge any of their previous submissions made  over the course of the last year.  “In spite of sending several hundred faxes, multiple letters, and individual  emails to various officials, we have yet to hear back from a single government official that our letters have been  received and read, leave alone considered,” said Srividhya Venkataraman, with AID-Berkeley.  She added, “The  Indian government has made it a priority to reach out to NRIs. But if we, with multiple channels of  communication available to us, have such difficulty in getting our voice heard, how must the Indian government  respond to the concerns of an adivasi located in a remote village in Bastar!”


(Circulated by Shalini Gera; also available at

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