Ilina's husband, Dr Binayak Sen - a medical doctor and human rights defender - was convicted in India in December of sedition and conspiracy and given a life sentence. He was alleged to have carried letters from an imprisoned member of a banned leftist group. The Sedition Law under which Dr Sen was convicted was enacted by Britain in the aftermath of the Indian Mutiny to help strengthen colonial rule. Former victims of the legislation include M K Gandhi (who nevertheless didn't receive a life sentence). Ilina Sen spoke at a well-attended public meeting in Edinburgh in March 2009.
Demonstration outside the Indian Consulate, Edinburgh, 19 January 2011
All photos © Julia Davidson
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As we celebrate 61 years of India becoming a Socialist Democratic Republic we are shocked to witness that the spirit of our Constitution stands violated every so often today, sacrificing people's democratic rights and throttling the socialist dream of our Constitution makers.
Speaking out against the conviction and incarceration of Dr. Binayak Sen's case has to be seen in that larger context of lending our voice against the gross injustice that we witness as a daily happening in India day after day.
Today when we demand his release we must also raise our voice on behalf of all those who remain hungry, malnourished, and without secure means of livelihood, as well as those who have been dispossessed, killed, tortured, humiliated, disappeared, threatened, arbitrarily detained and arrested, falsely charged and under surveillance because of their legitimate work in upholding democratic rights and fundamental freedoms. In the last two days I too have been a victim of this in Wardha, Maharashtra (Central India)where I teach.
Dr. Binayak Sen has completed more than a month in this leg of his imprisonment. The hearing for the suspension of his sentence continues. It is not a testing time for us alone but more for our political and judicial systems, which are on trial for accountability, rationality, justice and equity.
Finally, I would like to thank all of you for holding our hands in this period of suffering and anguish faced by me, Binayak's mother, daughters, brothers and all his friends.
I would like to end with a verse of Faiz
bol ke lab aazaad haiN terebol zabaaN ab tak terii haiteraa sutvaaN jism hai teraabol ke jaaN ab tak terii hai
dekh ke aahaNgar kii dukaaN meNtuNd haiN shole surKh hai aahankhulne lage qufloN ke dahaanephailaa har ek zanjiir kaa daaman
bol ye thoRaa vaqt bahut haijism-o-zubaaN kii maut se pahlebol ke sach ziNdaa hai ab takbol jo kuch kehnaa hai keh le
Speak up, while your lips (thoughts) are (still) freespeak up, (while) your tongue is still yoursSpeak, for your strong body is your ownspeak, (while) your soul is still yours
Look at the blacksmiths shophot flames makes the iron red hotopening the (jaws of) locksevery chain opens up and begins to break
Speak, for this brief time is long enoughbefore your body and words diespeak, for the truth still prevailsspeak up, say what you must.
WE WILL BE VINDICATED!!!
Prof. Ilina Sen,
Mahatma Gandhi Antarashtriya
26th January, 2011
- Dr Sen's jailing is a stain on democracy - letter to the Guardian, 26 January
- Binayak Sen has filed an appeal against his conviction and sentence. There were hearings of his appeal in the Raipur High Court on 24 and 25 January. The next hearing has been set for 9 February.
- Ilina Sen is also now being targeted by police. The Nagpur Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Monday registered a case against her for not informing the local police about foreigners participating in a women’s convention convened by her at Wardha’s Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University, where she is a teacher - report in the Indian Express
- Ilina Sen and Kavita Srivasta in Edinburgh, March 2009