Wife of jailed Indian human rights activist visits Scotland

Press Release from Scotland Against Criminalising Communities
Sunday 8 March

The wife of a jailed Indian human rights activist is visiting Scotland as part of a UK speaking tour that she hopes will increase international pressure for his release. She will be speaking to MSPs on the afternoon of Monday 9 March, and will go on to speak at a public meeting at Edinburgh University in the evening.

Dr Binayak Sen has spent three decades serving poor communities in Chhattisgarh state in central India. He was arrested in May 2007 on what Amnesty International calls "trumped up charges". His supporters include over 2,000 doctors and 22 Nobel prize winners. He is the Vice President of the Chhattisgarh branch of India's PUCL (People's Union for Civil Liberties).

Dr Sen's wife, Professor Ilina Sen, is a noted human rights campaigner in her own right. She is being accompanied on her visit to Scotland by Kavita Srivastava, secretary of PUCL.

Supporters of Dr Sen say that the real reason for his imprisonment is his outspoken opposition to the violent repression of the poor and to the activities of the Salwar Judum, a state sponsored paramilitary terror group, which has massacred local people and forced thousands to flee. His arrest folllowed his efforts to help expose police involvement in the killing of 12 tribal people in Bijapur on 31st March 2007.

The Salwar Judom terror group in Chhattisgarh is openly financed and armed by the Chhattisgarh state government, controlled by the Hindu nationalist BJP. Several independent inquiries, including India's National Commission for Child Rights, have confirmed the violation of human rights on a massive scale, including sexual violence. Regrettably, the Congress-led coalition government of India has opposed legal moves to get Salwar Judom disbanded. It argued in court that the government was forced to rely on civilian "Special Police Officers" because the regular police were too scared to take on Maoist insurgents who operate in Chhattisgarh.

At national level, the BJP will be the main opposition party contesting this year's General Election in India. Voting will take place in April and May.

Dr Sen is accused of offences under the controversial Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act. His trial began 30 May 2008 and is still continuing. He has twice been refused bail.

A Scottish branch of the international campaign for Binayak Sen's release has now been set up and can boast local residents who have known and worked with Dr Sen in India. The new group is backed by Scotland Against Crimalising Communities, Amnesty International, Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre, Academics and Scholars, Centre for South Asian Studies, Edinburgh University Amnesty International Society.

A motion in support of Binayak Sen has been tabled in the Scottish Parliament by Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP

Notes for Editors

  1. Iliina Sena and Kavita Srivastava will be taking part in a meeting in the Scottish Parliament from 3pm - 4pm, Monday 9 March, hosted by Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP (SNP, Lothians). The will be speaking later at a free public event in Edinburgh University’s Chrystal Macmillan Building, 15A George Square (northwest corner). The meeting will start at 6pm and be chaired by John Watson, Scottish Programme Director for Amnesty International.
  2. The case against Binayak Sen centres on police allegations that he passed letters between imprisoned members of a banned leftist group. However, Amnesty International has stated that the charges against him are politically motivated, aimed at stopping his human rights work. Dr Sen, a pioneer in providing accessible health care to the rural poor, has been documenting the impact of conflict in the region on the rights of marginalised communities.
  3. Questions are also being asked about whether ABN-Amro Bank, a subsidiary of RBS, still has links to Vedanta, a mining company accused of environmental and labour law violations in Chhattisgarh, and possible links to Government crack-down on activists. More details available if requested.
  4. More about PUCL at www.pucl.org/