Justice for Binayak Sen sign now

Behind India's growing economy lie the harsh realities of exploitation, poverty, oppression, and mass displacements. The policies of all the successive governments have been to increase and tighten the private control of corporate elites over land and resources, and also to curb any opposition to their market-based strategy for economic growth. The grabbing of the commons (lands previously communally used or owned) happens either through consent under duress or through coercion. Thousands of people have been arrested and detained in the last decade in India as they have stood up to protest such theft and the continuous violation of peoples basic rights, including to a fair trial and to a livelihood.

In particular, we note that the Indian Government has started a war against the adivasi (tribal) population in India who have historically lived on these lands through what is termed by the Indian media as Operation Green Hunt. Operation Green Hunt began in November 2009 and is actively engaged in states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Not coincidentally, the key areas under question are those mineral-rich areas on which mining corporations have had their eye. While the Home Minister of India, P. Chidambaram, denies the existence of the Operation, the realities on the ground suggest otherwise. As a part of the Operation, nearly 100,000 paramilitary forces and 300,000 state forces have been deployed. In July 2010, the Central govt. allocated funds for 34 new battalions of paramilitary forces, 20 helicopters, 20 new counterinsurgency training institutes and $214 million for better roads and bridges in 34 districts in certain areas. A special central force called COBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) has been raised and pressed into service in the state's anti-Maoist war (where Maoist stands for any person who resists the economic strategy, and also includes a few Maoist groups; it is synonymous with the term Naxalite). The Indian state is also planning to launch a people's movement in insurgency-hit state of Manipur on similar lines. In 2006, Karnataka raised a similar force employing tribal youths to fight Naxalism in the state, as did Andhra Pradesh prior to it. Jharkhand is another state that has been successfully using SPOs (special police officers) to counter Naxalites.

In this context the provincial government of Chattisgarh started the Salwa Judum, a mercenary force of local rural people to hunt and kill Naxalites. With the help of Salwa Judum, the Chhatisgarh government has claimed to sanitize 644 villages. In real terms this has meant that more than 50,000 adivasis have been displaced. Furthermore, in this war, there have been numerous casualties including: Comrade Azad, a spokesperson for the Maoists, who was attempting to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the conflict with the State and was assassinated in a fake encounter in July 2010; activist Himanshu Kumar's Vanwasi Chetana Ashram, a voluntary organization based on Gandhian ideas and principles, in Dantewara which was demolished in May 2009 by security forces; and numerous other activists, scholars, artists and civilians who have been detained, raped, tortured, or killed for openly questioning government policies.

One case is that of Dr. Binayak Sen. Dr. Sen, a renowned physician and an expert on public health, provided medical care in some of the poorest areas of the state of Chhattisgarh between 1981 and 2007. He joined the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties and began to expose the disenfranchisement and dire poverty amongst the states adivasi (indigenous) communities, as well as human rights violations by the security forces and Salwa Judum. Dr. Sen was first detained in May 2007 for allegedly supporting Naxalites. Following a strong grassroots mass campaign by various groups in India and internationally, including the Free Binayak Sen coalition, and the raising of over Rs. 2 million ($50,000 CD$), Dr. Sen was released on bail in May 2009. His trial concluded in December 2010, when he was convicted for sedition and sentenced to life imprisonment. Many others also languish in prison under life imprisonment.

The signers of this letter are Indians living in Canada and our allies. We are saddened and angered by the Indian State's offensive against the people of India. We are writing in support of Dr. Binayak Sen and other political prisoners in this war. We are adamantly against the states targeting of human rights activists and defenders of civil liberties in the name of national security. We challenge the Indian states use of repressive legislation as being counter to International human rights law. We also wish to distance ourselves from the facade of glamour and growth projected by rich Indians, Bollywood, and Indian officials and NRIs and NGOs abroad.

We will act to challenge Indias policies through the use of international human rights law and trade sanctions. We will alert our fellow Canadians as to the truth of Indias actions, and the dismal state of its judicial institutions which has been unable to stem the rise in state brutality. And we join hands with the democratic forces in India who have been making the following demands:

1.Repeal repressive laws including the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA, a central-level law), the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA, a state-level law) the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), sedition laws, etc. which allow the Indian State to bypass legally mandated due process, and are inconsistent with constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Some of these laws have been in place since the time of the British colonial rule. It is time to repeal those repressive laws.

2.Overturn the judgement and release Dr. Binayak Sen and other human rights activists, journalists, and many others who have been charged under UAPA/CSPSA. Many of them have been denied bail for long periods, often without any charges being filed. When charges have been filed, they are either false or arise because these laws have criminalized the exercise of fundamental rights of freedom of expression and association; and some have been convicted after deeply flawed judicial processes. Such punitive targeting of citizens that have criticized the states violations is anti-democratic and an infringement on fundamental rights.

3.Disband the Ma Danteshwari Swabhiman Manch, a vigilante force (similar to Salwa Judum, a private militia sponsored by the government of Chhattisgarh), which is responsible for militarization of tribal communities and has led to the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of adivasis from their homes and lands.

4.In spite of repeated efforts including those by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), India has not ratified the Convention Against Torture (and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment), although it has been a signatory since October 1997. Ratification is necessary for appropriate changes to be made in the prevailing laws, and to enable institutions and executing authorities in India to be committed and accountable in reality to address the practice of torture. We demand the government to ratify the UN Convention. Enact national domestic legislation that makes torture a punishable offence and simultaneously provides for the protection and care for the victims and witnesses. Reform the police and make the police force accountable to the citizenry of India.

5.Finally, implement peoples local and regional control over resources and land, provide genuine and sustainable access to development capital, and develop coercion-free political outlets of opinion and process of decision making for all people in India, in other words, a true democracy.

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Latest Signatures

  • 17 December 2015200. Elizabeth M
    I support this petition
  • 10 December 2015199. Fatma M
    I support this petition
  • 03 December 2015198. Goutam M
    Free Binayak today City Nairobi Country Kenya
  • 26 October 2015197. Harkirat S
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    Very Bad City Brampton Country Canada
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  • 02 June 2015182. Nishant U
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  • 26 May 2015181. Jordy C
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  • 10 May 2015180. Santanu M
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  • 09 May 2015179. Sam A
    It is unbelievable to see a country that suffered through centuries of foreign occupation and colonization would unjustly treat its own indigenous people and then charge a humanitarian like Binayak Sen with sedition for providing the least amount of assis
  • 02 May 2015178. Daniel B
    В City Toronto Country Canada
  • 02 May 2015177. Ashwini T
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  • 26 April 2015176. Craig F
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Stacie KrauseBy:
AnimalsIn:
Petition target:
Consulate-General of India, Toronto

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