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Protest For Dr. Binayak Sen At Harvard Square

Umang Kumar

Protest In Harvard Square Condemns Life-Imprisonment Sentence Against Noted Indian Physician Dr. Binayak Sen

A New-Low in Democracy in  India

Volunteers of  the Association for India's Development, Boston (AID-Boston), Boston-area alumni of Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore (India), an activist of the South Asia Center (SAC) and the Deputy-Director of Cambridge-based Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) participated in a protest rally at Harvard Square at 3pm on Dec. 24.

They expressed their strong condemnation of the life-imprisonment sentence accorded to noted  human-rights activist and physician Dr. Binayak Sen in the afternoon of Dec. 24, Indian Standard Time, in Raipur in central India. Dr Sen, along with two others, were accused of collaborating with anti-state forces.

Honorine Ward, an alumna of CMC and an Assistant Professor at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, said that she had met Dr. Sen and his wife just two weeks ago in India in Vellore where Dr. Sen was involved in developing a special academic course on health and human rights. “I asked them if they ever thought of leaving India to go somewhere else. And Dr. Sen said that they had to complete the work they had undertaken at the grassroots and in academics.”

Susannah Sirkin, the Deputy-Director of PHR, said that her organization had been supportive of Dr. Sen's case right from the beginning. She also mentioned that she had been in touch with Dr. Jonathan Fine, a founder of PHR, who was on the court premises in Raipur during the hearing of Dr. Sen's case on Dec. 24th. “He said he could not help crying when speaking with Dr. Sen's wife before and after the verdict was declared,” she related.

Garga Chatterjee, an AID-Boston volunteer and a PhD student at Harvard University was also shocked by the sentencing. “This has shaken our faith in the Indian judiciary,” he said

Dr. Sen was awarded the 2008 Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights. Internationally celebrated for his work on behalf of the poorest and for his defense of human rights, Dr. Sen has been persecuted by the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh for speaking out against the violence perpetrated by the security forces and by the state-backed militia, Salwa Judum. Arrested in May 2007, Dr. Sen served two years in prison without trial, including a spell of solitary confinement, before being given bail by the Supreme Court in May 2009.

Hardeep Mann of SAC said that the sentencing of Dr. Sen was a way of setting an example for all those who dared to question the state and its authority. “It is meant as a warning to all of us,” she remarked.

For further information, visit: www.aidindia.org.

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