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India: Statement at VIBGYOR International Film Festival Demands Release of Dr. Binayak Sen

by ViBGYOR Film Festival, 5 February 2009

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VIBGYOR International Film Festival

Text of statement released

5 February 2009, Thrissur, Kerala

We, the organizers, film makers, delegates and viewers of the VIBGYOR International Film Festival hereby express our deep dismay at the continued detention of Dr Binayak Sen, the National Vice President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), one of the oldest civil liberties organisations in India.

The PUCL Chhattisgarh has been one of the foremost independent organisations to draw attention to the excesses committed by the Chhattisgarh Government under its Salwa Judum campaign. The fake encounters, rapes, burning of villages and displacement of thousands of and consequent loss of livelihoods have been known even to the international community. It is therefore clear that Dr Sen’s arrest is an attempt to intimidate the PUCL and other democratic voices that have been speaking out against human rights violations in the State.

Dr. Binayak Sen has spent his life time in saving the lives of some of the most marginalized sections in Chattisgarh and not in promoting any form of destruction of life. The continued term of imprisonment of Dr. Sen is part of a growing tendency of attackson the human rights activists as well as a strong violation of our democratic norms. It is a matter of shame that the government is still playing deaf to the voices of every peace loving citizen in India as well as all over the world that the charges against Dr. Sen are baseless, false and politically motivated.

Dr Sen has been detained under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2006 and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004. These laws have been criticised by numerous civil rights groups as well as a number of reknowned personalities in India and abroad for giving arbitrary powers to the State to silence all forms of dissent.

We believe that Dr. Binayak Sen is only one of the hundreds of people who are languishing in Indian jails for involving in social and political actions for justice, peace and freedom. Therefore, in the name of all prisoners of conscience in this country we strongly demand the following:

  1. That all charges against Dr Sen be dropped and that he should be released immediately;
  2. That all activists who are facing similar jail terms for expressing their democratic rights be released immediately.
  3. That the notorius Salwa Judum be disbanded immediately and
  4. That the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2006 and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004 be repealed without any further delay.