Chhattisgarh government criticized for social activist’s arrest


Raipur : Intellectuals, politicians and social outfits have pulled up Chhattisgarh's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government for the arrest of a senior human rights activist this week on charges of his alleged Maoist links.

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Police picked up Binayak Sen, national vice-president of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Monday from Bilaspur city, 110 km north of capital Raipur under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the controversial Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005.

Police produced Sen in a local court here Tuesday that sent him to judicial custody. Police have sealed his residence in Raipur and plan to conduct a search to recover what they say documents to prove his Maoists links.

Police sources said Sen met Narayan Sanyal, the lone surviving contemporary of Maoist movement founder Charu Mazumdar in Raipur central jail and exhchanged vital information and letters.

Sanyal (70) is facing several charges including masterminding the October 2003 attack on former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu and the jailbreak at Bihar's Jehanabad in November 2005.

Congress leader and Chhattigarh's former chief minister, Ajit Jogi has criticised the state government for Sen's arrest and described it as "a strong evidence of BJP government's fascist thoughts and a planned move to divert peoples' attention after revelations of fake encounter killings of several civilians by police in state's Maoist insurgency hit Bijapur district."

A non-government organization, Nadi Ghati Morcha has called the arrest "a well-planned conspiracy by a state government that is adopting Gujarat government formula to suppress people's voice for political gains." It sought Sen's immediate release.

Local media organizations too have questioned the government decision to arrest the rights activist for Maoists links.

`Government is projecting Sen's arrest as a success but the bitter fact is that arrest of a human rights person who was active in the state for 25 years, has dented state government's image,' an editorial in the May 16 edition of the popular local Hindi daily Deshbandhu said.

However, official sources insist the government is unfazed by the widespread criticism for Sen's arrest. They said the government is planning to arrest some more human rights activists besides some media persons for their alleged links with Maoists militants who run a parallel government in vast interior and forested belt of the state's southern tip.

Meanwhile, friends of the jailed medical practitioner and alumni of his alma mater Christian Medical College in Tamil Nadu have been concerned about his safety. Sen is a graduate of the 1966 batch of the renowned medical college and hospital in Vellore, 200 km south of Chennai.

The CMC alumni association has appealed to the Prime Minister, the National Human Rights Commission and the Governor of Chattisgarh to intervene with the police on Sen's behalf and ensure his safety.

CMC director George Chandy said, "Sen's contribution to rural health in tribal and undeveloped areas was outstanding, and he was the recipient of the college's prestigious Paul Harrison award in 2004."

Sen has been working among tribal populations in Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. He worked for rural health centers in Hoshangabad district and a mission hospital in Raipur district. He also helped set up the Shaeed Hospital in Durg, run by mine workers whose leader Shankar Guha Niyogi was killed in 1991 by 'unknown ' assailants.