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Friday, May 23, 2008

Praful Bidwai, "Top Activist's Detention Blot on Democracy in India," IPS.

NEW DELHI, May 15 (IPS) - Protests are mounting all over the world against the year-long detention of Dr. Binayak Sen, a distinguished Indian human rights and health activist, under draconian laws in the central state of Chhattisgarh.

Sen, national vice president and Chhattisgarh general secretary of the well-known People's Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), was arrested under allegations of helping left-wing extremists, known in this country as Naxalites.

The charges shocked human rights organisations and citizens’ groups, which on independent investigation, have found them totally fictitious. They believe that the Chhattisgarh government filed them to harass Sen and set a horribly negative example for all civil liberties activists and intimidate them.

Sen is probably India’s first human rights defender to have faced such prolonged detention.

Sen’s detention raises serious questions about the content and quality of democracy in India, and the state’s failure to respect liberties and fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. It also points to links between human rights violations and the government’s social and economic policies.

[This article provides numerous points of entry into an understanding of the Adivasi movement in India, the program of the Salwa Judum paramilitaries, the Naxalites who are their targets. It goes on to describe global vigils and demonstrations on behalf of Dr Sen, and a campaign by 22 Nobel Laureates to have him freed. Anyone who sees India as a rising global power and the world's largest democracy will likely find this article interesting. Praful Bidwai writes a regular column for

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The People's Union for Civil Liberties is the largest and oldest human rights organization in India. Their most recent article about Dr. Sen

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