Maoists deny links with Binayak Sen

Raipur, June 13, 2013

Suvojit Bagchi, The Hindu 

Human rights activist Binayak Sen during a function in Hyderabad. File photo
The Hindu Human rights activist Binayak Sen during a function in Hyderabad. File photo

Rebels term Shubranshu Choudhury’s book a “pack of lies, half-truths and scattered information”

For the first time, Maoists have denied links with social activist and paediatrician Binayak Sen.

The statement on Tuesday night came in the form of a rare rebuttal of a recent book, Let’s Call Him Vasu by journalist Shubranshu Choudhury. While Mr. Choudhury preferred to “stand by” his book, Dr. Sen said it is a “good development” for him.

Read review of Let’s Call Him Vasu.

Mr. Choudhury has also named other eminent activists of Chhattisgarh, who ostensibly are associated with the Maoists, in his book which deals with the day-to-day life of the rebels in the central Indian forest and the impact of the armed movement on the lives of tribals.

The State wing of the CPI (Maoist), Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC), called the book a “pack of lies, half-truths and scattered information.” The release said that “even the disseminated information is distorted… and true lies, especially, the episode on Dr. Binayak Sen and the so-called relationship between Jeet and Mukti [Guha Niogi] and our party.”

The party has also refuted the allegation that it has taken money from Essar Steel as claimed in the book.

Mr. Choudhury has quoted a courier, Anil, of a senior Maoist leader and claimed in his book that Dr. Sen, a respected doctor and social activist, who was arrested for his alleged links with the Maoists, was actually an intermediary between Sabyasachi Panda, erstwhile leader of the Maoists in Orissa, and Narayan Sanyal, a Polit Bureau member of the party.

While Anil told the author that Rs. 50,000 was “collected” by a tendu leaves financier of Bengal, Piyush Guha, to deliver it to Mr. Sanyal for his legal expenses, through Binayak Sen, it is not clear if the money actually passed through the hands of the beleaguered doctor.

“I asked him [Sabyasachi Panda] if he ever got the money back. Piyush had been arrested before he could deliver or return the money, he replied,” Mr. Choudhury wrote in his book. With the DKSZC’s denial of the “Binayak Sen episode,” the controversy involving the doctor and the Maoists took a new turn.

Dr. Sen told The Hindu that he believes Mr. Choudhury is a “promising, young journalist,” and added, “… I have been saying all along what he [Mr. Choudhury] has stated is not true. For me, it is a good development, what I have been saying has been finally confirmed by the other party involved in the alleged transaction.”

Jeet and Mukti Guha Niyogi, the son and daughter of legendary trade union leader Shankar Guha Niyogi, are also named in the book. Mr. Guha Niyogi could not be reached on the phone for his comments.

The rebels, however, have not threatened the senior journalist and the rebuttal is more of a discussion on the praxis of the Maoist movement in India.

DKSZC spokesperon Gudsa Usendi said Mr. Choudhury had not made any “serious attempt” to understand the Maoist movement. “He has claimed to have spent seven years with us but… he has not tried to understand the basic aspects of class war.” However, other than underscoring their objections regarding the claims made about the civilian activists, the release has not clarified why the Maoist leadership is critical about the book.

The allegation seems to be more on how Mr. Choudhury failed to understand the Maoist movement than a point-by-point rebuttal.

The spokesperson is more direct about Mr. Choudhury’s radio broadcasts, which, according to Mr. Usendi, are “baseless.” Media reports suggest that comrade Ramanna alias Ravula Srinivas replaced veteran leader comrade Khosa as DKSZC secretary recently.

According to the release, Mr. Choudhury claimed in a recent radio programme that “Maoists will [now] focus more on violence after a change in the leadership.” Mr. Usendi objected to this observation and said such “imaginary analyses” are “bunkum.”

Alleging that “false propaganda” is often spread against the underground party to negatively influence the people’s movement, the release said “… consciously or unintentionally Mr. Choudhury has become part of it [propaganda machinery].” Mr. Usendi has also denied that there is a “rift” among the senior leaders.

Refuting the allegations, Mr. Choudhury said he stood by his book.

“My book was written on the basis of research conducted within the Maoist dominated areas and after detailed interviews with many Maoists. I stand by what I have written,” he said.


#India- arrests at Mavelikkara: Against UAPA, For the right to dissent #Draconianlaws

by Gilbert Sebastian on Monday, 7 January 2013 , on FB

There is a saying in Malayalam, ‘Kaaryam paranjaal Communistaayi!’ meaning, you will be labelled a Communist if you tell the truth. This used to be a saying during the decades when the Communist party in the state used to wage land struggles and uphold the rights of the deprived. Today, the saying could be modified as, Kaaryam paranjaal Maoistaayi!’ meaning, you will be labelled a Maoist if you tell the truth.


On 29 December 2012, seven persons persons, including two girl children and human rights activists were arrested at Mavelikkara in Kerala state. The other five are being detained under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA): Gopal, Shiaz, Rajesh Madhavan, Bahuleyan and Devarajan. As was reported in the social media and mainstream media, they had assembled peacefully for sharing their experiences. The two girls were Ami aged 16 and Savera aged 10 who have been harassed by the police several times even before for the mere reason that they are children of a Maoist couple. After night-long interrogation using even sexually insulting language, the two girls were let off. The other five are still in custody. Rajesh Madhavan was personally known to me for some years now as a socially concerned person, hailing from a humble background. As I have gathered from friends, they were meeting to share experiences, including those on the education front. None of the persons arrested had any previous history of offences against them. One of them, Gopal, is a scientist who was working with Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and is a human rights activist  who has been involved in the protest against Koodankulam nuclear project.


The arrests are clearly in violation of the Fundamental Right to assemble peaceably and without arms under Article 19 (b). There is no reason why one should be paranoid about such get-togethers to discuss contemporary political issues that they could cause a threat. Why shouldn’t we think that they could only strengthen democracy? (The latest news is that the Additional Sub-Inspector, K.Y. Damian who had carried out the arrests, apparently, hanged himself to death near his home.) Going by UAPA, the State can arbitrarily arrest and detain anyone on the basis of mere suspicion. UAPA which is the UPA version of the now-defunct Acts, POTA and TADA, is used to track down people labeling them as Maoists and as Dalit and Muslim extremists. Those who oppose State terror and those involved in rights-based struggles are tormented and unjustly detained under this Act. It has draco­nian provisions such as non-bailable incarceration for 180 days. The onus of proof lies on the accused. Section 15 of the act defines ‘terrorist act’ quite vaguely. Section 39 makes “support given to a terrorist organization” an offence and criminalises normal activities like ‘arranging, managing or addressing’ public meetings. Hardly any distinction per se is drawn between anti-State militancy and terrorism as indiscriminate killing of innocent people.


On the other hand, one cannot forget to mention that the Indian State is ‘selectively repressive’ against adversaries who violate its canons. Those who create communal and regional divisions among people like the Sangh Parivar, Shiv Sena, MNS and the high profile instigators of riots in Delhi, 1984; Gujarat 2002 and Kandhamal, 2008  are granted impunity. The arrests at Mavelikkara is a good example to illustrate how our political system faces the real danger of degeneration into an ‘illiberal democracy’/a police State. Recent empowering judgements by the Supreme Court in cases involving Binayak Sen and Narayan Sanyal indicate how the apex court views such arrests unjustified under the law.


As Prof. Haragopal rightly used to say, the vibrancy of democracy can be demonstrated when the State is able to democratically reckon with even armed protests against it. Constitutional morality is the minimum that the State needs to uphold since the Constitution is the document that the rulers of India have given unto themselves and swear by. On the other hand, the rebels need to be true to their own ideology. People should be the arbiters in the contention between Constitutional morality and an ideology of rebellion, he says. It is necessary that all democratically minded persons and groups should come forward to oppose UAPA, a draconian, fascistic Act and the arrest of these activists under it, towards the protection of the democratic freedoms guaranteed under the Fundamental Rights of the Constitution of India. On 7 January 2013, some concerned individuals called a gathering at the martyrs column in Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital to protest these arrests under UAPA. The message is: Uphold the right to dissent! Protest the arrests! Oppose UAPA!



A Conversation With: Human Rights Activist Binayak Sen

Dr. Binayak Sen.Courtesy of The Gandhi FoundationDr. Binayak Sen.

Binayak Sen, 62, is no ordinary doctor. Few doctors, after all, spend three decades working in a region threatened by what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the “single biggest internal security challenge ever faced” by the country. And that was before Dr. Sen was jailed on charges of “waging a war against the state,” which prompted a group of Nobel laureates topetition for his release.

Dr. Sen was released in 2009, after spending two years in jail, but still faces charges of supporting the Maoists, also referred to as Naxalites, which he denies.

The Maoists have been leading an armed movement to capture political power in 13 states in India over four decades, and claim to be fighting for the poor, dispossessed and marginalized. Dr. Sen ran mobile clinics in the interior of Chhattisgarh, one of the states most affected by the Maoist insurgency. In 2005, he led a 15-member team that published a report criticizing the Salwa Judum, which  Human Rights Watch calls “a state-supported vigilante group aimed at eliminating Naxalites.”

The Chhattisgarh state government alleged that his work, and in particular his association with the Maoist leader Narayan Sanyal,  amounted to helping wage “a war against the state.” Although that charge was dismissed, he was found  guilty of sedition and conspiracy, and sentenced to life imprisonment by a lower court in Chhattisgarh in 2010. He was granted bail by the Supreme Court in 2011 and an appeal against the conviction is pending in the Chhattisgarh High Court.

A group of 40 Nobel laureates described him as “an exceptional, courageous, and selfless colleague, dedicated to helping those in India who are least able to help themselves,” in a 2011 letter appealing for his life sentence to be overturned.

India Ink had several conversations with Dr. Sen, both over the phone and e-mail, to discuss how human rights activism grew from his work as a doctor.


Describe your journey from being a doctor in rural areas to being labeled a Maoist sympathizer.


My work in Chhattisgarh was with village communities, some of the poorest in India, and training health workers to look after their needs. Earlier, I had helped establish a hospital for mine workers in the area. As a logical outcome of my work, I was involved with human rights work, and was the general secretary of the state unit of the Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties.

In this capacity I was instrumental in documenting and exposing deaths due to hunger and malnutrition, and to the displacement of over 600 tribal villages by the state-sponsored militia called Salwa Judum, or S.J., in southern Chhattisgarh. Last year, the S.J. was banned by the Supreme Court of India.

But it was in 2007 that I was labeled a Maoist supporter, for reasons best known to the Chhattisgarh state government. I was arrested in 2007 and charged with sedition, as well as under internal security acts, spent two years in jail during the trial, was released on bail by the Supreme Court,  convicted and sent to jail again, before again being released on bail in 2011. My appeal against the conviction is still pending in the state high court.


What was your association with the Maoist leader Narayan Sanyal?


I was approached by Narayan Sanyal’s family to help him with his legal cases and his health needs. In my capacity as a P.U.C.L. activist, I visited him in jail several times in the presence of senior jail officials, as they testified at my trial.


Could you tell us about your time in prison?


My time in prison was a time of deep despair, as I was unable to figure out the logic of the juridical action against me. At the same time it gave me an opportunity to know the stories of many fellow prisoners who were undergoing the same trauma as myself.

I came across many such instances where people had spent substantial amounts of time and were later let go. In some instances the judges have indicted the police for fabrication of evidence and illegal detention, but nothing has happened.

I did not do anything that was, to the best of my knowledge, wrong or illegal.  I didn’t expect anything like this happen to me; I had in fact worked with the government to provide essential services in these areas. After coming out of jail, I have been part of a nationwide process for the repeal of unjust and oppressive laws.

There was no physical intimidation that I faced in jail. However, I was kept in solitary confinement. Life in jail is itself a form of mental intimidation.


Do you consider yourself fortunate that you received a great deal of media attention when you were arrested?


I faced a virulent media trial in Chhattisgarh in the print and electronic media, as well as on the Internet. The ordinary journalist in Chhattisgarh relies to a large extent on government (including police) handouts. It was the contribution of dedicated national journalists who turned their spotlight on the real story.

It was only over a period of time that a campaign against the patent injustice in my case built up, and many prominent citizens at the national and international levels besides sections of national media took a positive view about me.


What is your understanding of the Maoist problem in India? Does their use of violence overshadow the issues they are fighting for?


It is surprising that so much of the public discourse is about the issue of violence. Large sections of the population in the “affected areas” are living in a state of perpetual hunger, to the point of famine, and lack appropriate and basic health care. Their access to common property resources, essential for their survival, is denied to them as a result of state action, to a point where the very survival of entire communities is called into question – but this does not become the center of the discourse.

I have clarified on many occasions that I do not condone the violence either of the agencies of the state or of those who oppose the state.


You were recently part of a conference called “Resist the Silent Emergency” in Delhi; what is the “silent emergency” in India?


The conference to which you refer was mainly devoted to documenting and chronicling widespread fabrication of cases and the use of sedition-like laws to suppress dissenting voices across the country. The silent emergency refers to the suppression of fundamental rights to freedom of thought and expression, without the declaration of an actual internal emergency as in 1975.


You have spoken about the need to establish alternative agencies and systems. What has given rise to the need?


First of all, I want to clarify that I have always engaged with the state to help it function better. I was recently part of the steering committee for health in the 12th five-year plan, and earlier part of the advisory group on structural reforms in health care for government of Chhattisgarh.

However, recent developments make it plain that the planning commission is unlikely to carry out its stated commitments to the universalization of health care. The alternative strategies that most public health workers are advocating, is the universalization of health care and for increased resource allocation in the health and nutrition sector.


Some suggest we need to involve international bodies in improving health care. Does that signal a lack of faith in the country’s own systems of checks and balances?


The distress due to chronic hunger, lack of health care and widespread displacement of the people, who constitute one sixth of mankind, cannot be constrained only by questions of national identity. These are matters of concern for the entire world community.

(This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.)

JU students take out first ever street protest in Kolkata to free Soni Sori

Piyush Guha, who was also arrested on charges of sedition and released in 2011, says that the government wants the people on the periphery not to speak, not to think
Ajachi Chakrabarti

Ajachi Chakrabarti

December 13, 2012, TEHELKA

Jadavpur University students take out a protest march to free Soni Sori in Kolkata. Photo: Shankar Sarkar

The campaign to free Soni Sori broke new ground on Wednesday 12 December, with the first street protest for her immediate release being organised at Jadavpur University in Kolkata. It was a small beginning, with fewer than 200 college students and a handful of civil society activists carrying out a march; a turnout blamed by organisers on college exams. “This is only the beginning,” said Madhushree Das, one of the organisers, “and we will continue the protest and plan something big for January, when the students are back on campuses.”

One man, however, was not in the least disheartened with the turnout. Piyush Guha was a tendu leaf businessman in Chhattisgarh with little involvement in politics, when he was arrested along with Binayak Sen and Narayan Sanyal in 2007, and charged with sedition in what became the biggest political trial in recent memory. Jailed in the same Raipur Central Jail where Sori continues to be lodged, Guha was released in 2011 after the Supreme Court granted him bail. “I never imagined so many youths would come to support Soni Sori,” he says of the low turnout. “If there’s anything this era has taught us, it’s that we are on our own. But there is a potential in this crowd for a bigger campaign. Our generation of political leaders either never did anything for us or failed in the attempt, but the young men and women who came today to support a woman they do not know show that there is still humanity in the next generation.”

There are parallels between Guha’s and Sori’s incarcerations. Neither was considered a Maoist by the state establishment, yet both were arrested; a sign that the State is expanding its campaign to silence even the voices on the periphery of the conflict, anyone it considers collaborators or sympathisers, he says. “The government wants the people on the periphery not to speak, not to think.” The parallels breed empathy —reason Guha was at Jadavpur for the rally. “When I was in solitary confinement, my biggest fear was that the people had forgotten us,” he says. “Hearing about the nationwide campaign for our release gave us succour, and the initiation of this campaign will give her hope.”

Guha recounts the horrors of the jail hospital, which denied Sori medical aid as her health deteriorated and proceeded to give her a clean bill of health. “You get nothing in the jail hospital,” he says. “Even though there are nominally three doctors responsible for it, it is actually run by a compounder. No inmate ever gets treatment there. People are afraid to go there, as even minor ailments can become fatal. We saw countless people dying from lack of treatment in front of our eyes. I remember one inmate who committed suicide because he was being denied treatment even when the Raipur Medical College is just across the road.”

The survivor: Piyush Guha

Medical care is available, he says, but at a price. “If you can pay Rs 100, you’ll get an injection. Cough medicine comes for Rs 50. If you can pay Rs 500, you can even be treated at the medical college. Of course, if you are branded a Maoist, you can forget about that.” The entire prison, he says, runs on bribes, with career criminals scouring the local newspapers for news of wealthier people being arrested. “There are a lot of simple village youths in custody on false charges of being Maoists,” he says. “They cannot afford to get even the basic necessities in jail.”

Even release from prison has not been kind to Guha. Prison meant the end of his tendu business, as his partners were unable to sustain it in Chhattisgarh after his arrest. “Economically speaking, I only have my loans,” he says. “Even if my creditors don’t pressure me to return their money, I know it’s at the back of their minds. I’m starting not from zero, but from minus [sic].” He lost both his parents in the course of his arrest, famously not being allowed to attend their last rites, even by the Supreme Court. “The police repeatedly raided my house after my arrest,” he says, “and my wife and parents had to move house three or four times. Eventually, my parents decided to move back to their village, as the police hounding had made living in Kolkata an unsustainable proposition. It was impossible to continue my father’s treatment in the village, and he died of a cardiac arrest two years later.”

Guha, however, insists he has no regrets. “I understand that I faced some personal losses,” he says. “And I do regret those, sometimes. But jail gave me time to think. My years in prison have strengthened my conviction to stand up against injustice. I cannot forget all those unknown people who helped me. I have to stand up for all those other people I don’t know. It is my social obligation.”

I ask him whether he intends to become a full-time activist. “First I need to survive,” he says.


Press Release- Release Narayan Sanyal

October 11, 2012

Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations, CDRO, condemns the  move by Jharkhand police to prevent Narayan Sanyal from coming out of  jail. Narayan Sanyal is a senior politbureau member of CPI (Maoist) who  was granted bail in all three cases against him. On 8th October, 2012 SP Hazaribagh accompanied by an Inspector arrived at Hazaribagh Central  Jail to search his cell claiming they had information that he was in  possession of a mobile phone inside the jail premises. Subsequently,  they claimed to have discovered a mobile phone and used this excuse to  keep him incarcerated. Narayan Sanyal was arrested in December 2005 by  the Chattisgarh police but he was officially shown as having been  arrested by Andhra Pradesh police. He was then implicated along with  Binayak Sen and Piyush Guha in the notorious fabricated case.

The manner in which police and prosecutor are deliberately preventing CPI(Maoist) leaders from being released on bail—by either re-arresting  them under preventive detention as in Sushil Roy’s case in 2011, and/or  foisting trumped up case as has been done against Narayan Sanyal—clearly makes a mockery of the government claim that we live under Rule of Law. Surely, if a person is granted bail, then it stands to reason that  he/she should be released too. What the latest instance yet again  reveals is how police and agencies work to subvert the criminal justice  system and holds the judiciary in contempt.

While CDRO is moving the NHRC against such blatant violation of  judicial orders we urge all democratic minded people to note this new  trend which is accelerating the process of lawlessness that has come to  characterise the conduct of Indian police and agencies.

Asish Gupta Kranti Chaitanya (Co-ordinators CDRO)

Member Organizations: Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR,  Punjab), Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC), Association  for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR, West Bengal), Bandi Mukti  Committee (West Bengal), Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights  (CPDR, Mumbai), Coordination for Human Rights (COHR, Manipur), Human  Rights Forum (HRF, Andhra), Lokshahi Hak Sangathana (LHS, Maharashtra),  Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS, Assam), Naga Peoples Movement for  Human Rights (NPMHR), Organisation for Protection of Democratic Rights  (OPDR, Andhra), Peoples Committee for Human Rights (PCHR, Jammu and  Kashmir), Peoples Democratic Forum (PDF, Karnataka), Peoples Union for  Civil Liberties (PUCL) Chhattisgarh, PUCL Jharkhand, PUCL Nagpur, PUCL  Rajasthan, ,PUCL Tamilnadu, Peoples Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR,  Delhi), Peoples Union for Human Rights (PUHR, Haryana), Assansol Civil  Rights Association (West Bengal).

SC suspends Narayan Sanyal’s life term, grants him bail #Justice

New Delhi, May 7, 2012

The Supreme Court on Monday suspended the life sentence of CPI (Maoist) activist Narayan Sanyal, held guilty of committing sedition by a Chhattisgarh court in 2010, and granted bail to him.

A bench of justices G.S. Singhvi and S.J. Mukhopadhaya gave bail to 78-year-old Sanyal, considering his age and the fact that he has already spent over six years in jail since his arrest in 2006.

The bench said the concerned trial court would impose the condition to its satisfaction for Mr. Sanyal’s release on bail.

Mr. Narayan Sanyal was convicted along with People’s Union of Civil Liberties’ Vice President Binayak Sen and a Kolkata businessman Piyush Guha for colluding with the Maoists in expanding their network to fight the state.

Mr. Sen was granted bail and his sentence was suspended by the apex court on April 15 last year.

They were held guilty by a Raipur court on December 24, 2010 of committing sedition and criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code as well as offences under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act.

The three were also found guilty under the provisions of Prevention of Unlawful Activities Act and sentenced to five years jail term. Mr. Sanyal was also awarded 10 years imprisonment for being member of a terrorist outfit, in violation of the UAP Act.

All three had moved the Chhattisgarh High Court against their conviction and their appeals are still pending there.


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