Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why are Kartam Joga, Kopa Kunjam and Binayak Sen in Jail?

Human Rights, Sedition and State Repression in India
or, why are Kartam Joga, Kopa Kunjam and Binayak Sen in Jail?

January 18, 2011, 6:30-8:00 PM
Room 5409, CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue
RSVP: PSampat@gc.cuny.edu, dwai@nyu.edu

Somnath Mukherji (Activist, Free Binayak Sen Campaign)
Peter Rosenblum (Professor of Human Rights Law, School of Law, Columbia University)
Meenakshi Ganguly (South Asia Director, Human Rights Watch)
Panel Discussion moderated by Vasuki Nesiah, Associate Professor, NYU

Who are Joga, Kunjam and Sen?

On December 24th 2010, a sessions court in Raipur, Chhattisgarh state in India convicted Dr. Binayak Sen, a medical doctor working for indigenous people for nearly 30 years and a renowned civil liberties activist. Dr. Sen was convicted under the IPC, the draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Along with two others (alleged Maoist leader Narayan Sanyal and businessman Piyush Gupta), Dr. Sen was sentenced to life imprisonment for 'sedition and conspiracy against the Indian state.' Dr. Sen has been challenging human rights abuses in the state and the state sponsored vigilante group - Salwa Judum. He was earlier arrested in 2007 and granted bail after two years. In 2007 Kartam Joga participated in petitioning India’s Supreme Court regarding human rights violations in Chhattisgarh and impunity for security forces and Salwa Judum. Kartam has been in Dantewada district jail since September 2010. Like Dr. Sen, Kartam’s conviction is under the draconian CSPSA and UAPA acts. Kopa Kunjam is an adivasi youth leader working with Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (a Gandhian organization) for justice and democratic rights in the tribal villages of Dantwada and Bijapur in Chahttisgarh.

In recent years, he had been helping people defend their rights against abuses by state, police and Salwa Judum. Framed under murder charges, Kopa was arrested on 10th Dec 2009. In 2005, the Salwa Judum movement was started with state support in Chhattisgarh to oppose the Naxalites. With state backing, the Salwa Judum began committing serious human rights abuses, including killings, beatings of critics, burning of villages, and forced relocation of villagers into government camps. As a prominent leader of the

human rights group Peopleʼs Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Sen called for an end to Salwa Judum abuses. He also opposed the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, criticized human rights violations such as torture, extrajudicial killings and campaigned for improvements in prison conditions.

- Human Rights Watch Statement

Peter Rosenblum, Clinical Professor of Human Rights Law, Columbia Law School, served as the Associate Director of the Human Rights Program at the Harvard Law School, before joining Columbia University. He has had a wide range of experience outside academia, including Human Rights Officer with the Geneva-based precursor to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Program

Director of the International Human Rights Law Group, and Researcher for both Human Rights Watch and the Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights.

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director, Human Rights Watch, has investigated a broad range of issues from police reform to discrimination against marginalized groups, and has researched abuses surrounding the sectarian riots in Gujarat, the lack of justice in Punjab, issues of religious freedom, the failure t o p r o t e c t I n d i a ' s vulnerable communities--including those affected by the Maoist conflict, and abuses related to the fighting in the states of Manipur and Jammu & Kashmir. She has also advocated a human rights approach to India's foreign policy particularly on countries like Burma.

Somnath Mukherji, from the Free Binayak Sen Campaign, has been a volunteer with Association for Indiaʼs Development for 8 years working with grassroots groups in India, on various developmental issues. He is also associated with the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal and other campaigns within AID. He works closely with people in the Sunderbans on agriculture, Aila rehabilitation and other issues. Somnath has been involved with the International campaign working for the release of Dr. Binayak Sen since early 2008. He is based in Boston and spends some time every year working with grassroots groups in India.

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