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26 May 2007

A public meeting organized in Delhi here today demanded the release of Dr Binayak Sen, and Rajinder Sail of PUCL Chhatisgarh, dropping all charges, end to the Salwa Judum and the repeal of Chhatisgarh Special Public (Security) Act 2005 and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.Addressing the well attended meeting organized by PUCL, People's Union for Democratic Rights Delhi, Medico Friends Circle and other groups, many of the speakers referred to the shrinking democratic space in Chhatisgarh and stifling of voices raised against Salwa Judum and against private companies being allowed to freely profit from Chhatisgarh mineral resources. There is a strong link said Ilina Sen between Salwa Judum and the companies being allowed to exploit mineral resources by dispossessing adivasis and forcibly taking up land in the V Schedule area. The attitude of the Chhatisgarh government to any democratic voice is 'You are either with us or against us.'
Harish Dhawan of PUDR spoke about the political context in which Binayak Sen has been arrested. PUCL is among the only groups who have consistently been raising their voice against Salwa Judum and fake encounters of which there have been 155 in the last two years, ie one in every five days on an average in the state. Others including journalists who attempted to report on the situation have been victimized. Rakesh Shukla highlighted the vagueness prevalent in the Chhatisgarh Special Public (Security) Act, UAPA and other extraordinary laws which have for the last 50 years been used against peoples' movements.
Kavita Shrivastva of PUCL also lamented the shrinking of the middle ground, and the attack on something as fundamental as what political opinions people are allowed to read.
Justice Rajinder Sachhar and Y.P Chibber of PUCL and Dr. Satyamala of MFC also addressed the meeting.
Rajinder Sail was to be one of the speakers at the meeting. An old case of contempt of court was unearthed and he has been jailed at the very time when he is active in opposing the arrest of Binayak Sen, one of the serious assaults on the democratic rights in India in recent times.

Nagraj Adve
Secretary, PUDR