Jailed doctor-activist Binayak Sen gets US-based award

April 22nd, 2008 - 5:09 pm ICT by admin  

Vellore (Tamil Nadu), April 22 (IANS) Indian physician and rights activist Binayak Sen - who is behind bars in Chhattisgarh for alleged links with Maoists - has been awarded the prestigious Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights. The Washington-based Global Health Council Monday awarded the 2008 award to Sen, who was arrested in May last year. He is vice president of the human rights body People’s Union for Civil Liberties and is known for his work among tribals.

Sen is an alumnus of the Vellore Christian Medical College of Tamil Nadu that forwarded a copy of the award announcement to IANS.

“Sen’s accomplishments speak volumes about what can be achieved in very poor areas when health practitioners are also committed community leaders,” said Nils Daulaire, president of the Global Health Council, announcing the award.

“His good works need to be recognised as a major contribution to India and to global health; they are certainly not a threat to state security,” the Global Health Council said in its citation.

The 58-year-old paediatrician was selected by an international jury of public health professionals for this prestigious award “because of his years of service to poor and tribal communities in India, his effective leadership in establishing self-sustaining healthcare services where none existed, and his unwavering commitment to civil liberties and human rights”.

The Global Health Council and several prominent global health organisations have issued a statement of support for Sen, requesting that the Indian authorities “assure the restoration of due process, and find the means to allow the doctor to receive his award in person in Washington, DC May 29, 2008, at the 35th Annual International Conference on Global Health”.

“Sen is a great believer in the rule of law and has great faith in the democratic process,” journalist and rights activist Garimella Subramaniam, who met him in August in jail, told IANS here.

“At the time, he was full of ideas about the larger campaign against various authoritarian anti-terror state laws that are used by governments to muzzle dissent”.

“He also noted how the media is completely sold on the side of these anti-terror laws and spoke about how in Chattisgarh, the media does not reflect the voices of democracy,” Subramaniam said.

The Global Health Council is the world’s largest membership alliance, dedicated to saving lives by improving health throughout the world. The Council serves and represents public health organisations and professionals working in more than 140 countries on six continents.

Sen and his wife, Ilina, are the founders of Rupantar, a community-based NGO that has trained, deployed and monitored the work of community health workers.

Sen and the PUCL had helped draw attention to the unlawful killings - on March 31, 2007 - of several adivasis (tribal people) in Santoshpur, Chhattisgarh. Upon orders from the State Human Rights Commission, bodies of the victims were exhumed from a mass grave in the week immediately preceding Sen’s arrest.

Sen has been an outspoken critic of crimes committed by the state-backed Salwa Judum, an armed civilian force created to fight Maoists in Chhattisgarh.

Sen was detained under provisions of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2006 (CSPSA), and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, (1967).

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