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Undertrials across India hang on to hope of freedom

Aug 03, 2007 01:00 AM IST India India

New Delhi: Binayak Sen, pediatrician of repute and General Secretary of the People's Union for Civil Liberties, who has spent 25 years working in the villages of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, is now in judicial custody without bail.
That’s because the police think the doctor is a Maoist though Sen's lawyer insists the police has no evidence against him.
“In the case of Haneef, the Prime Minister went on record saying that he should be treated gently but it’s not happened in this case,” said Sen’s wife Dr Ilina Sen.
In Orissa, its’ a similar fate for Saroj Mohanty. Eminent poet and editor of Anvesha, a literary Oriya magazine, like Sen, Mohanty too worked to protect the rights of tribals in the mineral rich belt of Rayagada who are resisting large corporations.
Mohanty has also been under arrest since July and denied bail. The charge against him is dacoity and trespass.
“It is an undemocratic act of the state apparatus to silence the voice against the so-called development model of the state government,” said Human Rights activist Biswapriya Kanungo.
And in Maharashtra, police detained Sunita Kumari on the suspicion that she was the widow of a Naxalite leader because she was selling books on Bhagat Singh, Marx and Lenin.
Sunita, who is the publisher of Daanish Books was charged under the Unlawful Activities Act. To the police, even her name was suspect.
"The police insisted that I was the widow of a slain Naxalite in Jehanabad who was also called Sunita and refused to believe that I was from Bhagalpur and my husband was alive,” said Sunita.
It seems to be dangerous to sell books that are not even banned. In many instances, suspicion alone is enough, concrete evidence not necessary before curbing people's many freedoms.
While Haneef's plight in faraway Australia drew solidarity noises from the Indian state there is not even a whisper when it comes to violation of civil, political, and human rights of Indians in their own homeland. "We are a young democracy. We are not like Australia or US. I am not saying that the police is 100 per cent right in all cases. But if you know anyone who has been wrongfully detained, we are willing to look into his case,” said Minister of State, Home, Shri Prakash Jaiswal.
There are more than 2,00,000 undertrials lodged in the various jails across the country waiting for their cases to be heard, too poor to afford lawyers or bail bonds.