Poems were read, songs were sung and emotions ran high as eminent artistes from across the country converged here on Saturday to demand justice for jailed rights activist Binayak Sen.

Noted artistes, including filmmaker Aparna Sen, actress Sharmila Tagore, theatre actor M K Raina and poet Ashok Vajpayi, gathered at the Jantar Mantar and demanded Sen’s immediate release, alleging that he was being “persecuted” by the system.

Binayak Sen’s brother Dipankar Sen and artistes like Rabbi Shergill and Sushmit Bose were also present.

“If I do not express solidarity with Sen, I will not be fullfilling my responsibility as a citizen of the world’s largest democracy. Injustice has been done,” said noted filmmaker Aparna Sen.

“To limit the freedom and to curtail it and to suppress it… all these work against the basic principles of democracy,” said Raina.

“It (Binayak’s conviction) is part of a consolidated attempt to silence all dissent and I feel it is dangerous if you silence dissent in a democracy. The essence of democracy is debate. We will continue to protest until Dr Binayak Sen receives justice,” he added.

A noted paediatrician and a rights activist, Sen was recently convicted by a Raipur court for sedition and sentenced to life imprisonment for colluding with Maoists to establish a network to fight the state.

Besides expressing solidarity with Sen, the artists also discussed the “injustice” meted out to the backward caste girl who was allegedly raped by a BSP MLA in Banda and later arrested on theft charges.

“Injustice has been done...There’s just one thing I’d like to say to the Indian government and the judiciary- listen to the more muffled voices, listen to the weaker voices,… this is where reality lies,” said eminent Hindi poet and critic Ashok Vajpayi.

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