“Damage done by this shocking verdict to our constitutional order must be undone”

Public outrage at the sentencing of physician and rights activist Binayak Sen continued on Tuesday, with philosopher Noam Chomsky, historian Romila Thapar and 80 others, including leading academics, writers and journalists, signing a joint statement condemning the “unbelievable savagery” of the sentence.

Urging his immediate release as well as the early hearing of his appeal “with enlightened reason” by the higher judiciary, the statement said: “The damage done by this shocking verdict to our Constitutional order must be undone.”

The statement expressed shock that Dr. Sen should have been held guilty of sedition and sentenced to life.

It said:

“Dr. Sen never resorted to violence against any other person, never incited anyone else to resort to violence, never entered into any conspiracy against the constitutional order of the country, and never entered into regular service of any organisation that was involved in any such conspiracy, for furthering its cause. On the contrary, as a doctor he served the people with devotion and helped to save many lives; as a human rights activist he stood up in defence of the rights of the downtrodden. And yet he has been handed down this sentence whose savagery is unbelievable.

“Such an action on the part of the State in the name of preserving the constitutional order will only serve to undermine that constitutional order itself. It will inevitably raise the thought in the minds of many that an order within which the activities of a person like Dr. Sen can be held to be ‘seditious' is not worth defending.

“Such an impression must be avoided. The damage done by this shocking verdict to our constitutional order must be undone. The higher judiciary of the country must hear his appeal expeditiously, must grant him immediate bail till the end of the appeal process, and must judge his case with enlightened reason.”

The other signatories of the statement include writer Gita Hariharan; member of the National Advisory Council Harsh Mander; Prabhat Patnaik, Utsa Patnaik, Jayati Ghosh, C.P. Chandrasekhar, Kamal Chenoy, Anuradha Chenoy, Nivedita Menon, Tanika Sarkar and Neeladri Bhattacharya (all from the Jawaharlal Nehru University); Nandini Sundar, Chitra Joshi, Achin Vanaik, Alok Rai and Partho Datta (all from the Delhi University); Malini Bhattacharya and Mihir Bhattacharya, from the Jadavpur University; lawyer Prashant Bhushan; director of National Archives of India Mushirul Hasan; the former Finance Minister of West Bengal, Ashok Mitra; Muchkund Dubey, former Foreign Secretary and Ambassador; educationists Sasi Kumar and Vinod Raina; and Tata Institute of Social Sciences T. Jayaraman.

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