Described as India’s most famous political prisoner, Dr. Sen is known as the “physician of the poor.” He spent many years working as a doctor in the rural-tribal areas of Chhattisgarh in central India and reported on unlawful killings of indigenous people by the police and private militias. The region is the site of intensifying conflict between India’s central government and the Maoist Naxalites.
In May of 2007, Dr. Sen was charged under the the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act. The allegations against him ranged from helping the Maoist insurgency, being a member of a terrorist organization, to waging war against the Indian state.
In a statement released after his conviction, Amnesty International called Dr. Sen a “prisoner of conscience.” Asia-Pacific director Sam Zarifi said, quote, “This sentence will seriously intimidate other human rights defenders who would provide a peaceful outlet for the people’s grievances… Amnesty International believes that the charges against Dr. Sen are baseless and politically motivated,” the statement said.
Immediately after the sentencing Friday, Dr. Sen was taken back into custody. He had been free on bail since May of 2009. Earlier this year, Democracy Now!’s Anjali Kamat had a chance to speak with Dr. Sen by telephone while he was out on bail.