Binayak Sen has played mutiple roles over the years; academician, pediatrician, public health specialist, human rights activist and now, according to a Chattisgarh court, a Maoist and a traitor. Here is a brief sketch of his life and works.
--He started his academic career at Christian Medical College, Vellore, doing his MBBS and later on, an M.D in Pediatrics. He then went on to join the the Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, one of India's most prestigious universities, as a faculty member.
-- His next stop was in Hoshangabad district of MP, where he began his commitment to rural health programmes, working in a community based rural health centre focusing on tuberculosis.
-- In the seventies, he joined the Medico Friend Circle, a national organisation of health workers trying to evolve an alternative health system to cater to economically weak sections of rural India.
-- Dr Sen further extended his ambit working with mine workers in Dalli Rajahara. His work included helping the workers set up and sustain a hospital of their own called Shaheed Hospital under the banner of the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha. This was followed by a mission hospital in Tilda where Sen focussed on his specialty; Pediatrics and later, Community Health.
-- In the late eighties he moved to Raipur, developing models of primary health care in Chhattisgarh. Ironically, he was a member of the state advisory committee which pioneered a community based health worker programme across the state called the Mitanin programme. Alongside, he consulted a weekly clinic in a tribal community in Dhamtari district. He also acted as an advisor to the Jan Swasthya Sahyog, a health care organization working on rural low cost models of community health in the Bilaspur district of the state.
-- Dr Sen and his wife, Dr Ilina Sen, then went on to create 'Rupantar', an NGO which trains, deploys and monitors community health workers spread across 20 villages. Rupantar then branched out to cover alcohol abuse, violence against women and food security.
-- While working in Chattisgarh, Dr Sen extended his expertise and dedication to human rights movements, albeit in his own way. He served as the General Secretary of the state Peoples' Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Committee for five years and as Vice President of the National Committee for the three years. His work was vast in scope, covering fake encounters, custodial deaths, hunger deaths, malnutrition, and dysentery.
-- Dr Sen is also responsible for one of the first few voices against Salwa Judum, the state sponsored reactionary peoples movement. His fact finding team, was one of the first few to study and highlight the excesses and dangers posed by the Salwa Judum, instantly bringing him under the state government's scanner.
Recognising his contribution to the field of community health care, Dr Sen has been graced with the following (chronologically)
-- In 2004 Dr Sen was decorated with the Paul Harrison award for a lifetime of service to the rural poor, and award given annually by his alma mater, the Christian Medical College, Vellore.
-- In 2007 he was awarded the RR Keithan Gold Medal by The Indian Academy of Social Sciences (ISSA) for "his outstanding contribution to the advancement of science of Nature-Man-Society and his honest and sincere application for the improvement of quality of life of the poor, the downtrodden and the oppressed people of Chhattisgarh."
-- Surprisingly or maybe not in April, 2008, while he was still incarcerated, the Global Health Council nominated him as the winner of the 2008 Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights.
On May 14, 2007, Dr Sen, was arrested under the provisions of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005, (CSPSA) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. The allegations claimed that he had acted as a courier for a Maoist leader Narayan Sanyal lodged in the Raipur Jail and then absconded. The charges against him were as follow:
b) Criminal Conspiracy
c) Sedition, anti-national activities and making war against the nation
d) Knowingly using the proceeds of terrorism
e) Links with the Maoists