News from the Campaign to free Binayak Sen and others

January 29, 2011

Press Release- Assault and detention of peaceful demonstrators in Mumbai

February 11, 2011

The Committee for the Release of Binayak Sen, Mumbai unequivocally condemns the brutal and undemocratic police action against students and human rights activists holding a peaceful demonstration at Churchgate, and sitting in a collective at The Oval Maidan, Churchgate.

The demonstration was against the manifestly unjust decision of the Chhattisgarh High Court prolonging the incarceration of Dr. Binayak Sen, an internationally reknowned physician facing the persecution of the State, because he spoke up for the oppressed and Adivasis.

Daniel Mazgaonkar, a septuagenarian Gandhian activist, along with others- mostly college professors and students, were jostled and dragged away to Azad Maidan police station.

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, a lawyer and human rights activist, was brutally assaulted by the police and dragged to Colaba Police Station, along with student bystanders who protested against such high-handedness. Her crime – standing at Kala Ghoda silently with a poster proclaiming peace and justice!

If, in a “democracy”, the law and its guardians act with such impunity in throttling every voice of public dissent, then very “democracy” and civil liberties and human rights are in grave peril.

Committee For Release of Binayak Sen, Mumbai

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Forty Nobel laureates in support of Binayak Sen

Following the lead of Prof. Amartya Sen, India’s only living Nobel laureate, an informal group of 40 other Nobel laureates from twelve different countries has raised their powerful voices on behalf Dr. Binayak Sen whom they refer to as “an exceptional, courageous and selfless colleague, dedicated to helping those in India who are least able to help themselves”. (See attachment communicated to us by the facilitator of this group.) The Appeal spells out how one of them personally verified the facts about the Binayak Sen case, visiting the place of Sen’s work, and meeting government officials and Sen himself in prison. With 91 year old French scientist François Jacob (Nobel Prize 1965) as the seniormost laureate among them, this group includes laureates of various years since then down to Dr. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan (2009). They are overhwelmimgly scientists and medical laureates, which itself seems to be a demonstration of the legitimacy of the engagement of scientists and physicians in social and politicalissues, as exemplified by Binayak Sen himself. The group includes Joseph Murray who pioneered kidney transplantation and Samuel Blumberg who discovered the hepatitis B virus and devised both the diagnostic test for and the vaccine against it. They “entreat those leaders to act now, to urge Dr. Sen’s immediate release on bail, and insist that this time his appeal is heard without delay under the highest standards of Indian law.”

On behalf of Free Binayak Campaign, Vellore
P. Zachariah

February 8, 2011

We, the 38* undersigned Nobel Laureates, respectfully express our astonishment and dismay at the unjust life sentence handed down last month in India to a fellow scientist and human rights advocate, 61-year-old Dr. Binayak Sen.

We note that, when Dr. Sen was on trial in 2008 and many of us appealed for his release on bail, a year later the Supreme Court of India concurred with our opinion and ordered his immediate release. Several months after voicing our concern about Dr. Sen’s detention, one of us traveled to Chhattisgarh; met government officials; consulted Dr. Sen’s family, lawyers, and colleagues; visited his remote clinic to learn more about his selfless work with the Adivasis; and, after a few days and many hours spent waiting in the Raipur prison yard, finally met with Dr. Sen himself in the presence of the prison warden.

We have seen that Dr. Sen is an exceptional, courageous, and selfless colleague, dedicated to helping those in India who are least able to help themselves. Yet his recompense has been two years in prison under difficult conditions, a blatantly unfair trial lasting two years in the so-called “Fast Track” Sessions Court, an unjust conviction of sedition and conspiracy, and condemnation to life imprisonment.

We earnestly hope that our renewed appeal is heard. We know that there are leaders in India who have the power, humanity, patriotism, and decency to speak out against this injustice. We entreat those leaders to act now, to urge Dr. Sen’s immediate release on bail, and insist that this time his appeal is heard without delay under the highest standards of Indian law.

Surely, those who would see the largest democracy in the world survive and thrive can do no less at this crucial time for both Dr. Sen and for the future of justice in India.

Respectfully,

Peter Agre, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2003
Kenneth J. Arrow, Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, 1972
Richard Axel, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 2004
David Baltimore, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1975
Martin Chalfie, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2008
Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1997
Robert Curl, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1996
Johann Deisenhofer, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1988
Richard R. Ernst, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1991
Edmond H. Fischer, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1992
Walter Gilbert, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1980
Roy J. Glauber, Nobel Prize in Physics, 2005
Paul Greengard, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 2000
David J. Gross, Nobel Prize in Physics, 2004
Roger Guillemin, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1977
Dudley Herschbach, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1986
Antony Hewish, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1974
H. Robert Horvitz, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 2002
François Jacob, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1965
Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, 2002
Eric R. Kandel, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 2000
Lawrence R. Klein, Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, 1980
Roger D. Kornberg, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2006
Sir Harold W. Kroto, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1996
Finn E. Kydland, Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, 2004
Yuan T. Lee, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1986
Rita Levi-Montalcini, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1986
Roderick MacKinnon, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2003
Sir James Mirrlees, Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, 1996
Joseph E. Murray, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1990
Douglas D. Osheroff, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1996
John C. Polanyi, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1986
V. Ramakrishnan, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2009
Sir Richard Roberts, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1993
Jens C. Skou, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1998
Jack Steinberger, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1988
Sir John Sulston, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 2002
Charles H. Townes, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1964
Klaus von Klitzing, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1985
Torsten N. Wiesel, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1981

*After this appeal was released two additional Nobel Laureates requested to sign it, bringing the total number of signatories to 40 as of 18h EST on Tuesday, February 8. Their names are included above.

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Protest in New York

Documents released by the organizers of the protest –
1. Press Release regarding the New York Protest
2. Cover Letter submitted to the Consul General, New York
3. A Fact-sheet of the case against Binayak Sen and others
4. A Statement from Binayak Sen

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 31, 2011

International Groups mark Global Day of Protest and demand an end to the Criminalizing of Democratic Dissent in India

Supporters in 12 cities- in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.- took to the streets to mark the Global Day of Protest on January 30th demanding the freedom of Dr. Binayak Sen and many other political prisoners, the repealing of draconian laws, and the disbanding of vigilante forces in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh. The coordinated actions- demonstrations, vigils, public meetings, film screenings, public marches, etc. (click here for video) were the result of a call by the Free Binayak Sen coalition, a broad grouping of over 57 civil society groups.

Dr.Ramachandra Guha, a well-known historian from India who has also worked to highlight grave human right violations by the government of Chhattisgarh joined the protest in Harvard Square, Boston, and urged the 50-odd protesters not to lose sight of the many ordinary adivasis (indigenous people) who, like Dr. Sen, are also victims of persecution, and have had their homes burnt or kinsfolk murdered by state-sponsored vigilantes, but in the prevailing atmosphere of intimidation are too terrified to file FIRs or seek justice.

Demonstrations were held in front of the Indian Consulates in New York, San Francisco, Washington DC and London, while in Vancouver, Canada, 80 people marched from the Public Library to the Consulate of India. Panel discussions and public awareness events were held in Amherst, Dallas, Houston and Los Angeles. Supporters in the cities of Seattle and Austin held candle light vigils.

Protesters invoked the names of political activists, leaders of mass movements, human rights activists, journalists such as Ajay T.G., Lachit Bordoloi, Prashant Rahi, Shamim Modi, Abhay Sahoo, Bhukhan Singh, Niyamat Ansari, Govindan Kutty, Vernon Gonsalves, Ashok Reddy, Dhanendra Bhurule, Naresh Bansode, Kopa Kunjam, Sukhnath Oyami, Kartam Joga, Asit Sengupta, Sudhir Dhawale, KK Shahina, etc., some who have been charged under UAPA/CSPSA, some that have been denied bail for long periods, and often without any charges being filed; and some who have been convicted after deeply flawed judicial processes, such as Piyush Guha and Narayan Sanyal .

For Indian supporters of Dr. Sen, his case raises larger questions about the state’s punitive targeting of individuals (through the use of repressive legislation or extrajudicial killings, AKA “encounters”) and communities (through military offensives such as Operation Greenhunt) in response to their dissent against its vision of neoliberal development. As Dr. Manan Ganguli, who participated in protest actions in London, said, “there is a crisis in India today. Binayak’s conviction is just one example of it”.

The Coalition has worked since 2007 to highlight the increasing assault on civil liberties in India in the name of national security, and the use of repressive laws to target human rights defenders and journalists for speaking out about injustice and exploitation. The case of Dr. Binayak Sen, in particular, has captured the imagination of people worldwide and he has now become a highly visible symbol of a wider resistance to the political economy of resource extraction which in India has brutalized indigenous communities, and has subjected them to forced displacement, poverty and violence.

Dr. Binayak Sen is a renowned pediatrician, public health specialist and the national Vice-President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) with a lifelong commitment to the issues of community health and human rights. He was arrested in May 2007 on fabricated charges of sedition, and joined dozens of other human rights activists in Indian jails who have been arrested under draconian laws including the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA, a federal-level law), the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA, a state-level law) as well as other repressive legislation such as the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), Sedition laws, etc. which allow the State to bypass legally mandated due process, and are inconsistent with constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Dr. Sen earned the ire of the government for opposing Salwa Judum, a private militia movement armed by the Government to combat ‘Maoist insurgency’. Salwa Judum, and its current avatar, the Ma Danteshwari Swabhimani Adivasi Manch have unleashed a reign of terror in Chhattisgarh that has resulted in the displacement of at least 300,000 adivasis. Many human rights groups and independent citizen’s groups such as the Asian Center for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, and India’s National Human Rights Commission have documented these atrocities, and have called for an end to such privatized forms of state violence. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, has publicly expressed concern over the shrinking space for civil society in India, and about the “…branding and stigmatization of human rights defenders, labeled as ‘naxalites (Maoists)’, ‘terrorists’, ‘militants’, ‘insurgents’, or ‘anti-nationalists”.

The internationalization of the Free Binayak Sen campaign since 2008 has worked to highlight similarities between the struggles of marginalized and indigenous communities worldwide and has led to solidarity between seemingly disparate communities. At the rally in Vancouver, Canada, Ashley Zarbatany from the Social Justice Center at the University of British Columbia drew parallels between Dr. Sen and other icons of resistance such as Ken Saro Wiwa from the Niger Delta and environmental activist grandma Betty, “…who have become iconographic of the willingness to stand up against exploitation of the land and of human rights despite what it may cost them”. In Boston, Sergio Rios from the ‘Boston May Day Committee’, who survived three years of incarceration under the Chilean dictator General Pinochet claimed Dr. Sen as an inspiration for everyone worldwide that is “…struggling to speak, to organize, to defend, and to help”.

Media Contacts:

Anu Mandavilli amandavilli@yahoo.com ; 408-480-5805

Somnath Mukherji mukherji.somnath@gmail.com ; 732-423-6662

Videos :

AustinBostonLondonLos AngelesNew YorkSan FranciscoVancouverWashington DC

Photos :

AustinAmherstBostonDallasHoustonLondonLos AngelesNew YorkSan Francisco,

SeattleVancouverWashington DC

 

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Kolkata protest – January 30

30th January is being held as the international day of protest against the conviction and life imprisonment of Binayak Sen, Pijush Guha and Narayan Sanyal. The protest will also raise voice against victimization of activists and common people by Operation Green Hunt. The following events have been scheduled –

1 pm Rally and march from College Square to Metro Channel. Organized by different organizations

4 pm Rally in Kolkata Book Fair. Starts from little magazine pavilion and ends at UBI auditorium. Organized by Operation Green Hunt Virodhi Nagarik Andolan. Followed by a lecture by Himanshu Kumar at the UBI auditorium organized by Ekhan Bishambad.

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“FREE BINAYAK SEN AND REPEAL DRACONIAN LAWS!”INTERNATIONAL COALITION DEMANDS IMMEDIATE RELEASE OF JAILED INDIAN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERSolidarity Actions Planned in 12 North American Cities

WHEN: Sunday, Jan 30th, 2011

WHERE: In cities across the US, Canada and Europe

WHAT: Global Day of Protest Against Repression of Human Rights Activists in India

A broad coalition of 55 civil society groups from the U.S., U.K., and Canada are coming together to demand the immediate release of the jailed human rights activist, Dr. Binayak Sen, who was sentenced to life in prison by a sessions court in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh. The coalition demands the repeal of draconian laws which give arbitrary power to the state and infringe on the fundamental rights of free speech, as well as the disbanding of state-backed vigilante groups in Chhattisgarh. Public events will be held in 11 North American cities between 26-30 January 2011.

The coalition consists of civil rights groups such as the Asian Law Alliance, health rights groups such as the People’s Health Movement, anti-war groups such as the ANSWER Coalition and the Boston Mobilization, student groups from Harvard and Berkeley, women’s rights groups such as the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, local peace and justice groups from a number of cities, as well as a large number of South Asian immigrant groups based in U.S., U.K. and Canada. (A complete listing of groups is available below). Over 10,000 signatures from individuals around the world have been collected on petitions asking for the release of Dr. Sen.

Dr Binayak Sen is a renowned pediatrician, public health specialist and the national Vice-President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties in India. An activist with a lifelong commitment to community health and human rights, Dr. Sen was awarded the Jonathan Mann Award by Global Health Council in 2008. Dr. Sen earned the ire of the government for opposing Salwa Judum, a private militia movement armed by the Government to combat ‘Maoist insurgency’. Salwa Judum has led to a spiraling increase in violence and has displaced over 100,000 indigenous people over the last 5 years. He was arrested in May 2007 on fabricated charges of sedition, joining dozens of other human rights activists in Indian jails who were also arrested under draconian laws. Even the flimsy evidence of a purported letter that Dr. Sen had allegedly helped carry, and on the basis of which he was convicted, is widely believed to have been planted by the police.

Internationally acclaimed intellectuals including Noam Chomsky, Amartya Sen, Arundhati Roy, and George Galloway have all joined in urging the Indian government to free Binayak Sen and to stop the harassment of human rights activists. Amnesty International slammed the verdict, calling it a ‘mockery of justice’. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, has publicly expressed concern over the situation and the shrinking space for civil society in India. “I am deeply concerned about the branding and stigmatization of human rights defenders, labeled as ‘naxalites (Maoists)’, ‘terrorists’, ‘militants’, ‘insurgents’, or ‘anti-nationalists” Ms. Sekaggya said.

January 30th is the anniversary of the assassination of Gandhi. Several groups across India, North America, and Europe will hold solidarity actions including public demonstrations, vigils, and panel discussions to voice their opposition to the brutal suppression of peaceful democratic dissent currently underway in India. Coordinated actions are planned in 12 cities including Washington DC, New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Austin, Dallas, Boston, Amherst, and Seattle in the US; Vancouver in Canada; and London in the UK. Details of individual events are available at www.freebinayaksen.org

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For more information, visit www.freebinayaksen.org

Free Binayak Sen Coalition – Endorsing Organizations:
Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia, MIT (www.alliancesouthasia.org)
Alliance of South Asians Taking Action, San Francisco (www.asata.org)
A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, Act Now to Stop War and End Racism – San Francisco (www.answersf.org)
Asian Law Alliance (www.asianlawalliance.org)
Association for India’s Development (www.aidindia.org)
Association of South Asian Political Activists (ASAPA), Berkeley, (http://asapa.berkeley.edu)
Action for a Progressive Pakistan
Boston Coalition for Justice in Bhopal (www.boston4bhopal.org)
Boston Mobilization (www.bostonmobilization.org)
Birmingham Anti-SEZ Campaign, UK
Campaign against Forced Displacement, UK (http://www.ilpsweb.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=79)
Campaign to Stop Funding Hate: CSFH (www.stopfundinghate.org)
CMC Vellore Alumni Association – UK Branch
Culture and Conflict Forum
DEEP – Defenders of the Environment and Ecology of Panjab, UK
Dharma Megha, East Lansing, Michigan
Friends of South Asia: FOSA (www.friendsofsouthasia.org)
Gadar Heritage Foundation, Fremont (http://gadar.homestead.com)
Hillingdon Asian Women’s Communication Service, UK (www.hillingdonwomenscentre.org.uk)
India Foundation, East Lansing, Michigan
Indian Muslim Council, USA (www.imc-usa.org)
Indian Workers Association (GB)
India Relief and Education Fund, Fremont (http://iref.homestead.com)
International Accountability Project (http://www.accountabilityproject.org)
International League of People’s Struggles, UK (www.ilps-web.com)
International Service Society, Okemos, Michigan
International South Asia Forum: INSAF, NYC (www.insaf.net)
Massachusetts Global Action (www.MassGlobalAction.org)
Matahari: Eye of the Day (www.eyeoftheday.org)
National Lawyers’ Guild
Our Developing World (http://www.magiclink.net/~odw)
Pakistan Solidarity Network
Peace and Human Rights Trust: UK
Peninsula Peace & Justice Center (www.peaceandjustice.org)
Peoples Health Movement, USA (www.phmovement.org/cms)
SAMAR
Sanhati (www.sanhati.com)
San Jose Peace & Justice Center (www.sanjosepeace.org)
SAPAC: South Asian Progressive Action Collective, Chicago (sapac.org)
SANSAD (South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy), Vancouver, Canada (http://sansad.org/Sansad)
Seva International, Okemos, Michigan
Sikh American Heritage Organization
South Asian Alliance, UK: (www.southasianalliance.org)
South Asians Stepping in Solidarity, Harvard: SASS
South Asia Solidarity Group, UK: (www.southasiasolidarity.org)
South Asia Solidarity Initiative
South Bay Mobilization
Students for Bhopal (www.studentsforbhopal.org)
The 1857 Committee (http://1857.org.uk)
Vaishnava Center for Enlightenment, Okemos, Michigan
Vedanta Society of East Lansing, Michigan
Western States Legal Foundation (WSLF) (www.wslfweb.org)
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – San Jose (http://www.wilpf.org/US_WILPF)

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Artists write to Manmohan Singh: Free Dr. Binayak Sen

Dear Shri Manmohan Singh:

We, the undersigned, wish to express our deep concern at the victimisation and unjust imprisonment of well-known humanitarian and human rights defender Dr Binayak Sen, in Chhattisgarh.

Both the charge of “sedition and conspiracy” and the verdict, on 24 December 2010 given by a Sessions Court in Raipur, sentencing Dr Sen to life imprisonment for are unfair, too extreme and undermines the credibility of our police and judiciary. While we understand that Dr Sen has the right to appeal to a superior court we are afraid the long drawn out judicial process itself has become a punishment on its own for this good doctor.

To arrest a citizen of India on false charges and deliberately subject him to years of custody and legal wrangles is to make a mockery of the very idea of justice and democracy in the country.

Dr Binayak Sen, it appears, is simply being harassed in a vindictive manner by the Chhattisgarh government to “teach a lesson” to all human rights activists everywhere. We appeal to you to intervene in the case, press for a judicial review of the verdict and urgently undo the injustice being done to Dr Binayak Sen, who has spent over three decades serving the poor in remote parts of Chhattisgarh.

We also urge your government to completely scrap the law on sedition, a hangover from the British colonial period, as it is has no place in any independent and democratic country.

Sd.-

SharmilaTagore, Naseeruddin Shah, Aparna Sen, Mahesh Bhatt, Girish Karnad, Rahul Bose, Ratna Pathak Shah, Imaad Shah, GautamGhose, Ashok Vajpeyi, M.K.Raina, Gauhar Raza, Anand Patwardhan, Rukmini Bhaya Nair, Ranjit Hoskote, Jerry Pinto, Pankaj Mishra, Murtaza Danish Husain

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To All the Supporters of Dr. Binayak Sen
by Ilina Sen

Dear Friends,

As we celebrate 61 years of India becoming a Socialist Democratic Republic we are shocked to witness that the spirit of our Constitution stands violated every so often today, sacrificing people’s democratic rights and throttling the socialist dream of our Constitution makers.

Speaking out against the conviction and incarceration of Dr. Binayak Sen’s case has to be seen in that larger context of lending our voice against the gross injustice that we witness as a daily happening in India day after day.

Today when we demand his release we must also raise our voice against all those who remain hungry, malnourished, and without secure means of livelihood, as well as those who have been dispossessed, killed, tortured, humiliated, disappeared, threatened, arbitrarily detained and arrested, falsely charged and under surveillance because of their legitimate work in upholding democratic rights and fundamental freedoms. In the last two days I too have been a victim of this in Wardha, Maharashtra (Central India) where I teach.

Dr. Binayak Sen has completed more than a month in this leg of his imprisonment. The hearing for the suspension of his sentence continues. It is not a testing time for us alone but more for our political and judicial systems, which are on trial for accountability, rationality, justice and equity.

Finally, I would like to thank all of you for holding our hands in this period of suffering and anguish faced by me, Binayak’s mother, daughters, brothers and all his friends.

I would like to end with a verse of Faiz.

bol ke lab aazaad haiN tere
bol zabaaN ab tak terii hai
teraa sutvaaN jism hai teraa
bol ke jaaN ab tak terii hai

dekh ke aahaNgar kii dukaaN meN
tuNd haiN shole surKh hai aahan
khulne lage qufloN ke dahaane
phailaa har ek zanjiir kaa daaman

bol ye thoRaa vaqt bahut hai
jism-o-zubaaN kii maut se pahle
bol ke sach ziNdaa hai ab tak
bol jo kuch kehnaa hai keh le

English translation:

Speak up, while your lips (thoughts) are (still) free
speak up, (while) your tongue is still yours
Speak, for your strong body is your own
speak, (while) your soul is still yours

Look at the blacksmith’s shop
hot flames makes the iron red hot
opening the (jaws of) locks
every chain opens up and begins to break

Speak, for this brief time is long enough
before your body and words die
speak, for the truth still prevails
speak up, say what you must.

WE WILL BE VINDICATED!!!

Prof. Ilina Sen,
Mahatma Gandhi Antarashtriya
Hindi Vishwavidyalay,
Wardha,
Maharashtra