The Campaign for Survival and Dignity, a federation of tribals and forest dwellers' organisations from eleven States, condemns in the strongest possible terms the arrest of Dr. Binayak Sen, the General Secretary of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (Chattisgarh), and the threats being made regarding arresting Gautam Bandhopadhyay, Rashmi Dwivedi and other rights activists in the State. This is not merely an effort to cover up the crimes the State government has committed in the name of suppressing the Maoists. These developments are also part of a much larger agenda, driven by the Chattisgarh government's close links to large corporations and international capital and aimed at ruthlessly suppressing any resistance to the forcible seizure of people's lands and resources.

Dr. Binayak Sen is known throughout the country for his work on health issues and human rights. He, along with his colleagues in the PUCL and other courageous activists, has been among the few in the State who have been speaking out against the ruthless repression unleashed by the Chattisgarh government. His arrest on Monday, May 14th, was based on the draconian Chattisgarh Public Security Act, which permits detention without trial for extended periods and criminalises even peaceful dissent. There are considerable fears for his safety and his right to a fair trial.

The arrest was soon followed by public statements by the Superintendent of Police and press reports stating that Gautam Bandhopadhyay, Rashmi Dwivedi and other rights activists will be the next to be charged under the Act. Bandhopadhyay and Dwivedi are also members of the People's Union for Civil Liberties and are known for their deep involvement in the struggle for land and forest rights. By targeting Dr. Sen, Bandhopadhyay and Dwivedi, the Chattisgarh government has exposed its ultimate agenda – the brutal repression of all democratic, peaceful organisations fighting for people's rights.

None of this is unfamiliar in the context of Chattisgarh. For two years now we have seen a state-sponsored reign of terror in Dantewara - the so-called "Salwa Judum movement." In many parts of the State, people are being forcibly evicted or relocated from their homes in forest and protected areas, in total violation of the recently passed Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. People fighting to prevent their land from being acquired for the Tatas or the Essars find their villages surrounded by armed police. Behind these moves is a clear corporate agenda of seizing land and mineral resources by driving people from their homes and jailing – or killing - those who refuse. Targeting dissent is a natural part of this exercise. Using Maoist activity as an excuse, the State government intends to eliminate all protest.

Concocted pretexts and false claims of "encouraging violence" against personalities like Dr. Binayak Sen are so ludicrous as to be laughable. This cannot be allowed to continue. All those who believe in democracy in this country have an obligation to stand against the Chattisgarh government, and to demand the following:

On behalf of the Convening Collective