Protest rallies and 'jail bharo' agitations were launched in cities across the country on Sunday to demand the immediate release of medical practitioner and tribal rights activist Dr Binayak Sen, convicted on charges of sedition and awarded a life sentence by the Raipur sessions court in Chattisgarh state.
In the West Bengal capital Kolkata, a protest rally was joined by Sen's 84-year-old mother Anasuya. ''This fight is not for or against an individual - it is against injustice. Laws like Section 124(a) of the Indian Penal Code (which deals with sedition) have no place in a free country. What else can one call it but anarchy, when the state convicts for sedition a person who has worked for its people for 30 years. I only want to say to those who have knowingly done this injustice that this will not continue in our country.''
She joined the rally because she wanted to prove that she could fight as a mother, so that no prison could hold back any son illegally, she added.
She had come to the rally all the way from her home in Kalyani in Nadia district to participate in the rally, organised by various rights organisations that observed 30 January as international protest day.
She said that if the need arose, she would also go to Delhi to press for her demand to release her son. ''I hope that he will be released soon and will be able to get back to his work with his head held high,'' Anasuya Sen said.
Oddly enough, the protests were more marked in the smaller, so called tier II cities than in the metros. In Baroda (Gujarat), university teachers, intellectuals, artists and activists assembled from all across the state to take part in a protest rally. The People's Union for Civil Liberties, which organised the rally, called for scrapping of the sedition act, terming it as archaic.