Happy 62nd Birthday Prof. Shoma Sen

This is her third birthday that she will be spending inside a jail. It has been 750 days since her arrest.

A professor and a human rights activist who is being denied bail repeatedly during the deadly #COVID19 pandemic.

United Nations: The UN human rights body has urged nations to release individuals detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners, as the world body stressed the need to take a very close look at incarcerations and reduce overcrowding in prisons to prevent catastrophic rates of COVID-19 infection.

Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said recently in Geneva that some countries have been announcing prisoner releases of varying numbers, including of specific at-risk groups such as pregnant women, people with disabilities, elderly prisoners, those who are sick, minor and low-risk offenders, people nearing the end of their sentences and others who can safely be reintegrated into society.

By using repressive laws like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), Sedition and the National Security Act (NSA), the Government of India is intimidating, harassing and arresting numerous journalists, activists and students. Those arrested are being sent to overcrowded prisons where they are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19. Prison inmates in Indore and Ahmedabad central jail have tested positive for COVID-19.

The professor was arrested in June 2018 for involvement in Elgaar Parishad case

Prof. Shoma Sen, former head of department, English, at the Nagpur University, and one of the accused in the Elgaar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon cases, turned 63 on Saturday. She has been lodged in Byculla jail in Mumbai since February this year, when the case was transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Ms. Sen was in Yerwada jail in Pune since her arrest on June 6, 2018, and this was her third birthday in jail.

Ms. Sen has been a part of Stree Chetna at Nagpur that deals with issues such as violence against women and dowry deaths. She has also been associated with the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights.

Her daughter Koel Sen, who is with her father at Nagpur, told The Hindu, “Due to COVID-19, everyone is with their families and it’s really sad that we are not together. For her, being in confinement is like a double lockdown.”

Ms. Sen’s first bail application was rejected on November 2, 2018, on grounds that there was material linking her involvement in alleged unlawful activities inimical to the country’s security.

On March 31 this year, after the nationwide lockdown was imposed, Ms. Sen’s plea for interim medical bail, as a precaution against COVID-19, was rejected by the special NIA judge D.E. Kothalikar.

Her application said she suffered from multiple ailments including osteoarthritis, glaucoma and high blood pressure which could make her vulnerable to the novel coronavirus.

On July 26, the same court again rejected her interim medical bail on grounds of age and ailments. The court said, “that she is suffering from “some disease” cannot be a ground for her release.”

Soon after her arrest in 2018, the Joint Commissioner of Police (Pune), Ravindra Kadam, had in response to a question from The Hindu said, “I won’t elaborate about the material I have against Dr. Sen. I won’t say anything about the e-mails that I have, but we have definite evidence against her and her involvement in Maoist activities and that she supports Elgaar Parishad. I also have material to prove that she supports a banned organisation.”

Ms. Sen is one of the 12 people accused of delivering inflammatory speeches at the Elgaar Parishad conclave at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which triggered violence at Bhima-Koregaon war memorial the next day.

Koel Sen is a filmmaker. Her mother Shoma Sen was arrested on 6 June, 2018, along with activists Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut, Sudhir Dhawale and Surendra Gadling for their alleged Maoist links.

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