Shoma Sen, Professor and former Chair of the English Department of Nagpur University was arrested on June 6, 2018 for protesting police violence in Maharashtra province in India. On January 1, 2018 there was a commemoration for the 200th anniversary of a battle in which the Dalits (lowest caste) helped the British East India Company defeat the local ruling army. That Commemoration caused conflict between the Dalit and their allies and right-wing Hindu nationalists. Riots ensued. Initially, two Hindu nationalists were arrested and charged with incitement. But now, five months later, Professor Chen and four others have been charged as part of an alleged left-wing conspiracy.
CCS has written Rajnath Singh, Minister of Home Affairs requesting clarification of the reasons for the arrest; and requesting that if there is no legitimate criminal charge she be immediately released.
June 14, 2018
Minister of Home Affairs
17 Akbar Road
New Delhi, India 110001
Fax: +91 11 2301 4184
Dear Minister Singh:
The Committee of Concerned Scientists is an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world.
We write to express our concern for our colleague Shoma Sen, a 60-year-old English professor at Nagpur University, and a member of the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights, who was arrested by police from Pune, Maharashtra state on June 6. Four others were arrested on that same day.
The reasons for these detentions have been shifting – from an initial accusation of involvement in violence that broke out at the Bhima Koregoan memorial on January 1 of this year, to a charge of being affiliated with Naxal (Maoist) groups, to, most recently, a charge of plotting an assassination and we understand that the formal charges are to be based on the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
It has also been noted that Professor Sen was involved in a fact-finding effort to look into an April incident in which law enforcement authorities killed 40 people in an April an anti-Naxal operation in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, an investigation that concluded the killings were indiscriminate.
It is clear that this is a complex situation, and we are concerned that the arrest of Professor Sen may be based on her peaceful human rights activities, or political beliefs, not on her involvement in any real criminal activity.
We write to seek clarification as to the reasons for the arrest of our fellow scholar Professor Shoma Sen. If she has not been detained for any legitimate criminal offense, she should be released immediately and unconditionally.
Thank you for your attention to this serious matter, and we look forward to receiving your response.
Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich, Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
H.E. Navtej Sarna
Embassy of India
2107 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: 1 202 939 7000 | Fax: 1 202 265 4351
National Human Rights Commission
Block-C, GPO Complex, INA New Delhi
India, PIN: 110023
Phone: +91 11 2465 1330