New Delhi: Intellectuals and activists, including Noam Chomsky and Arundhati Roy, on Monday stepped up protests against the "shocking" imprisonment of rights activist Binayak Sen and demanded immediate hearing of his appeal after granting him bail.
Sen`s supporters has also started an online campaign for his release by posting an petition on the Internet seeking his release which will be sent to President Pratibha Patil.
Nearly 4,000 people have signed the petition, so far.
While Chomsky and 81 other intellectuals issued a statement, Roy and religious leader Swami Agnivesh joined students, teachers and activists at a protest meet to deplore the sentence awarded to Sen on charges of sedition.
In the statement, the intellectuals demanded that his appeal should be heard "expeditiously" with "enlightened reason".
Sen never resorted to violence or incited anyone else to resort to violence and on the contrary, as a doctor and a human rights activist he stood up in defence of the rights of down trodden, they said.
"Yet he has been handed down this sentence whose savagery is unbelievable," the statement signed among others by Romila Thapar, Prabhat Patnaik, Ashok Mitra and Mushirul Hasan said.
Noting that such an impression must be avoided, they said, the damage done by this "shocking" verdict must be undone and the higher judiciary must grant him immediate bail till the end of the appeal.
Sen, Naxal ideologue Narayan Sanyal and Kolkata-based businessman Piyush Guha were sentenced to life imprisonment last Friday for sedition and colluding with Maoists to establish a network to fight the state.
At the protest organised at Jantar Mantar, Roy said there was "hardly any connection" between the judgement that was given on Sen, Guha and Sanyal and the evidence that was produced in the court.
"The two seem to be completely on separate tracks," she said and identified Sen as a "symbol" of something "terrible thats happening". "His life and work had already been destroyed," Roy said.
Describing Sen as a "dedicated soul," Agnivesh said the case has shaken everyone. "If you are charging Sen with sedition, then slap the same charge against me also. I am with him," he said.
The All India Milli Council also came in support of Sen with its General Secretary Mohammed Manzoor Alam saying that his case could be the "beginning of the degeneration of our democracy into a police state".
The online petition claimed that the charges against Sen have not been corroborated by any of the witnesses or evidence produced in court so far. "On the contrary there have been numerous instances of the prosecution resorting to use of fabricated documents and contradictory testimonies to press its case," it noted.