Ostrich Syndrome!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Verdict on Binayak Sen: Protest to show we are alive

Dr. Binayak Sen’s life sentence by a lower Raipur Court couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. The New Year is beginning. The Indian economy is projected to grow at a rate of 8%. The real estate prices in the country are booming to an all time high. Indian stake at symbols of power like the permanent UN Security Council seat appears more justified than ever before. The nuclear deal, the memorandums of understanding, the new dams, special economic zones….every block is falling in place. It seems India Inc has arrived at the party. But unfortunately every party has the so called party-spoilers, who create ruckus to dampen the spirit of fun and festivity. It is the prime duty of the party host to keep such nuisances at bay.
Dr Binayak Sen has emerged as one of the most prominent spoiler for this celebration of neo-liberal loot and pilferage. His work in the tribal areas of Chattisgarh has been treated as an act of sedition by a judiciary which stinks of grubby political bias. He and two others have been sentenced for rigorous life imprisonment and shorter prison terms, to run concurrently under Sections 124A read with Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code, Sections 8(1), 8(2), 8(3) and 8(5) of the Chhattisgarh Vishesh Jan Suraksha Adhiniyam, 2005 (Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act) and Section 39(2) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967. It is important to realize that this half baked verdict is a clear message for those who dare to challenge the new order of India Inc…..the order which displaces the local aboriginal population in the name of development, growth and other such illogical jargon of adjectives which are common use by the state machinery. The tribal districts of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Karnataka and Maharasthra are the destination of some US $ 85 bn of promised investments, mostly in steel and iron plants, and mining projects. In Chhattisgarh itself 9,620 acres of land is already under process of acquisition. The juggernaut of development is puffing on all cylinders and anyone who attempts to question the validity, logic and benefits of this capitalist expansion is in serious danger of being eliminated in the name of sedition, Naxalism, Maoism or treason.
The malicious and seriously dangerous agenda of the Chattisgarh government is highlighted in the blatant lacunae within the verdict delivered on Dr Sen by B.P. Verma, the Second Additional District and Sessions Judge of Raipur. For example associating Dr Binayak Sen to the seditious Maoist cause is based on an important testimony given by Deepak Chaubey, the so called landlord who rented his accommodation to the Maoist leader Narayan Sanyal on the recommendation of Dr Sen. This assertion of Chaubey came on direct questioning by the Public Prosecutor, a fact overlooked by Sh Verma. It was also ignored that Chaubey was acting on duress of the police who threatened to implicate him in the case. Reading the 92 page judgement it can also be concluded that Judge Verma has based Dr Sen’s implication with the CPI Maoists largely on police hearsay and planted evidence. He has conveniently overlooked the thirty odd years of selfless service by Dr Sen not only as a reputed doctor but as a human right activist.
It is high time that the civil society of our country wakes up to the nefarious agenda of development and the concomitant “collateral damage” in its wake. Courageous people like Dr. Binayak Sen who send ripples of hope in vast masses of humanity, need to be defended at all costs. Our Hon. Home Minister has said that this verdict might be unsatisfactory for some people (italics are mine). It’s laughable to hear this from a Harvard educated lawyer, even if the statement was made under executive compulsions. Judicial verdicts can never be satisfactory or unsatisfactory; they are either just or unjust. And why some people? Probably because the state wants to undermine the numbers of those who are hungry, poor and deprived?
In a country which ignores hunger deaths, genocide criminals, millions of malnourished children (more than Sub Saharan Africa) and a defunct political class, people like Dr Binayak Sen are the only hope and a selfish state has no right to take these symbols of hope from us. Scream, shout, protest and wriggle out of the iron grip of injustice. As common people we need to show signs of life…..we have been dead long enough. Remonstration and disapproval of this injustice is the way ahead. I am reminded of a saying by the Romanian American Nobel Peace Laureate, Elie Weisel, he said “there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”