Archive for February, 2011
V.R. Krishna Iyer
Every instance of criticism that seeks to expose a government’s operation against the people and their liberties is not a bid to overthrow it. That is not sedition but a patriotic mission on account of public commitment.
The life sentence imposed on Binayak Sen on a charge of sedition has provoked much vocal, even militant and hostile, public opinion. The judicial verdict is seen widely as being unjust, contrary to the people’s conscience, and as an act of violence to public justice. It has invited severe mass criticism as an outrage.
It is nobody’s case that Dr. Sen can be above the law or that the courts can ignore the evidence on record and rely merely on rumour or reputation or other arbitrary irrelevance. Nobody challenges the obligation and the duty of the court to act only on the evidence before it, but that does not apply to mercy power or privilege beyond the record. There is a clemency jurisdiction that can act on other benign considerations and show compassion beyond the technical ambit of the law in order to do justice. Mercy is nobler than law and it can have priority over law. This is a finer function of public conscience that does not destroy the conviction but deals only with the sentencing. The law remains; so too any guilt.
The court’s decision based on the letter of the law is not undone, but a larger vision and certain sublime considerations prevail. Good things done with admirable motivation ought to be given recognition in giving a fair deal to an accused. Mercy is more than law or narrow judicial justice. This clemency factor is a dialectical operation that not the courts but members of the highest executive, like a President or a Governor, alone can exercise. This special jurisdiction is particularly relevant in Dr. Sen’s case at this stage.
” I AM PROFESSIONLESS, WITH NO CAREER ” SAYS PRANAB Well known actor, director and trainer by the name of Parnab Mukherji who is a shishya of the great Badal Sarkar of Bengal (and the guru of Ojas of Pune) performs one man play of 45 minutes for CRBS as his contribution to the Free Binayak Campaign. The play is about Kalpana Chakma, a Chakma activist of Bangladesh.
Click on the link below:
By Mahtab Alam,
In the last three years, much has been written on Binayak Sen—both positive and negative. While Swapan Dasgupta andKanchan Gupta allege him of being the ‘Bengali Che Guevara, prone to ‘reckless excitability’ and ‘an agent of evangelists’ who used his cover as ‘social worker’ with access to ‘charity’ funds’, Amartya Sen and 22 other Nobel laureates believe that Binayak has been unjustly convicted. But, what one gathers from most of the positive reports, articles and opinion pieces is that Dr. Binayak Sen is a doctor who worked beyond set patterns of medical practice and championed the cause of human rights for the tribals of Chhattisgarh and united Madhya Pradesh.
But, Binayak wasn’t concerned only about the tribals. His concern about religious minorities in India can hardly be underestimated. The very idea of growing a beard is an instructive one. Thanks to Minnie Vaid for writing a book on Binayak, that uncovers many other aspects of his life which are either untold or lesser known.
Let me cite some incidents from his life narrated in Minnie Vaid’s book, “A Doctor to Defend—the Binayak Sen Story”. Binayak Sen was travelling in a second class compartment in a train to Purulia in 1993 along with his friend Dr. Yogesh Jain, when someone came and asked him, ‘Maualana ji, kya time hua hai?’ It might sound funny but his growing a beard like a Maulana’s was a well thought out act as Dr. Yogesh tells. Dr. Yogesh tells the author that when he asked Binayak why he had grown a beard, Binayak replied, “…(I) wanted to see what it means to be insecure, to know how it feels to be a minority in one’s own country”.
Agrotosh Mookerjee, Comment Factory
At an epoch-making time while the incredibly brave and inspirational women and men of North Africa and the Middle-East are shaking off the tentacles of political repression and every dictator worth his salt is quaking in terror of the inevitable, it is worth re-examining the nature of some of the things the people are protesting against- political persecution, judicial tyranny and draconian State-backed violence- no not in a dictatorship but in the world’s largest democracy!
In India, following the High Court’s rejection of bail for renowned doctor and human rights activist Dr Binayak Sen, who has been sentenced to life imprisonment for “Sedition”, a group of academics and students in Mumbai made the foolish mistake of assuming they would not be attacked by the police for exercising their democratic right to free speech. On 11th February 2010, at the Oval Maidan in Mumbai, a motley group of human rights lawyers, university professors, students and Gandhian activists organised a peaceful protest against Dr Sen’s life-sentence and the Chhattisgarh High Court’s rejection of bail. Not to be outdone by their Libyan or Egyptian counterparts, the Mumbai police attacked the protestors, manhandled several men, including septuagenarian activist Mazgaonkar and women, including human rights activist Kamayani Mahabal and dragged them to Colaba police station. In fact the protestors can consider themselves very lucky! In the world’s largest democracy it is increasingly commonplace- indeed quite traditional- for the police to gun down unarmed, peaceful demonstrators in public massacres, where the victims are dissenting poor people, often from indigenous communities. The news of these mass protests and brutal crackdowns and mass killings seldom percolates out of India. How many people outside of India have heard of the police firing and the massacre of fishermen in Chilka, farmers in Nandigram and indigenous people in Kalinganagar? The dozens of women, men and children gunned down weren’t even protesting for political change, they were demonstrating against their forced displacement; they were pleading for their homes, their livelihoods and their communities. It was too much to ask for in the world’s largest democracy.
Public opinion outside of India seems to be blinded by the all singing, all dancing, Bollywood pelvic thrusting musical of shining India, glorious colourful India, all sparkles and sequins with a bit of picturesque poverty thrown in for good measure- Jai Ho! An India of chicken barons and wine-merchants who can afford to buy Premier League clubs and Formula One teams and billionaires who live in the world’s largest mansion in Mumbai and 20-20 cricket stars, who are auctioned off to Indian cities for millions of dollars. Also an India of the great-consumerist “Great Indian Middle Class”, who make up a miniscule percentage of the total population of India but are still a large enough target market for multinational corporations and international governments to start drooling at the mouth.
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of trade unionists, including those from a group linked to India’s ruling party, marched through the streets of the capital on Wednesday to protest food prices, piling pressure on a government already under fire over graft.
The demonstration in New Delhi was the latest in a wave of protests sweeping across the world, including the Middle East and Africa, ignited by a worldwide spike in food prices.
India, Asia’s third-largest economy and home to more than a billion people, has been grappling with double-digit food inflation. Hundreds of millions of poor have been hit the hardest.
In one of the largest anti-government protests in New Delhi in recent years, at least 50,000 people representing trade unions from the country’s political parties, marched through the centre of the capital towards the parliament building.
In a sea of red flags and hats bearing their union name, protesters chanted slogans and carried banners calling on the government to provide food security.
“Prices will now kill the common man,” read one banner.
“We get paid 100-125 Rupees (1.36 to 1.70 pounds) a day. How are we going to survive on this if prices are so high?” said Kailash Sain, who had travelled to the capital from the western state of Rajasthan.
“We have come here so that our voices reverberate inside the house (parliament) and they can see what pain the common man is going through,” said another demonstrator, Akhil Samamtray from western Orissa state.
Protesters arrived by bus and train from all over the country and the numbers were expected to rise.
PJ Raju, secretary of the Congress’ trade union, told Reuters around 100,000 people from his party alone would be joining the protest.
The presence of trade union members from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s ruling Congress party — a rare instance of a protest against their own government — is a telling sign of the concerns within the party about government policies that have been unable to tame inflation.
The government has looked increasingly helpless as it tries to introduce policies to rein in food prices, which analysts say have come far too late.
India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, has raised interest rates seven times in a year to try and tame rising prices but has warned fiscal policies would be largely ineffective against rising food prices which stem largely from bad weather and problems on the supply side.
The protests also come only a day after Singh relented to months of opposition demands for a parliamentary probe into a multi-billion dollar scandal over sales of telecoms licences for kickbacks.
The scandals have piled enormous pressure on the reformist 78-uear-old prime minister, seen as a lame duck who plays second fiddle to Congress party head Sonia Gandhi. Some believe further revelations could force him from power early and lead to an interim leader before a 2014 general election.
Frontline, V. VENKATESAN
|The Supreme Court rejects the doctrine of ‘guilt by association’, but the Chhattisgarh High Court applies it to deny Binayak Sen bail.|
THE two cases were similar in facts and reasoning. In the first case, the Supreme Court Bench comprising Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra held on February 3 that the mere membership of a banned organisation did not incriminate a person unless he resorted to or incited violence. In the second, a Chhattisgarh High Court Bench comprising Justices T.P. Sharma and R.L. Jhanwar rejected on February 10 the bail applications of Binayak Sen and Piyush Guha on the grounds that the trial court had found them guilty of sedition by association and had sentenced them to life imprisonment.
The Supreme Court’s judgment must have been binding on the High Court. However, the High Court, though it cited the Supreme Court’s February 3 judgment, apparently misinterpreted it to justify its rejection of bail to Sen and Guha.
In the first case, Arup Bhuyan was alleged to be a member of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), a banned organisation. The evidence against him was the confessional statement he made before the Superintendent of Police. Confession to a police officer is inadmissible under Section 25 of the Evidence Act. But it was admissible under Section 15 of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), 1987, which has since been repealed. Bhuyan was booked and tried under TADA as cases registered under the Act when it was in force continued to be tried under it even after its repeal. The Designated Court under TADA found Bhuyan guilty in 2007.
By: Siddharth Narrain
Vol Xlvi No.8 February 19, 2011
What place does a colonial legacy which, in its logic, believes that people are bound to feel affection for the state, and should not show any enmity, contempt, hatred or hostility towards the government established by law, have in a modern democratic state like India? This question lies at the heart of this essay, which examines how these laws impact the ability of citizens to freely express themselves and limit the ability to constructively criticise or express dissent against governments.
The recent conviction of Binayak Sen by a trial court in Raipur on charges of sedition (amongst other charges), and a spate of sedition charges filed against media personnel and human rights activists across the country have turned the spotlight on a 140-year old law, a draconian colonial legacy that has increasingly been used by governments across the country to stifle dissent and curb free speech.
The Supreme Court lawyer and legal commentator Rajeev Dhavan has commented on how sedition provisions are a prime example of the manner in which the imperial powers of a foreign government are transformed into the normal powers of an independent regime (Dhavan 1987: 290). The segment corresponding to Section 124A, the law that defines sedition in the Indian Penal Code, was originally Section 113 of Macaulay’s Draft Penal Code of 1837-39, but the section was omitted from the Indian Penal Code as it was enacted in 1860. James Fitzjames Stephens, the architect of the Criminal Procedure Code, has been quoted saying this omission was the result of a mistake (Donogh 1911: 1). Another explanation for this omission is that the British government wanted to adopt more wide-ranging strategies against the press including initiating systems of registration (Dhavan 1987: 278-85).
Section 124A1 was introduced by the British government in India in 1870 when the colonial government felt that a specific section to deal with offence was needed.
Why Section 124A?
One of the reasons for this move was Wahabi activities in the period between 1863 and 1870 that posed a challenge to the colonial government (Ganachari 2009: 96-97). The Wahabis were a shadowy network of rebels who were part of the First War of Indian Independence in 1857 and were feared for their extensive network across the country. They followed a modern organisational technique of combining secret work with mass preaching set in a politico-religious framework (Samaddar 2010: 41-49). The framework of this section was imported from various sources – the Treason Felony Act (operating in Britain), the common law of seditious libel, and the English law relating to seditious words. The common law of seditious libel governed both actions and words that pertained to citizens and the government, as well as between communities of persons (Donogh 1911: 4).
By Radha Surya
21 February, 2011 Countercurrents.org
There is an image that torments our collective conscience. This is the image that shows Dr. Binayak Sen sitting inside a police vehicle after he was awarded a life sentence by the Raipur Sessions Court in Chhattisgarh. An observer who was present on that bleak December day said that he looked completely defeated when the judgement was delivered. On December 24 as in the widely circulated photo from the years 2007-2009, Dr. Binayak Sen’s hand rests on the barred window of the police van. But this time he looks straight ahead rather than the world outside the van. His clouded, despairing gaze is that of a doomed man who already in his mind’s eye sees the inexorable prison walls closing in on him.
It has been said many times before by those who have first hand knowledge of the situation in Chhattisgarh. An all-powerful nexus consisting of the Chhattisgarh government, police and judiciary and acting on behalf of business interests had set its sights on Dr. Binayak Sen. In his capacity of human rights activist, he had played a key role in exposing the true nature of the state sponsored vigilante group the murderous Salwa Judum. Under the pretext of being a spontaneous anti-Naxalite people’s movement, the Salwa Judum ran amok in the tribal areas of Chhattisgarh killing large numbers of villagers and herding survivors into refugee camps. This forcible clearing of villages by the government paved the way for the appropriation of the resource rich areas of the state by mining and manufacturing interests. Dr. Binayak Sen’s outspoken condemnation of the perpetration of state violence for advancing the interests of private capital made him an enemy of the state—someone who had to be silenced at all costs. The Chhattisgarh police force had its own vendetta to wage against Dr. Sen. For them he was a marked man from the time he drew attention to encounter killings and other atrocities committed by the police.
February 20: Free Binayak Sen Campaign-Doctors in Solidarity organised a medical camp today at Gardener Lane of the Taltola slum area of the Central Kolkata. Progressive Youth League organised this camp in this predominantly minority community dominated area. Dr. Soumyakanti Bag and Dr. Arkajyoti Mukherjee of Shramajibi Swasthya Udyog examined 96 patients in this camp.
In the days prior to this camp and also during the camp, PYL campaigned in support of the demand of unconditioanl realease of Dr. Binayak Sen.