Posts Tagged ‘binayak sen
Author: Dilip D’Souza
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers India
Pages: 187, Price: 250, Year: 2012
Review by Mahtab Alam,
Ever since the pediatrician, public health and human rights activist, Dr. Binayak Sen was first arrested (leading to Life term imprisonment for allegedly waging war against the Country with the help of a Maoist) in a fabricated case in May 2007, much has been written about his life, work and the case against him—both positive and negative. The book under review, authored by Mumbai based writer, Dilip D’Souza is the fourth positive work in the form of a book, captivatingly titled, “The Curious Case of Binayak Sen”. However, the author in the very beginning, first chapter, makes it clear that, “this is really not a book about (Binayak) Sen, this one man. It is instead about his way of thinking about the world.”
Unlike previous works, this book, notably, covers what Binayak has been doing after he was released on bail granted by the Supreme Court of India’s direction in April last year. The author notes, “Since his release on bail, Sen has spoken often about another kind of connection: between malnutrition and secession” and “there’s an articulation of the same concern with human rights—indeed, with the human condition—that Sen speaks about.” Binayak believes and rightly so, that his case is no different from those of thousands of others who are suffering. He says, “Whatever has happened to me is the result of the suffering of thousands of people. Any personal imprint would be ghoulish.” But, the author tells us that through this Sen has “a broader point to make. The communities that face (this) structural violence are facing annihilation—strong words, but Sen clearly saw it as possible—because of famine and an inability to survive”. On an earlier occasion, the author quotes Sen while explaining what he really means by structural violence. In Sen’s words, “By structural violence I refer to the fact that half our children and our adults in this country suffer from malnutrition. Malnutrition casts a dark shadow over other diseases like malaria and tuberculosis.” Citing data produced by government’s own institution, the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau and the World Health Organisation’s norms, Sen concludes, we are living in condition of famine. And “a third of our live births have low birth weights, this is what I mean when I talk of structural violence.”
Elaborating the flimsy and fabricated case against Binayak, digging in to charge sheets and reading out from the judgment of the trial court, which convicted him with life imprisonment, the author raises certain pertinent questions not only about the Chhattisgarh government and its police, on whose behest Binayak is convicted for no crime but also about the state of the judicial system in our country, especially in the state of Chhattisgarh. The author ably exposes the holes in the charge sheets, selectivity of the prosecution and the executive mentality of the judiciary.
Commenting about two emails, which were produced as major ‘evidence’ against Sen, totally out of context and selectively, the author observes: “It is hard for me to believe that any reasonable prosecution would actually seek to make a case like this.” He is referring to the fact that, for the prosecution, how the mere mention of the ISI (here, meaning the Indian Social Institute, New Delhi and not the Pakistani Intelligence agency ISI which is the “chimpanzee in the White House”), prove that Binayak and his wife Ilina are part of an International terror network! In this regard, he further observes, “It is harder still for me to believe that any reasonable judge would listen to this and take it seriously.” Towards the end of the book, the author does not forget to ask very simple yet important questions, while commenting on the state of Indian democracy. “The one major attempt to shut down Indian democracy happened in 1975 and was called the Emergency. Luckily, it lasted less than two years…But we can still ask: is democracy as we have known it in India really democracy? What constitutes democracy, after all? Elections? Freedoms? Rights?”
The book is an important addition in the available literature on Binayak Sen case, the issues of public health and state of democracy in India and its institutions. However, one strongly feels that the language and presentation could have been much simpler than one adopted in this book. Nevertheless, it deserves to be widely read.
(Mahtab Alam is a Delhi based Civil Rights Activist and Independent Journalist. A slightly edited and shorter version of this review first appeared in the Hard News monthly. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org )
New Delhi, May 7, 2012
The Supreme Court on Monday suspended the life sentence of CPI (Maoist) activist Narayan Sanyal, held guilty of committing sedition by a Chhattisgarh court in 2010, and granted bail to him.
A bench of justices G.S. Singhvi and S.J. Mukhopadhaya gave bail to 78-year-old Sanyal, considering his age and the fact that he has already spent over six years in jail since his arrest in 2006.
The bench said the concerned trial court would impose the condition to its satisfaction for Mr. Sanyal’s release on bail.
Mr. Narayan Sanyal was convicted along with People’s Union of Civil Liberties’ Vice President Binayak Sen and a Kolkata businessman Piyush Guha for colluding with the Maoists in expanding their network to fight the state.
Mr. Sen was granted bail and his sentence was suspended by the apex court on April 15 last year.
They were held guilty by a Raipur court on December 24, 2010 of committing sedition and criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code as well as offences under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act.
The three were also found guilty under the provisions of Prevention of Unlawful Activities Act and sentenced to five years jail term. Mr. Sanyal was also awarded 10 years imprisonment for being member of a terrorist outfit, in violation of the UAP Act.
All three had moved the Chhattisgarh High Court against their conviction and their appeals are still pending there.
Shiv Sahay Singh, The Hindu
Human rights activist Binayak Sen has appealed to the Communist Party of India (Maoist) on Monday to release the abducted District Collector of Sukma in Chhattisgarh, Alex Paul Menon, “unconditionally and as soon as possible.”
Expressing his grief at the killing of two security guards during the adduction, Mr. Sen in a written statement issued here said Mr. Menon should “remain unharmed until his release and all medical facilities extended to him.”
Mr. Menon, a 2006 batch IAS officer, was abducted by a group of Maoists on April 21 from Manjhipara.
Mr. Sen said the way forward for restoration of peace is the cessation of armed conflict and militarisation in the area. “Restoration of dialogue and the legitimisation of dissent are essential and my appeal is for this to be effected as early as possible.”
Mr. Sen, who is also the vice-president of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, said the region’s issues could not be resolved in an atmosphere of violence “whether the violence comes from the State or those opposing the State.”
The Trustees of The Gandhi Foundation, London.
Ilina and I appreciate deeply the solidarity and support extended by so many friends from the United Kingdom and across the world in the course of my trial and incarceration. We were looking forward to meeting at least a few of you in the course of our proposed visit to the United Kingdom in November.
The original citation of the Gandhi International Peace Award when it came, was a surprise, as I on my own had never claimed to be a representative of the tribal people of India. However, I had always proudly claimed the heritage of a vernacular and indigenous life-world that was egalitarian and sustainable, and since the awarding body was free to make its own ascription, I humbly accepted the responsibility being put on me. I was fully aware that there could be many views about my fitness to undertake such a task, but it never occurred to me that my ethnic identity, in that I was not ethnically a member of the tribal people of India, would stand in my way.
To my understanding, the ethnic indigenous people of the world have suffered terrible violence in the course of the development of the capitalist state, a violence that has been directed equally against all colonized people, the working class, and other subaltern sections. Efforts to build a new society must be made by all oppressed people together. To claim to take on board the politics of genetic ethnicity as a part of this effort is a form of racism, and racism never smelt sweeter merely because it was articulated from the platform of a subaltern identity.
What we are confronting throughout India today is widespread hunger, compounded by widespread displacement, to the extent that it constitutes a stable famine spread over large parts of the country and over large sections of its people. Access to appropriate health care remains a dream for all except a privileged minority. The penetration of global capital into resource rich ‘undeveloped’ regions, and the operation of industrial and mining interests in these areas have been responsible for this displacement and disenfranchisement of communities. State policies in countries like ours are aiding rather than curbing these processes. Urgent measures are needed to combat this hunger, stop this displacement and ensure equity, human rights, and social justice. However, voices of dissent are deliberately suppressed through outdated laws and juridical processes, and thousands of citizens languish in prison for opposition to these policies.
In the context of the award, the changed citation has only led to further contention and acrimony. Unfortunately, the process of nomination, the thinking behind the original citation and that behind the second, were never made public by the Gandhi Foundation. If the first citation was problematic, the second was even more so, as in this, the “Tribal People of India’ of the first citation did not find any mention at all. This was not a position in which I could afford to be complicit. The level of debate is now such that the paramount issues outlined above threaten to be replaced by a palimpsest of ethnic fundamentalism. Under the circumstances, the really important task of delineating and combating the tragedy being enacted before our eyes gets pushed to the background.
Accordingly, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that at the present juncture it will not be appropriate for me to receive this award. My thanks go to those who nominated and to those who selected me for this award. It was never my intention to give offence or show disrespect to any of the parties in this controversy. I greatly regret any inconvenience that the organisers may be put to as a result of my decision.
International Solidarity to Dr Binayak Sen: A network of health workers worldwide to support the campaign for his release and to spearhead the issue of health and human rights.
We are a group of doctors, nurses, medical students, researchers and health workers from around the world, who share the global concern about the persecution of Dr Binayak Sen in India since 2007 and strongly support the concept of health care that promotes access to basic rights for all, equity and human rights for which he has been working all his life.
We strongly condemn the verdict of life imprisonment for ‘Sedition’ by a Sessions court in Chhattisgarh on 24 December 2010 despite the absence of any substantive evidence of wrong-doing.
We demand that
The Indian Government should immediately intervene to secure the release of Dr Binayak Sen and carry out a full public inquiry into the circumstances of his arrest and basis of his conviction.
Why the network
Binayak’s incarceration has made a wide range of health professionals in India as well as in different parts of the world realise that there has been gross injustice in spite of (or possibly because of) his functioning as a true professional in the health sector trying to reach the large section of the population in India who do not have access to modern health care. Many are convinced that the verdict of life imprisonment is motivated to silence any voice of dissent in India, in the state of Chhattisgarh in particular, where economic growth through national and multinational industries and mining are taking place at the cost of forceful displacement of indigenous people therein.
For Dr Sen’s release many doctors and students in different corners of the world have taken unprecedented efforts to offer their time and expertise by joining rallies with placards and signing petitions on one hand and offering professional support in free medical camps or similar efforts on the other. With heightened optimism we find so many health professionals around the globe sharing the concern for developing a healthcare founded on access to basic rights for all, equity and human rights.
Although many individuals and health organisations worldwide express their concern about Dr Sen’s incarceration, the efforts for his release are spontaneous and ill sustained and less forceful as not coordinated with other efforts elsewhere. This is the background for this proposal to form a network of health workers worldwide.
Krishna Pokharel, Wall Street Journal
For over 15 years, Sudhir Dhawale, a Mumbai-based activist and journalist, worked in India’s western state of Maharashtra to
On Jan. 2, state police arrested 42-year-old Mr. Dhawale for supporting India’s banned Maoist rebels, who are active in the state as well as in parts of central and eastern India, and accused him of sedition and declaration of war against the state. According to Mr. Dhawale’s wife, Darshana Dhawale, the police is yet to bring formal charges against him, but are holding him while they investigate.
Calls to police in Wardha district, where Mr. Dhawale was arrested while he was traveling through there on his way home after attending a Dalit gathering, went unanswered, while police in Mumbai said they were not aware of the case. Praveen Dixit, principal secretary in the Maharashtra state government’s home department, said the “sessions court found sufficient evidence against him to reject his bail application.” Mr. Dhawale is presently in Nagpur Central Jail, in a city about 900 kilometers southeast of Mumbai, his wife said.
The arrest came after another man, who the police say is a Maoist rebel, said during an interrogation that he had given his computer to Mr. Dhawale, according to a supporter of the activist. A day after Mr. Dhawale’s arrest, police took away a computer and 87 books from his home in Mumbai, according to Mrs. Dhawale.
But his supporters and some human rights activists are questioning the arrest.
Anand Teltumbde, a civil rights activist with the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights in Mumbai, attributes the police action on Mr. Dhawale to the “hypersensitivity of the state about Maoism.”
“A modus operandi of slapping one case after another case has been used against him,” said Mr. Teltumbde, who also wrote about the case in the Feb. 5 issue of India’s Economic and Political Weekly, alluding to the fact that police have charged Mr. Dhawale with a series of offences.
When will the Indian public rise up by the millions against its corrupt rulers a la Egypt or Tunisia? When will the Indian sub-continent witness a mass upsurge against exploitation of the majority by a decadent minority elite? How long will the Indian people continue to put up with rising prices, grinding poverty, rampant disease and loot of the country by its leaders?
These are some of the questions being repeatedly asked by thousands of Indians clued into international news, in universities, colleges on internet chat sessions ever since the inspiring winds of change started blowing in the Arab world early this year.
The questions are quite natural, given the great discontent that has been swelling up among the people of India for many years now. Problem is, they may be way off the mark in their hopes about what is happening in the Arab world as also their understanding of what India is really all about.
To begin with, though there is no doubt the ouster of dictators from both Egypt and Tunisia are historical events; it is too early to say whether they are really revolutions that will transform the lives of their ordinary folk. The devil as they say lies in the details and doubts remain as to what the current upheaval will mean in specific terms of social welfare or democratic and political rights.
In both countries for example the transition to new regimes have been quite carefully orchestrated by the military, the same institution holding power behind the previous one. The history of betrayal of revolutions by clever generals spouting populist rhetoric, while forging a new dictatorship, is too long in the region for anyone to forget.
Secondly, the United States has welcomed the changes in both countries, another bad sign, given the evil role it has played in propping up one dictator after the other in the region. US politicians championing ‘Liberty and freedom’, have as much credibility as say MacDonald’s promoting a healthy and balanced diet. The truth is that Uncle Sam does not mind – as Henry Kissinger’s colourfully put it once- any bastard in power as long as it is ensured he is ‘our bastard’.
Thirdly, even if Egypt and Tunisia transform into liberal democracies with regular elections, separation of powers between the legislature, executive and judiciary at best they will start looking like the many democracies in the developing world. As long as the rules governing accumulation and inheritance of wealth are not radically changed to ensure more equitable distribution of resources, power too will always remain concentrated in a few hands.
Sujay Mehdudia, The Hindu
NEW DELHI: The European Union and some of its member-States will send representatives as “observers” during the January 24 hearing of human rights activist Binayak Sen’s bail application in the Chhattisgarh High Court at Bilaspur.
Talking to The Hindu at an informal interaction here, Daniele Smadja, Ambassador, Head of Delegation of the European Union (EU) to India, said that apart from the EU, individual member-States such as Belgium, Germany, France, Denmark, Hungary, the United Kingdom and Sweden would send their observers for the hearing.
“There are EU guidelines on human rights defenders. We give utmost attention to cases of individuals involved in the upholding of human rights. We have informed the Indian government of the decision to send observers,” she remarked.
Ms. Smadja said she was mandated by her colleagues in the EU to take up the matter.
British Medical Journal (Published in online version 19 January 2011)
Last month a district court of the state of Chattisgarh in central India sentenced Dr Binayak Sen, Indian paediatrician, public health practitioner, and human rights activist, to life imprisonment in a maximum security cell. He was pronounced guilty of sedition and conspiracy against the state. This harsh sentence is particularly paradoxical because Sen was recently recognised by the same state as a respected figure in health and social planning, and last year he was given the Jonathan Mann Award for Health and Human Rights from the Global Health Council.
His crime according to the judgment was being a collaborator for the underground Maoist movement that is active in the newly created state of Chattisgarh, which has a large indigenous (Adivasi) population, an abundance of forests and natural resources, but economic and health deprivation.
Sen, a community physician, and his wife Ilina are known for their work in primary healthcare among mine workers and indigenous communities. Sen’s commitment to tackling the deeper social determinants of health has now brought him into conflict with the state. Moving beyond the biomedical and clinical model of healthcare, Sen began to deal with deprived living conditions, poor education in children, and alcoholism, and he found it impossible to disassociate these from the need for community empowerment, political accountability, and ownership of natural resources. He documented the levels of starvation in the state, and as an active member of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties he participated in fact finding missions on violations of rights by state forces and systems, including a state sponsored armed people’s militia. He provided medical and legal assistance to people who were undergoing trial, including alleged militants, always under supervision of the state authorities. This made him a ready target for accusation of conspiracy by the state, which recently armed itself with an antiterrorist law that goes far beyond the national act. Sen, who has been a critic of both Maoist and state violence now finds himself convicted under a section of the penal code that was used by the British in colonial times to convict Gandhi.
The recent judgment has received worldwide condemnation. Global voices have included statements by Nobel laureates Noam Chomsky and Amartya Sen, Amnesty International, the Global Health Council, Human Rights Watch, and Physicians for Human Rights, and other commentators. At a national level, an upsurge of solidarity has included meetings and vigils in all the major cities of India and statements by eminent jurists, professionals, and activists.
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