Posts Tagged ‘human rights
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.
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.
The Irish Times – Thursday, January 13, 2011
Opinion & Analysis
THE CONVICTION for sedition and the life sentence imposed on renowned Indian paediatrician and human rights activist Binayak Sen is a serious stain on India’s democratic credentials. It also appears to be a flagrant breach of legal precedent established by the country’s own supreme court.
The trial has prompted widespread concern from rights groups, the media, academics, and medical colleagues in India and internationally. The British medical journal, the Lancet , has rightly described the trial as “Kafkaesque”, the sentence, “a travesty”. The latter is “so over the top and outrageous that it calls into question the fundamentals of the Indian justice system,” India’s the Hindu newspaper argued.
Dr Sen, an outspoken critic over three decades of both rebel violence and state repression, particularly against the tribal Adivasi people, was convicted on December 24th by a Chhattisgarh state court under the vague terms of penal code provisions prohibiting words or actions which promote “hatred or contempt, or excite or attempt to excite disaffection” towards the government. A legacy of colonial times, the clause was used to convict Mahatma Gandhi, and Nobel-laureate Arundhati Roy was recently threatened under it for a speech on Kashmir. The offence was ostensibly curtailed, however, when the supreme court ruled in 1962 that, given a constitutional protection of free speech, unless violence was incited sedition could not be found.
Prosecutors produced no evidence of incitement by Dr Sen but instead relied on dubious claims that he acted as a courier between an ailing, jailed Maoist leader he had been visiting and a supporter outside prison. The meetings, which took place in the presence of officials, were undertaken in Dr Sen’s capacity as both medical doctor and local representative of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties. Defence lawyers claim a “smoking gun” letter, purportedly from the Maoists and urging Dr Sen to investigate police atrocities in a Maoist stronghold, was forged by police.
Dr Sen’s real “offence”, and that of many others under arrest in the Chhattisgarh region, appears to have been to try to draw attention to brutal government-backed vigilantes, the Salwa Judum, who raided rebel-dominated villages in the mid-2000s, forcing tens of thousands to abandon their homes. The “if you’re not with us you’re against us” paranoia of the state government has produced a serious injustice. Dr Sen must be freed and the role of the authorities investigated.
No sophistry, no jugglery in figures can explain away the evidence that the skeletons in many villages present to the naked eye. I have no doubt whatsoever that both England and the town dwellers of India will have to answer, if there is a God above, for this crime against humanity, which is perhaps unequaled in history. The law itself in this country has been used to serve the foreign exploiter. My unbiased examination of the Punjab Martial Law cases has led me to believe that 95 per cent of the convictions were wholly bad. My experience of political cases in India leads me to the conclusion that in nine out of every ten the condemned men were totally innocent. Their crime consisted in the love of their country. In 99 cases out of 100, justice has been denied to Indians as against Europeans in the courts of India. This is not an exaggerated picture. It is the experience of almost every Indian who has had anything to do with such cases. In my opinion the administration of the law is thus prostituted consciously or unconsciously for the benefit of the exploiter…
In my humble opinion, non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good…
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This open letter by SHIV VISWANATHAN, Eminent Social Scientist, has been circulated by Communalism Combat:
Dear Professor Manmohan Singh,
I hope you don’t mind the temerity of this letter. It is written as one scholar to another, one citizen to another. I know you are a PM and people like me may not be influential. However some things must be said and said clearly.
I was against to find that Doctor Binayak Sen has been given a life term for sedition. Let me put it simply. I think it is an appalling act of injustice and a betrayal of an ethical vision.
The point I wish to make is simple. We do not have to agree with Binayak Sen, anymore than we have to agree with Mahaswta Devi or Arundhati Roy or Baba Amte. But these have been voices of conscience. These are people who have care and healed, given a voice to the voiceless. They represent the essential goodness of our society. They are Indians and outstanding Indians and no nation state can negate that. I admit that such people are not easy people. They irritate, they agonize over things we take for granted or ignore. They take the ethical to the very core of our lives. Let us be clear. It is not Sen’s ideology that threatens us. It is his ethics, his sense of goodness. We have arrested him because we have arrested that very sense of justice in ourselves.
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By Krishna Pokharel
India Real Time
Wall Street Journal
The Chhattisgarh court verdict that convicted Binayak Sen of sedition and sentenced him to life in prison has largely generated support and sympathy for the doctor who has spent most of his life working among tribal Indians in conflict-afflicted central India. Only a few voices said they agreed with the verdict. India Real Time presents a sample of what people said about the decision:
Dr. Sen was convicted for passing on notes from a Maoist prisoner he was treating, which the doctor has denied doing. The state in which he was convicted is at the heart of a violent Maoist rebellion against the Indian government. The rebels say they are fighting on behalf of poor tribals who stand to lose as industry tries to extract the mineral riches of central India.
Journalist M.J. Akbar, editor of the weekly magazine India Today, wrote on his personal blog on Saturday: “India has become a strange democracy where Binayak Sen gets life in jail and dacoits get a life in luxury.”
The “dacoits” in that sentence is a reference to politicians being investigated in connection with a spate of corruption scandals this year.
“Binayak made a fundamental, mortal mistake. He was on the side of the poor. That is a non-negotiable error in our oligarchic democracy,” Mr. Akbar continued, adding a personal touch. “Sen, who was senior to me in school, was and remains the gentlest of people, distinguished only by a fierce commitment to his cause of choice. I do not agree with his political views or inclinations; nor does the political system. But it is only in a dictatorship that disagreement is sufficient reason for incarceration.”
We have been listening and reading about Dr Sen’s court decision since the day it has been pronounced. But since the original decision is in Hindi and is 92 pages long, hence many would be possibly have got the opportunity to read and understand it. I hope, u appreciate the fact that the judgement can be fully appreciated only when one has gone through it in its totality.
Here is my attempt at presenting the basic and more important facts of the Court judgement in the much-discussed Dr Binayak Sen case (translating the Hindi version to the best of my abilities)., without giving any cooments on my behalf. This being a highly sensitive matter, I extend my apologies for any unintended error or misrepresentation.
Currently at IIM Lucknow
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A child molester is sentenced to a year and a half in jail twenty years after his victim killed herself, and gets out on bail within four months.
A convicted terrorist is fed biriyani, while the hangman finishes up his backlog.
A man, who is responsible for the continuing suffering of millions of victims 26 years after a gas tragedy, is allowed to lead a cosy life in the United States of America.
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The verdict charging Dr Sen of sedition has not taken into consideration the law points on which the Supreme Court had earlier granted him bail and it is utterly condemnable, said Solidarity state secretary T Muhammed Velom. The court verdict has come on the basis of only witnesses’ testimonies and a fake letter. The government portrays as traitors those who raise their voice for the human rights of the victims of state terror, and the judiciary is not submitting itself to this trick. In the wake of the several news reports about corruption and illicit relations in the courts of Kolkata and Karnataka, the verdict shows that the Raipur court also has been influenced by the bad trend, he added.