Posts Tagged ‘Sedition
On 15 April, after several delays, the Supreme Court of India will hopefully deliver its verdict on whether or not to grant bail to Dr Binayak Sen.
While it is simply impossible to predict beforehand what the highest court in India will decide, we know that the judgment will have very far reaching implications indeed.
As we have argued innumerable times there was no basis at all for the charges of ‘sedition’ or ‘waging war against the State’ brought on Dr Sen by the Chhattisgarh police three years ago and zero merit to his conviction by the Raipur Sessions Court on 24 December last year. The handing out of life imprisonment to this public health doctor and human rights activist was not just bizarre but plainly malicious and guided no doubt by pressure from the political masters in the Chhattisgarh government.
The Supreme Court of India over the years has on many occasions overturned the flawed judgments of the lower courts thereby restoring public faith in the competence and sanity of the Indian judiciary as a whole. We fervently hope it will do so again in the case of Dr Sen and set free a man who should be feted and celebrated by the entire nation for his dedicated social work and not hounded on false charges for venal reasons.
Even though Dr Sen is only one of many thousands of such prisoners in Indian prisons on trumped up charges or arrested without due procedure of law, doing him justice would send the right signal that all is not yet lost with Indian democracy. The public at large still values the integrity of the Indian Supreme Court as one of few institutions that are relatively untouched by the corruption and loss of values evident in all sectors of governance and administration in the country.
Granting bail to Dr Sen and indeed rebuking the Raipur court for bringing shame to the Indian judiciary through its ridiculous judgment will help uphold and even enhance the Supreme Court’s reputation. Any other verdict will not only mean loss of hope and a deep sense of frustration for thousands of Dr Sen’s well-wishers but mark a turning point in the history of the Indian Republic itself.
If prison is going to be the only place for all good men (and women) in this country it will be time to turn this nation upside down and inside out. If the keepers of the Indian Constitution turn out to be its greatest violators then it will be time for citizens to become the enforcers of the Constitution themselves.
And if Dr Binayak Sen is guilty of sedition according to those who run the current Indian Republic then sedition will become our national duty. Hopefully, it will not come that and Dr Sen, by the evening of 15 April 2011, will walk a free man again!
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.
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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Civil society groups, academics and human rights activists have come together and appealed to the Chhattisgarh High Court to reverse the “injustice” meted out to human rights activist Binayak Sen.
In an appeal sent to the Chief Justice of the High Court, they said that if this was not ensured, India’s already dented credentials as a democracy and an upholder of human rights would be irreversibly damaged.
“While hearing the appeal for bail and reversal of the judgment of the Raipur sessions court, we urge the Chhattisgarh High Court to consider this case in the light of the complete lack of concrete and independent evidence against Dr. Sen, and his demonstrated commitment to promote human rights through non-violent means. It would be highly desirable to ensure speediest possible hearings in this case, enabling an early decision,” the appeal said. It expressed confidence that given the entire background, timely justice would be done.
The appeal was issued at the end of the annual meeting of the Medico Friend Circle held in Nagpur.
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The conviction of doctor and human-rights activist, Binayak Sen, could have implications for India’s attempts to achieve universal health-care coverage. Patralekha Chatterjee reports.
At a time when India is working towards making access to health-care universal, a 61-year-old medical doctor, nationally and internationally acclaimed for running health clinics for poor tribal communities in remote parts of central India, is fighting a grim battle to prove he is not a threat to the country’s security.
Doctor and civil-rights activist Binayak Sen, the first Indian recipient of the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights, is in jail. On Dec 24, 2010, a trial court in Raipur, capital of Chhattisgarh state in central India, sentenced Sen to life imprisonment for sedition on the charge that he carried a letter between two members of a banned left-wing extremist outfit.
The doctor vehemently denies any wrongdoing and has appealed to the High Court, which will take up the matter on Jan 24. His family and legion of supporters inside and outside India point to the many glaring loopholes in the prosecution’s evidence.
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India’s growth rate cannot be made a national objective
While there will be general agreement that the judgment in Binayak Sen’s case represents a gross miscarriage of justice, most people will attribute it to the overzealousness of a lower judicial functionary, or, at the most, to the prevailing atmosphere in the state of Chhattisgarh. If the trial had been held elsewhere, they would argue, Sen would not have got the verdict he did. They are probably right, just as those who attribute the bringing of sedition charges against Arundhati Roy and Syed Ali Shah Geelani to the overzealousness of the Delhi police, and against Sudhir Dhawale to the overzealousness of the Maharashtra police, may well be right. But such overzealousness, instances of which are multiplying alarmingly, thrives within, and derives sustenance from, a certain ambience. This consists of the increasing tendency, under the current neo-liberal dispensation, to see any basic ideological opposition to the parameters of official policy as anti-national. The tendency, in short, is to criminalize ideological dissent. Of course, one must not cry wolf, but one must not ignore this tendency either. To do so will be fatal.
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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NEW DELHI: Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Saturday said the verdict of a Chhattisgarh court sentencing doctor-activist Binayak Sen to life on sedition charges smacked of ”political motivation” and hoped that it would be struck down by a higher court.
”The matter is sub judice. But as an Indian citizen and a human being, I must exercise my own judgment to ask if this is correct. Sedition means pulling the state down by violence. It cannot be suggested Binayak did this,” he said at an event to release a book on Binayak Sen.
”On the contrary, his writing indicates violence is wrong. There is a deep moral argument against sedition here,” he said.
Sen said he was amazed by the judgment that is now being challenged by the jailed doctor who’s been accused of conspiring with Maoists. ”It has a threatening nature and seems to have political motivation. Any intelligent person would find that the judiciary acted very peculiarly. I hope the high court or Supreme Court quashes this.”
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Last Tuesday, January 4, was the birthday of a man I met for the first and only time at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences one year ago, in December 2009. It was a brief meeting. He was there to give a lecture, and I, to attend it. I wanted to interview him later, so I introduced myself and took his number.
That interview did not materialise, but for the past couple of weeks, this man has been in my thoughts. His name is Binayak Sen. Regular readers of this column must be wondering where am I going with this — where’s all the funny stuff? Well, this week, I have only one joke to share.
Frankly, it is a terrible joke, the worst one I have heard in a long time. But it is an old joke, a joke that must be told, and it’s a one-word joke. Here it is: s-e-d-i-t-i-o-n.
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