Posts Tagged ‘violations
Many of the current policies and practices “authorised” by the Indian state require careful review from a human rights perspective.
The latest general elections and the ongoing process of forming a Central government provide an opportunity for introspection regarding India’s human rights record. The policies and practices “authorised” by the Indian state require reflection and reappraisal. The context of India, its framework and policies, shore up and determine many of its practices. The capitalistic model with its success in the West, until the recent collapse, was adopted by India w ith dramatic impact on its economic growth. However, the average improvement in the Indian economy actually increased the income inequality for the majority of those living in Bharat. While poverty based on headcounts has reduced, deprivation, defined as the disparity between base and mean consumption, has increased. The non-inclusive nature of India’s recent growth has resulted in development without social and distributive justice for the majority of Indians.
In many parts of the country, economic issues were complicated by a rising tide of violence. While many of these conflicts seem, on the surface, to have ideological or religious dimensions, their underlying cause is more often social and economic. For example, the deprivation of basic rights for large sections of the population and the gross disparity between the rich and the poor over a prolonged period of time lead to the disadvantaged becoming disillusioned with the democratic process. The naxalite movement, with its philosophy of armed revolution spreading through many poor and deprived parts of India, is a clear indicator of such a trend.
Read the rest of this entry »
ENGAGED CIRCLE -binayak sen
Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 20, Dated May 23, 2009
When truth is imprisoned and men reign over the law, India should stir up a storm, not watch unfazed
A FAMOUS STORY links two great Americans. When the United States invaded Mexico in 1846, Henry Thoreau, the great naturalist, refused to pay his taxes in an act of civil disobedience against the US and was sent to prison. His close friend and mentor from Harvard, Ralph Waldo Emerson came to see him in jail. Emerson quipped, “What are you doing inside?” The reply made Emerson blush. “What are you doing outside?” asked Thoreau.
Dr Binayak Sen, one of India’s noblest doctors, imprisoned by a cowardly Chhattisgarh administration because he exposed their crimes, might well speak to us in the manner of Thoreau were we to visit him. On May 14 it will be exactly two years since his unlawful arrest. There are times when jails become one of the few places of honour left in the world. After all, where would you like to find yourself if robbers and murderers were masquerading before the public as magistrates, judges and hangmen?
India today finds itself crouched in one such corner of shame. While well-known serial killers gamely garner tickets from national parties for elections and mass murderers sagely deliver their homilies from our television screens, women and men of integrity and courage must lurk and slide in the dark alleys of our cities or in the forlorn jungles of the land. It is a state of affairs which would have appalled and nauseated decent citizens a generation ago, let alone the heroes and heroines of our freedom movement. The sad truth is that as a civilisation, India’s standing in the world has suffered a precipitous fall during the last several years, even as our elated elite’s vainglorious aspirations to superpower-hood never miss a morning to announce themselves. Are they out of step, or are we? Time will tell, though it is as much up to us to determine which way the die of destiny will roll.
After six decades of freedom from colonial rule, India is still a largely poor country. One of the most severe forms of deprivation suffered by the poor is with respect to health, particularly so in a time when the cost of healthcare has shot up so dramatically. In such a context, it is worth asking how many Indian paediatricians one can name who have given 30 years of their lives as a volunteer in unstinting service to the needy poor in the countryside. At a guess, the actual number is in three figures and the name of Dr Binayak Sen figures prominently among them.
|Truth Trapped (above) On 2 February, 2008, Sen was taken in a police van to Raipur’s sessions court|
|Photo: SHAILENDRA PANDEY|
LETTERS AND APPEALS from Sen’s mother, 22 Nobel Laureates, Ex-Chief Justice of India — V.R.Krishna Iyer, Noam Chomsky and hundreds of other people of eminence in public life from around the world only reveal their ignorance regarding facts of the case. The Chhatisgarh government obviously knows better where justice lies. Thus, Dr Sen continues to languish in prison despite a serious cardiac condition.
One Rowlatt Act was enough to precipitate Jallianwalah Bagh nine decades ago, causing an intensification and acceleration of the Indian freedom struggle. A slew of far more invasive laws in ‘independent’ India — the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Unlawful Activties Prevention Act, to name just a few of the many that have been passed in recent years — draws a cowardly, paralysed silence today.
British Medical Journal May 09 issue on Binayak
Volume 338, 9 May 2009, p b1864
Published 5 May 2009, doi:10.1136/bmj.b1864
Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1864
An Indian doctor whose achievements in community health have been recognised by the international medical world and whose personal sacrifices have been cited by academics in medical schools across India will complete two years in prison on 14 May this year.
On Monday 4 May India’s Supreme Court asked the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh to respond within two weeks to a petition for bail from Binayak Sen, a paediatrician and civil rights activist, who was arrested in 2007 after an allegation that he had carried letters for armed Maoist rebels. Dr Sen has asserted that the allegation is false, and the charge against him remains unproved, despite numerous hearings in a lower court in Raipur, the state’s capital.
The campaign seeking Dr Sen’s release has steadily grown. Doctors, civil rights groups in India and abroad, academics, public health activists, and legal experts have individually and jointly decried his incarceration and repeatedly urged his release. Last year a group of 22 Nobel laureates wrote to the federal and state governments asking that Dr Sen be freed while the judicial process proceeds, to enable him to continue his “important medical work” (BMJ 2008;336:1155, doi:10.1136/bmj.39588.419745.DB).
Dr Sen’s supporters view the Supreme Court’s decision to admit his petition for bail as a “positive development.” Dr Sen, who was given a diagnosis of angina in prison earlier this year, hopes to be treated at the college where he trained, the Christian Medical College in Vellore, Tamil Nadu. The prison authorities have not yet agreed.
“It’s a shame our government has treated him in this manner,” said Mira Shiva, a member of the steering committee of the Indian branch of the People’s Health Movement, a worldwide network of doctors and health activists. “His contributions to grassroots community medicine have been acclaimed globally, but our own government has refused to recognise his work,” Dr Shiva added.
Public health activists said that a hospital that Dr Sen helped set up at Dalli-Rajhara, an iron ore mining town in Chhattisgarh, is an example of how health care may be practised in a way that is relatively insulated from the commercial pressure that is so prevalent in India.
by Gian Inder Singh
One of the most meaningless phrases uttered in India at a frequency that is almost stupefying is that “the law will take its own course.” It is only matched by the astonishing number of times another meaningless sound byte is delivered: “I have immense respect for the judiciary and the judicial system.” Men who utter such words include Narendra Modi after Gujarat massacre, L K Advani after Babri demolition, Mulayam Singh and Amar Singh after CBI cases into their shady deals, Lalu Prasad Yadav after fodder scandal, Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar as they keep dodging the law in court after court even 25 years after leading bloody mobs to kill, maim, burn Sikhs alive in the national capital.
The higher the court, the more pure their faith in the judicial system. So, the Supreme Court becomes the repository of all objectivity, justice and purest of motives. No wonder that men like Maninderjit Singh Bitta also hail their faith in the judicial system when utter miscarriage of justice is done in Prof Devinderpal Singh Bhullar case. One after the other gross violations of human rights happen right under the nose of India’s Supreme Court, but the pretensions of India’s ruling elite and the brahamanical Indian establishment about the faith in the judicial system remains ever so high.
The reason is simple. Any decision to recognize the warts is likely to lead to a serious engagement with the issue, and any serious engagement will bring out the hollowness of the sham that the Indian establishment has collectively come to put on when it comes to the ability and the inclination of the courts deliver justice.
Read the rest of this entry »
by Prashant Bhushan
[Text of the Talk Given by Prasant Bhushan on 13th March at George Washington University on the Supreme Court's recent attitude towards Human Rights and Environmental rights where he dealt with Binayak's case]
Anyone familiar with India would be aware of the remarkable paradoxes of the country characterized by obscene wealth in the hands of a few “billionaires” among whom are 4 of the ten richest men in the world, existing side by side with appalling poverty where more than 78% of the population lives on less than Rs. 20 (45 cents) per day. The paradox of a “Shining India” comprising of the largest force of IT and financial services professionals in a country aspiring to make India an economic “superpower”, living alongside the largest slum population in the world who live without electricity, running water and sanitation, amidst unimaginable filth. More than 100,000 farmers have committed suicides in the country in the last 10 years. It ranks lower than many countries of Sub Saharan Africa in the Human Development Index.
In 1991, India adopted the World Bank-IMF model of “Structural Adjustment”, popularly known as the LPG programme, characterized by Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation. Since then, the rate of GDP growth increased substantially from 3-4% to reach 9% in 2007-8. During this period the number of dollar millionaires increased manifold as did the average income of the top 10% of the population. The number of persons living in acute poverty during the same period however continued to grow. The Arjun Sengupta report shows that 78% of the Indian population (836 Million) now lives on less than Rs. 20 (45 Cents) per day.i The average availability of nutrition to people also declined during the same period, most clearly indicating that this spurt in growth, far from being inclusive, was achieved at the expense of the poor and marginalized sections of society. According to one of India’s leading economists, Utsa Patnaik, “Expenditure data from the National Sample Survey Organisation’s 61st Round (2004-05) show that rural and urban per capita cloth consumption, real food expenditure, and calorie intake have all declined from their already low levels since 1993-94. This country remains a Republic of Hunger with a larger proportion of ordinary people being relentlessly pushed down to worse nutritional status. As the tables show, the proportion of rural population unable to access 2,400 calories daily climbed from 75 per cent in 1993-94 to a record high of 87 per cent by 2004-05.The corresponding percentages for urban India, where the nutrition norm is lower at 2,100 calories, are 57% and 64.5%” ii
That was not surprising, since a lot of this “growth” was achieved by acquiring the traditional lands of poor farmers, particularly tribals, for Mining Companies, Real estate companies and “Special Economic Zones”, promoted by Private Companies etc. As the rich/poor divide increased during this period, we have seen the growth in the strength of Left wing Maoist insurgencies which have come to control a significant part of the country.
Read the rest of this entry »
Fog of war
In a speech to Congress nine days after 9/11, US President George W. Bush declared “war” on terror. It seemed as innocuous a phrase then, as it is commonplace now. But re-categorising a ‘law enforcement’ problem as ‘war’ was a game-changer in two ways. First, war demands that we rally around the leader; questioning abuse of power can be unpatriotic. Second, since war is ugly business, mistakes happen. Some collateral damage is inevitable. Bush’s audience and America’s other public institutions agreed to play by these new rules. His “war on terror” ranged from controversial (the Patriot act, racial profiling) to plain illegal (warrantless wiretapping, Guantanamo bay, Iraq). In every single case, the Bush administration got a free pass from the Congress, Senate, media, judiciary and public opinion. To take just a few examples: the Supreme Court refused to grant habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo bay detainees — in flagrant breach of international law — waking up somewhat only seven years later. While the rest of world cried foul, the Congress and Senate gave bipartisan support to the Iraq war. And the public? Bush’s approval rating post 9/11 shot to 90 per cent — even before he’d taken a single major decision!
This free pass that public institutions give the executive is characteristic of war everywhere. Israeli public opinion accepts a thousand Palestinian deaths in Gaza as unavoidable collateral damage; its human rights community thinks it bad taste to chastise the army in times of trouble. As Sri Lanka stands on the brink of an epic victory, the media self-gags, courts are careful, and executive power is unquestioned. Some of this acquiescence is got by intimidation. Dissenting voices are “burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced”, Sri Lankan editor Lasantha Wickramatunga wrote in a tragically prescient obituary of himself. But for most part, this institutional ‘group-think’ is done voluntarily, and with the best of intentions: solidarity in times of war, and sacrifice for the greater common good. In America’s case, “war as metaphor” — to paraphrase Susan Sontag — gave Dubya leeway wide enough to preside over what emerging consensus terms “the very worst presidency ever”. Does America post 9/11 explain Binayak Sen?
A practicing doctor in south Bastar, Binayak Sen was arrested by the Chhattisgarh police for “supporting” Naxalites. He’s been in jail-without-bail for 19 months. The magistracy, high court, Supreme Court and NHRC have all reinforced the state’s view on Sen. With so much smoke, surely he must have set something on fire? But as The Indian Express pointed out in a series of articles (IE, January 13, 14, 15) and in an editorial (IE, January 15), injustice on a colossal scale has likely been done. Known criminals arrested on harder evidence get bail quicker. And in the ongoing trial in Raipur, the government’s case against Sen — never strong — has more or less collapsed. Yet, in jail for close to two years, Binayak Sen seems destined to spend a couple more.
One way is to see this as a monolithic state ‘fixing’ its enemy and stifling institutional dissent. But the Supreme Court and NHRC went after Narendra Modi. The media, Supreme Court and public opinion all stood up to Indira Gandhi. India is no banana republic; its institutions no Pakistan. Why then have our public institutions failed Binayak Sen?
Described as India’s “greatest internal security threat” by the prime minister, Naxalites operate in half of Chhattisgarh’s 18 districts. In response, the Raman Singh state Government has re-categorised the threat from ‘law and order’ to ‘war’. Anti-Naxal measures such as para-military deployment (17 battalions), nurturing an extra-legal militia (Salwa Judum), and targeting “supporters” of any kind (the Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act) — are weapons to wage war, not sticks to keep the peace. The least they require is tough questioning by activist public institutions. But the high court, Supreme Court and NHRC all seem reluctant to play spoiler in a long drawn war against a dangerous enemy. To them, Binayak Sen is a war casualty: an enemy combatant at worst, collateral damage at best. Sen’s incarceration is a political question whose answer is best left to the judgment of the state executive. It would be deemed unpatriotic to do otherwise.
Binayak Sen is only one of 192 charged under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act; the Act only one of a slew of Indian anti-terror laws; and Naxalism only one (though perhaps most dangerous) of India’s million mutinies. But Binayak Sen symbolises a larger point: tough times may need tough responses, but require tough monitoring as well. Just as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo battered America’s sense of self more than Osama Bin Laden ever thought conceivable, misusing laws destroys the very ideals for which we battle against Al Qaeda and Naxalites. Institutional acquiescence of the “war on terror” did America great disservice. Will we too tell ourselves a generation later: that when faced with a good fight, we fought it the wrong way. And lost.