A man has been in prison in Raipur since May 2007. He was charged under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2006 (CSPSA), and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967), which was amended in 2004 to include key aspects of the Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act (POTA), 2002. (POTA was repealed in 2004.) While in prison, this gentleman has won the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights in 2008. Reportedly, 22 Nobel Laureates have written to the Prime Minister of India on his behalf. Meanwhile, his bail petition has been twice rejected by the Supreme Court of India. Soli Sorabjee pleaded his case.
I didn’t know that Dr. Sen now requires an angioplasty. His friends and well-wishers are apparently concerned about the quality of treatment he may receive in a government hospital in Raipur and have petitioned both the government and the Supreme Court that he be taken to Vellore for treatment. I was told that this request has been turned down by the government and by the Supreme Court. I was also told that it has been moved again in the Supreme Court and the hearing has been deferred.
I called a friend who’s written a book on the Naxalite / Maoist movements across India. He’s also on a government committee set up by the Home Ministry to examine the issue of Salwa Judum. I reproduce here what he told me.
Mining and logging in Chhattisgarh have caused not only ecological damage but also displacement of local populations. This is one of the major issues cited by the insurgents in the region. The primary focus of Salwa Judum is to retain control of the logging and mining activities.
Dr. Sen has voiced concerns about these issues and has also opposed the Salwa Judum initiative. He is viewed by the government as a trouble-maker. He is being held as an example to all those in the state who oppose Salwa Judum.
This case is not a political issue even during elections because the Salwa Judum was the brainchild of the present leader of the opposition in the state.
Over the last two years, several government officials have admitted, off the record, that there is no evidence against Dr. Sen on the charges brought against him.
Public opinion has not moved the government. Media coverage has not moved the government. Legal recourse has been sought and has so far failed.
Meantime, Dr. Binayak Sen’s health is failing. Apart from the heart problems, he is also reportedly wasting away.
This is what I have been told by one man, albeit a man who has spent several years investigating the Naxalite / Maoist movement and also the strange case of Dr. Sen. There must be others out there who know more. There must be people who can adduce good reasons why Dr. Binayak Sen is a threat to Chhattisgarh and to India. There must be people who have a different point of view.
I’d like to hear it.
**** **** **** ****
I got a call-back in the evening. From a man whom I hold in the highest regard. Who blew me off when I called him in office earlier today. The conversation was a little strange.
“So why are you getting upset about this?”
“I’m not upset, just curious.”
“What do you think, the Supreme Court refused his bail twice without looking at the evidence?”
“Like I said, I’m curious. What IS the evidence?”
“Look, boss, I’ve seen enough to know that (they) have some very damning stuff on him.”
“Then why isn’t it made public? Why doesn’t the government put it out there?”
“Are you hallucinating, guru? Since when have the media seen fit to print anything positive about the government?”
“So you’re saying the internment is totally justified?”
“What’s the worst, boss? That he’s innocent? Fine, then there’s been a massive miscarriage of justice. Shit happens. Is that new to you? Why are you getting involved? You bloody Bongs all romanticize the Naxals. Okay, not you personally, you’re a bloody snob, your’s will be one of the first heads on pikes when the streets run with blood.”
“Hang on a minute, sir. Romanticise? I? This guy has said time and again that he is not for the Naxals, that he’s not involved.”
“Not involved? Right! I’m just this innocent man who’s carrying love letters from one man to another, letters I never open and read because they’re deeply personal. Only every time I carry one of these letters, 2 or 5 or 6 people get blown up or have their heads hacked off. Dear me, it must be a coincidence, I never saw any connection that way. Bloody *****!”
I didn’t push it any further. The conversation went on to other things. But this, somehow, is not the voice I know. Even a person who doesn’t know this man – and how far he will go (and has gone) to cover MY ass – can make out some inconsistencies in his side of the conversation. Or maybe I’m lacking in objectivity. You call it.