Monday, May 18, 2009

I love my India

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 (POTA was repealed in 2004.)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.

**** ****

Update: On 25th May '09, a vacation bench of the Supreme Court of India granted bail to Dr. Binayak Sen. His family plan to take him to Vellore for treatment.


km said...

This is where I can't quite figure out which Manmohan Singh is real. The soft-spoken, apolitical bureaucrat or the heartless, scheming politician who just doesn't seem to care about this on-going tragedy?

Gamesmaster G9 said...

The Centre's stance was elucidated by Chidambaram - a man who, you would think, would be able to see sense. In short, it is that this is a State matter and the Centre will not intervene.

A friend (who told me exactly what your friend did) claims that the current bail petition before the Supreme Court has a good chance of going through, but I doubt it.

km said...

@G9: Thanks for that bit of insight. But to know that a man like Chidambaram was aware of this situation makes it still harder to digest.

Szerelem said...

km: why are you surprised that Chidambaram knew and didn't care? He is a politician of the highest order - it's not in his interest, or anyone in the governments, for that matter to intervene. They're all busy covering their own asses, building political partnerships. The Indian state has the capacity to be immensely draconian and while I always though the Supreme Court was at least an island of sanity a lot of what I have read about it recently has been terribly shocking and scary.

Sucharita Sarkar said...

And here I was, naively rejoicing that the BJP had been kept at bay and the Left taught a lesson.

Even the in-my-view saner Congress politicos are tainted. If it doesn't translate into votes, it is not worthy of attention, is that it? Or are there more sinister reasons for the apathy towards Binayak Sen?

Lazyani said...

Dr Sen is a classic case of a Government trying to push through a pet project and attacking/silencing the first sane voice to oppose it. The framing of the subsequent charges and the branding of the individual as someone anti-national is 'Banyae hath ki khel'for the authorities.

Do you think that it is coincidental that all political thugs get bail overnight and someone without political support languishes forever?

We all are free citizens in a democracy as long as we allow the politicians to rule the roost.

km said...

why are you surprised that Chidambaram knew and didn't care?Szer: maybe because the guy is made out to be the Anti-Politician, what with his Harvard degree and all.

Tai Chi said...

Be it as it may

Szerelem said...

km: well maybe, he's also been rumoured to have made loads of money under the table as FM, so who knows?

Anonymous said...

Someone is hysteric and wants to treat all of us to Beer and Steak at Oly...
Jai Ho!