Over the past few days, this one name has stolen the headline on every news channel in India; Binayak Sen, a pediatrician by profession, he’s also an activist by heart. When doctors in the country hate to work in the rural areas and always look for a better option, for a better lifestyle, this man spent 30 years of his life in midst of these rural people and has worked his heart out for these family. At a time, when our government is celebrating the growth rate of almost 6.6% to 7.1%, people like Dr. Sen always reminds the government of the amount of work that are still to be done, and probably that is the reason why, he’s one of those people who are surely not in the good books of the government.
Dr. Sen started his career as a doctor extending health care to poor people in the rural-tribal areas of the Chhattisgarh state, who later on became a human rights activist. While Sen has worked with the state government on health sector reforms, he has also strongly criticized the government on human rights violations during the anti-Naxalite operations, while advocating non-violent political engagement. In May 2007, he was detained for allegedly supporting the outlawed Naxalites, thereby violating the provisions of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005 (CSPSA) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967. The evidence presented against him included his meetings with the jailed Naxalite leader Narayan Sanyal and certain documents allegedly supporting his links with the Naxalites. Dr.Sen first applied for bail before the Raipur Sessions Court and then the Chhattisgarh High Court in July 2007, soon after his arrest, but was granted bail by the Supreme Court of India only on 25 May 2009. Till this time I never had any problem on the government’s role, but what happened three days back was simply not acceptable. The Raipur Session court passed a judgement, which was a mockery of our constitution. First the man was kept in a confinement and then the court passed a judgement without any solid evidence, that’s certainly not the way, this country’s constitution behaves.
Dr.Sen was kept in solitary confinement during the period for almost a month, without any strong grounds and according to the prison authorities this was done for his security. Now, if I play the role of a devil’s advocate, then my question to the police department will, if he was really associated to the Naxalities then, why he was kept in a confinement cell? You don’t keep anyone in a confinement cell just for no reason. According to Dr.Sen’s wife Ilina, Dr.Sen was isolated from the world during this period, and surprisingly the only connection that he had with the outer world was those pro-government newspapers.
Before writing this blog, I did go through various websites and news materials and got to know that even Human Rights Watch in New York issued a public statement regarding the trial of Dr.Sen which was due to begin in Raipur on 30 April 2008: According to them, “the district court’s limit of one supporter of the defendant at the trial is unnecessarily restrictive and raises broader concerns about the fairness of the trial.”
The Global Health Council(GHC), Harvard School of Public Health(HSPH), Harvard Medical School and several other prominent global health organizations also issued joint statements in support for Dr.Sen; requesting Indian authorities to allow the doctor to receive the Jonathan Mann Award for Health and Human Rights in person in Washington, D.C.
Let me just quote what they had to say on Dr.Sen: “We would also like to convey our concern and dismay that Dr. Sen remains imprisoned, after nearly one year without trial, on allegations that he passed notes from a rebel leader whom he treated in jail to a person outside the prison. Dr. Sen has denied all wrong doing and nothing in his character or history, as a dedicated community leader who has urged a peaceful settlement to this conflict for years, would support the accusations made against him. These allegations have not been substantiated or proven and have prevented Dr. Sen from providing his much-needed health services to the poor in his area, as well as his community leadership activities as an officer of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties.”
Apart from the big heads of HSPH and GHC, the twenty-two Nobel laureates from around the world wrote to India’s President and Prime Minister and Chhattisgarh state authorities. My question is if he was such a dangerous threat to the nation and was meant for those confinement cells then why so many intellectuals around the world will be voicing their concerns for Dr.Sen. For those who always talk about the law and want to bide by the law, let me tell them the act was in contravention of Articles 19 (freedom of opinion and expression) and 22 (freedom of association) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – to which India is a state party – and he was charged under two internal security laws that do not comport with international human rights standards.
The Government of India led by the Indian National Congress which was the opposition party in the state of Chhattisgarh reacted strongly to international appeals for the release of Dr Binayak Sen. And even today, the Government feels that the issue around Dr Binayak Sen is a well orchestrated campaign and just because he was selected for a western award, doesn’t make him less guilty in their view. Also the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that the State Government is right in opposing Dr Sen’s appeal.
If I again play the role of a devil’s advocate, then again I’ll ask the government, if I believe that the government is right, then I have to say that the Supreme Court is wrong, because it was the Supreme Court which overruled the allegations made by the government and granted him the bail.
But, three days back, the Raipur court sentenced Dr.Sen to a life imprisonment for sedition. it is not the Congress lead UPA government who is against Dr.Sen, even the opposition party BJP is no less than the Congress as one of its leader apparently tweeted about the verdict saying she fully agrees to the verdict and a person who indulges into sedition should face similar consequences. I fully agree to her, only if you can prove that, if can’t then I am sorry madam, I don’t agree with you.
I have never ever supported the Maosim of today, nor I’ll ever, because, Naxalism started of with a good purpose in the past but now it has become an adulterated movement, with a different purpose now. But as far as the injustice on Dr.Sen is concerned, mere passing of letters can’t be the grounds for slapping of sedition charges against Dr. Binayak sen.
At the end all I have to say, the good doctor cannot wait inside the prison just because India’s moral compass has quivered….Free Dr.Binayak Sen!!