Monday, January 03, 2011

India: Binayak Sen Sentenced to Life Term

By Badri Raina, ZNet, January 2, 2011


A Sessions Court judge in Raipur, capital of the BJP-ruled state of Chattisgarh, has pronounced Binayak Sen guilty of sedition and conspiracy against the State, and sentenced the good doctor to a life term in prison.

So who is Binayak Sen?

An alumni of the prestigious Christian Medical College in Vellore, who had the foolhardiness to turn his back on career both there and in the equally prestigious Jawahar Lal Nehru university in Delhi, follow the lead of the late and legendary Shankar Guha Niyogi—who was murdered some years ago by paid assassins of industrial interests for his dogged and path-breaking, hence  dangerous, labours among the unorganized adivasis, dalits, women, and other  voiceless denizens of the backwaters of Chattisgarh against some of the most gruesome exploitation that free Indians have known—and devote the last three or so decades of his still young life to serving among the poorest of the poor.

For decades now, this selfless and saintly man has run a weekly clinic deep in the Sal forests of the region that has drawn tribals from as far away as 30 kilometers for healing.  Their only other option a two-day walk through the jungles.  Sen trained hundreds of tribals to become healthcare workers,  an effort whose sterling success found it acceptance as state policy, christened  Mitanin  Swasthya Yojna (volunteer health programme).
Inspired by Niyogi, Sen also helped set up the Shaheed (martyr) hospital, one that still operates with donations from coal miners.

Indeed much of his work parallels the sort of immersion in ministering to the  wretched of the earth  that the world associates with  the Nobel prize winner, Mother Teresa.
With one all-important difference. Binayak, unlike the good Mother, did not think there was any great purchase in being meek.  Thus it is that he made the grievous mistake of standing up and speaking for the “human rights” of  god-fatherless forest dwellers in the face of the cruelties and denials vented upon them by the State, by its vigilante agency of goons named  “Salwa Judum,” and, if only the  judge who sentenced him had listened, by the  insurgent Maoists as well.

In particular, Sen’s opposition to the displacement of a hundred thousand tribals from their homes and hearths by vigilante goons of the State  made the latter saw red.  Ostensibly done to facilitate police operations against the Moaist insurgents and for their own safety (sic) such displacement and any resistance to it by innocent tribals  has  caused  unconscionable brutalities to be  inflicted upon them, often on the charge that they were informants to the insurgents, and guilty of sheltering them.

As to Sen himself,   does it matter that in  repeatedly asking for “equity and peace”  whenever querried by the media, he rarely balked from condemning the atrocities perpetrated by the armed Naxalites on innocent men, women, and children.

But in an era of McCarthyism that now seems to accompany the murderous impatience of India’s State and Corporate combine to enhance private wealth, Binayak’s  infuriating doggedness of purpose in staying his course in the hinterland among the victims on the ground  (had he been, like so many of us, content to combine a lucrative  metropolitan career with urbanite activism, things may not have been so dire, either for him or for the State), finally broke the camel’s back, as it were.

The official finger went up, declaring the doctor public enemy number one.

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