Happy new year

A day late, but 364 days remain. Wishing all those who read this the best for 2011. For us, 2010 was personally quite good and 2011 may well be better.

But as for the larger picture…

My infrequent blog posts have mostly been rather pessimistic. This post should have been an exception, if the following hadn’t happened in the last week of 2010:

  • Binayak Sen, a doctor who has spent decades working for adivasis in Chattisgarh, was sentenced to life for sedition, under a British-era law that was brought in to suppress the freedom movement. The British themselves never gave a sentence under that law longer than 6 years (Tilak). The main charge against Sen was carrying messages to an imprisoned Naxalite, Narendra Sanyal — who was himself not charged with sedition at that time.
  • The Gujarat Police registered a criminal case against Rahul Singh, a TV reporter who reported on a mass grave of victims from the 2002 riots.
  • The CBI closed the Aarushi murder case without solving it, and not content with that, continued to implicate her father without evidence.

The third item above indicates dysfunction, incompetence and venality, of the type we are all familiar with. But the first two indicate something else. If you criticise the government, they will come after you with the police and the courts. You will be arrested on trumped-up charges and given ludicrous sentences.

Several people (such as Ram Guha) have said that they expect the Binayak Sen verdict to be overturned on appeal. But that was not the point of the verdict. The verdict was meant to intimidate and silence the countless other people who have spoken up against government policies in the Maoist-affected districts. Sen has already spent two years in jail and, in the best case, can expect to spend several more months, if not years, there. He can also expect the worst of medical facilities to be given to him, even as his tribal patients are left with nobody to go to. The life sentence for his alleged crime is so absurd that one fully expects this to become an international incident, but the only reaction that I have seen from a minister is law minister Veerappa Moily’s demand that retired judges desist from commenting on the verdict, lest they influence the appeals court!

The intimidation of Rahul Singh is not new either either: very recently, Tehelka reporter Shahina KK was similarly implicated by the Karnataka Police in a witness-intimidation case. The police have been doing this against activists and other undesirable people for decades, but now they are bold enough to target members of the national media. And why not? There is no price that the police has to pay for foisting false cases on people. There is no price that judges have to pay for ludicrous judgements. Therefore, this sort of thing is going to increase. As such, unless police who fabricate evidence and judges who deliver blatantly flawed judgements are punished — not criticised, not admonished, but punished severely — by the higher courts — local governments will only get more emboldened to intimidate, threaten, punish and lock up dissenters. It’s all allowed under the “war on terror”. And many people buy it, and will continue to buy it until it is their turn.

For a long time now, eight Indian states have effectively been police states, thanks to the draconian AFSPA act. Now the rest of us are starting to find out what it’s like. And that is exactly what our central and state governments want. Ask our prime minister and our home minister. Their silence is eloquent enough.

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13 Comments

  1. Roadrunner

     /  January 9, 2011

    Rahul,

    Binayak Sen? You can’t be serious! The guy is a fake. He healthcare activities are too modest to merit mention, and by no means has he done anything extraordinary that others have. Compared to the legendary Baba Amte, and the Ramakrishna Mission (which incidentally runs hospitals in Chattisgarh among other underserved states) Binayak’s record of service is insignificant. RK Mission BTW runs the largest charitable medical services operation in Kolkata and has been tirelessly working for the general welfare since 1932. You would be well advised to visit http://www.rkmsevapratishthan.org and acquaint yourself with its mission and understand how real welfare organizations work. If Kolkata is too far, forget it, just visit Udavum Karangal in Anna Nagar and spend some time with Vidyakar to disabuse yourself of the ill-deserved respect you accord to crooks like Binayak Sen. Sen has no business cavorting with thugs and crooks like the naxalites. He has had his day in court and enjoyed access to counsel, something unlike the unfortunate victims of commie thugs.

    Reply
  2. Rahul Siddharthan

     /  January 9, 2011

    Of course I’m serious, and what do you think his crime is? His healthcare activities are aimed at modest people who cannot even visit Raipur, let alone Kolkata or Chennai. If that is a seditious crime, it speaks for the values of modern India.

    Reply
  3. Roadrunner

     /  January 10, 2011

    Rahul,

    What do you think Binayak Sen’s crime is? Surely you have read the trial court’s verdict? AIM For Seva founded by Swami Dayananda Sarasvati manages nine student homes in MP. One of the homes is located in Khategaon, which it describes as follows. “…population of 21,018. females constitute 47.5% of the population. The tribal population is around 60% of the total population, mainly Gond, ,Bhumiya, Bhuihar, Sahariya, Pando and Mariya”
    Why is the law not targeting Dayananda Sarasvati? maybe they should because as you say, the Indian State considers “…healthcare activities…aimed at modest people” seditious.

    If Sen wants to help the indigent access healthcare he could work with an organization like Sankara Nethralaya and boost its teleophthalmology program which currently reaches only a 100 km radius around its main centers in Kolkata, Guwahati, Chennai, Bangalore etc.,

    In the meanwhile think about dropping by at Udavum Karangal. Vidyakar is also a man who saw poverty, injustice, apathy, and corruption, all around him. Sen came from a middle class family that could pay for his way through CMC. Vidyakar depended on charity to make ends meet. Sen took his knowledge of medicine and like Teresa decided he would administer nostrum to his patients (Teresa handed out religious nostrum, Sen the pap of class annihilation). Vidyakar studied and trained to become a professional social worker, and today runs institutions that take care of the destitute be they old or young, diseased or healthy. Sen finding healthcare boring decided to join forces with commie thugs who lynch others at peoples’ courts. Vidyakar ignoring the apathy around him went on to obtain an ISO9001 credential for his process and a Mater’s degree. Sen maintains that unless those who wipe out class enemies are annihilated there can be no progress. Vidyakar differs, “It is not the way I intended to live my life. It is dangerous, tough, thankless job… but someone’s got to do it. It’d be nice if society did not need people like me but while it does… I will be right there.”

    It speaks volumes for modern India that the learned who should know better equate the pathetic record of service of a poseur like Binayak Sen with that of a humanitarian and paropakari like Vidyakar or Dr. Badrinath. And while we are at it here’s a reminder on what real humanitarianism is about. Akshayapatra is now in Chattisgarh, and now serves >30,000 meals/day around Raipur. Let’s help them increase that 10X. Any suggestions?

    Reply
  4. gaddeswarup

     /  January 11, 2011

    I am not sure that there are one or two particular ways of doing social work. Vinayak Sen’s start and development is described by one of his teachers
    http://www.tehelka.com/story_main39.asp?filename=cr030508a_prize.asp
    and it seems fine to me. I have also seen some of Ramakrishna Mission work in Kolkata which seemed wonderful to me and it may me more due to them than the state government that some sort of health services are available to many of the poor. But the Mission may not suit everybody. I heard that Muslim monks of the Mission have a rough time in India and are usually posted abroad.

    Reply
  5. Rahul Siddharthan

     /  January 11, 2011

    I have only one suggestion: stop sliming good people anonymously. Udavum Karangal doesn’t need cheerleaders like you. Now go away.

    Reply
  6. Roadrunner

     /  January 11, 2011

    Gaddeswarup,
    I heard that Muslim monks of the Mission have a rough time in India and are usually posted abroad.
    Are you sure what you are writing about? Sounds bizarre! A monk of the RK Mission (or a nun of the Sarada Mission) is a sanyasi, one who has renounced all worldly ties. As a rule neither the renunciate nor the Mission says anything, if at all, about the renunciate’s antecedents. If there are renunciates who were Muslim earlier, we wouldn’t know. The Mission has 12 branches in Bangladesh and runs orphanages, schools (incl. a high school in Dhaka) and craft training programs. This is apart from the hospital, nursing school, and several schools and dispensaries the Mission runs across the length and breadth of India. BTW its record of service in Kolkata is exemplary. The Mission is a worthy candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize and is record of service is unmatched.

    I did read Sen’s teacher’s article in Tehelka and must say it is very underwhelming,

    Binayak was very interested in the question of food security. He saw children die from malnutrition and saw that families below the poverty line had no access to ration cards. Through his organisation, Roopantar, he initiated programmes to promote food security. He encouraged villagers to create and preserve food banks as a community.

    He doesn’t seem to have improved matters very much, if at all. As I said earlier, Akshayapatra is already serving 30,000 meals a day in Chattisgarh. From all accounts Binayak Sen’s record of service is nothing much to talk about. in the time that he has been conducting his “welfare activities” Meenakshi Natarajan was working on developing her career in politics, and last year won an election to the Lok Sabha from Mandsaur, MP. There is absolutely no place for any violent activism, and less still any rationalization for it. An educated man like Binayak Sen should know better than have anything to do with commie thugs like Khobad Ghandhy, Charu Mazumdar, or Naren Sanyal. From the trial court’s verdict it is clear that Sen has collaborated with naxalite terrorists.

    Rahul,
    I agree Udavum Karangal does not need cheerleaders like me, and I am not fit to be spoken of in the same breath as Vidyakar. I am just a traitor.

    Swami Vivekananda: “I call him a traitor who, having been educated, nursed in luxury by the heart’s blood of the downtrodden millions of toiling poor, never even takes a thought for them.”

    Reply
  7. gaddeswarup

     /  January 12, 2011

    I once spent a month in Kolkata and spoke to several monks. My understanding is that monks go through seven years of training and study sanskrit books as a part of the training and do not have to give up their original religions. There are Christian and Jewish monks too. I understand that one monk used to dip his fingers in gangajal while turning the pages of koran. I felt that the Mission was more into social work than any particular religion. I think that there was a court case by the state government wanting to brand it a hindu organization but the Mission disagreed and I do not know the current status of the case. On the whole I was very impressed with the work of the organization and hope it and similar organizations will spread. The problem seems to be the lack of enough monks; they probably need about 3-4 dedicated monks to start new centers and there are not enough of them.

    Reply
  8. gaddeswarup

     /  January 12, 2011

    My apologies to Rahul for drifting in to one of my pet topics. I was very impressed by RK Mission. I also met some agricultural scientists visiting the mission. They have research centers and huge programs (in West Bengal) for disseminating new agricultural technologies to the farmers. Their very success may be the reason for the animosity of the state government. Somehow, there seems to be an impression that it is a Hindu organization. Many of the monks are of Hindu origin and are a diverse lot but the emphasis seems to be on social work and spiritual guidance (perhaps rooted in Indian past).

    Reply
  9. Just catching up and…whoa.

    :-)

    Happy New Year to you guys! Hope the year goes well for all of you.

    Reply
  10. Rahul Siddharthan

     /  January 13, 2011

    SB – thanks! Hope your absence from FB means an increased presence on the blogosphere.

    Reply
  11. Roadrunner

     /  January 19, 2011

    Rahul,

    One more case for you. This is about one agent of change in our neck of the woods (I am also from Adayar, although I live across the oceans)
    Mr. D.V. Sridharan has been running Goodnewsindia.com for several years. About 7-8 years ago he ran afoul of the local MGM – a developer and purveyor of tacky kitsch on ECR. MGM went to great lengths to suppress Mr. Sridharan and his friends in Karikkattu Kuppam, near Muttukadu. Maybe I don’t read the right newspapers, but I haven’t read about this sorry episode anywhere but on Goodnewsindia.com. Dilip D’Souza who wrote Gibibytes aout every non-entity engaged in Tsunami relief on the East Coast (ignoring some worthy institutions and volunteers) ignored this entirely. In Chennai itself the local “outrage” and “rights” industry was silent by its absence. Justice (Retd.) Mohan though helped Sridharan greatly. Again, none of these people ever took up arms even though MGM’s goons threatened them with all kinds of violence.

    Incidentally MGM is a business group owned by Christians and they were planning to encroach upon the lands of an old kovil maintained by the TN’s Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments department – a conduit for TN’s political parties to loot the coffers of TN’s kovils.

    There are many fine people like Mr. Sridharan who would in no circumstances ever contemplate violence.
    http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/Magazine/story/mgm/

    Reply
    • Roadrunner,
      I asked you to go away, but since you won’t, well…
      What does the case you linked with have to do with Binayak Sen? Well, I can count a few:
      1. Like Sen, Sridharan is fighting for dispossessed locals against powerful commercial interests
      2. Like Sen, Sridharan encountered difficulties with the local police and judiciary
      3. Like Sen, Sridharan does not condone violence
      4. Unlike Sen, Sridharan seems to have prevailed, up to a point, and is a free man.

      The MGM case and similar cases along ECR were very much covered in the media. Binayak Sen got basically no attention until he had spent over a year in jail; only when Tehelka published a cover story on his plight did those of us who aren’t PUCL workers even know of his existence.

      Ah, PUCL — Binayak Sen’s organisation, dirty Maoist sympathisers, you’ll no doubt say. In fact Sridharan’s lawyers (named on page 8 of your link), V Suresh and D Nagasaila, are well-known PUCL activists. And, if I’m not mistaken, Suresh has had “pro-Naxalite” cases slapped against him by the police — another Binayak Sen parallel, among hundreds of such examples. If Suresh is not in jail, it’s only because Tamil Nadu is perhaps just a shade more lawful than Chhattisgarh. I’m not sure of Sridharan, but it won’t surprise me at all if he too is one of those dangerous PUCL types who thinks Binayak Sen should be free. Be careful whom you consort with.

      Reply
  12. Krithika Ramalingam

     /  January 19, 2011

    @roadrunner. I do know that Udavum Karangal and Mr Vidyakar were investigated for abuses in their home as was Ramakrishna Mission in Chennai. I know this because I was part of a panel to assist and monitor Child Welfare Committee in this city. Does that make the two organisations guilty of paedophilia? It would if one were to extend your logic to their cases. If the police/courts (the CWC in this instance) were determined to foist a case and plant evidence instead of conducting a fair enquiry, the two organisations would have lost their licence to care for children. I personally know the officers, cwc chairperson who investigated the cases and can vouch for how upright they are. Now, can you do the same for people who accuse Dr Sen of sedition? Really, you are going by the verdict of the trial court. I am no student of law, but even for an outsider observer like me the number of lower judiciary verdicts that are overturned by high courts sounds ridiculously high. And yet you point to how corrupt the police is by linking to the article on GoodnewsIndia? Surely you can see the irony here!

    Reply

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