IT IS A FORUM TOWARDS PROTECTING THE CIVIL , HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE OPPRESSED - DALITS , MINORITIES & TRIBALS.The Criminal - Police - Politician - Judge - Criminals Nexus is trying to silence me in many ways. If anything untoward happens to me or to my dependents CHIEF JUSTICE OF INDIA together with jurisdictional police & District Magistrate will be responsible for it.
We, the undersigned are shocked at the conviction of well-known public health doctor and human rights worker Dr Binayak Sen by a Raipur Sessions Court on charges of ‘sedition’ and ‘waging war against the IndianState’. The conviction carries a sentence of life imprisonment, a drastic and completely unjust fate, to be handed out to one India’s finest social activists.
We call upon the higher Indian judiciary to uphold principles of law, justice and the rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution and undo the severe damage done to the reputation of the judiciary itself through the Raipur court’s flawed judgment.
The charges against Dr Sen, of allegedly aiding outlawed Maoist rebels in Chhattisgarh, have not been corroborated by any of the witnesses or evidence produced in court so far. On the contrary there have been numerous instances of the prosecution resorting to use of fabricated documents and contradictory testimonies to press its case.
We further believe that the charges against Dr Sen, made under draconian ‘anti-terrorist’ laws, are trumped up and intended to ‘punish’ him for his outspoken criticism of the Chhattisgarh government for its human rights violations against its own tribal populations. Dr Sen, a heart patient, has already spent over two years in prison from May 2007 to May 2009 and was released on bail by the Indian Supreme Court.
That the world’s largest democratic country cannot tolerate criticism and non-violent human rights activism is a matter of shame to Indian citizens everywhere and this attitude of intolerance needs to be roundly condemned. Such low quality of justice, routinely delivered in our courts, is indeed itself a threat to Indian democracy.
Not only should Dr Sen be released immediately from imprisonment and charges withdrawn, there needs to be a thorough inquiry against all those who have framed him so maliciously. We also demand adequate compensation to Dr Sen for being deprived of his basic freedoms and his family for being subjected to the most inhumane mental torture and persecution. Jai Hind. Vande Mataram.
Burning Of Two Dalit Girls Is The Lingering
Funeral Pyre Of The Rule Of Law
By Avinash Pandey Samar
25 December, 2010 Countercurrents.org
The ghoulish killings of two Dalit girls in Moradabad, an industrial town not far away from the national capital Delhi, is yet another reminder of almost everyday recurrence of attacks on Dalit communities in India. They encompass, also the grim truth of the complete failure of the Indian state in containing, leave aside eradicating, violence committed against the Dalit communities. The incident is a sad indicator to the reality concerning the exceptional collapse of the rule of law institutions in the country.
The incident happened on 19 December. On that day, an angry mob burnt alive two young girls aged 25 and 22. The mother of the girls alleged that they were also raped by the mob. The crime they had committed to meet this ghastly fate was nothing more than the fact that they were Dalits and were sisters to two brothers accused in a double murder case. One of the brothers is absconding while the other, a sweeper by profession, is already in police custody.
The police allegedly had ignored requests made by Rajo Devi, the mother, for providing security to the family. Nonetheless, the same police were rather quick to deny that any such demands were ever made. In fact, Mr. Ashok Kumar, Deputy Inspector General of Moradabad was quick to claim that there was no evidence of a mob attack. The police actually went a step further and told the media that they believed that the girls locked themselves up and set their house on fire as people had been taunting them over the murder charge against their brothers.
The statements made by the police not only defy logic but also demean the very basic human quality of thinking. Can mere 'taunting' drive someone to the extent of committing suicide? And even if it could, will it push two adult individuals to take this extreme step? Further, if mere 'taunting' could drive them to this, it was not mere taunting anymore. One expects the police officers to know that even 'an unwelcome gesture' comes under the definition of a sexual harassment, as stipulated by the Supreme Court (albeit in a different context) in the Visakha Vs State Of Rajasthan case of 1997. One needs to know whether it is the duty of the police to explain why they did not take any action against the people who were 'taunting' the girls, or do they believe that harassment exists only at the workplace and not anywhere else? The police without any investigation made all these comments. It is doubtful whether the police that have already formed a biased view regarding the incident will be able to undertake a prompt and impartial investigation into the incident.
While making the statement the police were conspicuously silent on the fact that Rajesh, one of the two brothers was already arrested and was in police custody. While acknowledging that both the brothers did not have any 'past criminal record' the police had nothing to say on their failure in providing security to the family members of the accused. Failing in this regard is no small oversight but a dereliction of duty. Instead of fixing responsibilities and bringing the guilty to the books, the police was satisfied to announce that the post-mortem report had 'ruled out' rape. The police, however, did a favour to the victims by registering a case of rioting, murder, making forced entry into a house, indulging in violence, and offences under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 against 15 persons and a mob of over 100 people.
Unfortunately, the statements made by the police so far concerning the incident do not demonstrate the problem of an individual officer or even that of a unit. It portrays the larger malaise plaguing the system, the malaise of the skeleton of caste that forms the basic structure of the Indian state and that of its society. The high talks of democracy, rule of law and equality cannot hide the fact that the modern state of India is merely superimposed on this skeleton of caste.
The real face of this system keeps coming out from behind the faÃ§ade. It comes out in Khairlanji when a family is butchered for aspiring to escape the age-old dehumanisation forced on them. It comes out in Gohana when a whole community of Dalits find their houses burnt, their property looted and themselves chased out of their village for wanting to live a life with dignity.
It comes out in Jhajjar, where the Dalits were lynched on the suspicion of trading in cows and the surviving ones listen to a proud proclamation of the president of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, that the lives of cows are more important than that of the Dalits. It comes out in Madurai, where human excreta is forced down their throats for committing the crime of refusing to obey the orders of the 'twice-born'. It comes out in Chakwada, Rajasthan when a secular government orders its police to open fire upon a Dalit procession that was asserting their right to drink from a common pond, and later the government declaring that the disputed pond is the private property of a temple.
All these cases were explained off as cases of retribution against the Dalits for inviting the wrath of others by indulging in some crime. The real criminals who commit violence against the Dalit communities are then let off using the weaknesses of the justice institutions that are exploited by the powerful at their will. What remains unexplained is how the Indian state can let these 'revenge killings' go unabated?
This despicable failure of the Indian state in ensuring justice to one fifth of its population is not just a simple breakdown, but is a criminal dereliction of duty and violates the constitutional premise of legitimacy for any government to operate. A government that does not care for such a large proportion of its population cannot be expected to do justice to the rest, irrespective of caste or other denominators. Had India been a true democracy having a functioning rule of law setup, an event as gruesome as it happened on 19 December would not have happened. That it happened in this self-proclaimed largest democracy of the world proves that democracy and the rule of law are mere delusions in India.
After all, there is no cure for delusions.
Avinash Pandey Samar, Research Scholar, JawaharlalNehruUniversity, New Delhi. email- email@example.com
Persecuted IROM SHARMILA of Puttaparthi Andhra Pradesh - - LAND MAFIA
silencing an Innocent woman in Puttaparthi Andhra Pradesh
- LOCAL POLICE & JUDICIARY hand in gloves with the mafia - An appeal
to Honourable supreme court of India
Land mafia with the support of local police are harassing an innocent
woman by name Ms.Pushpa & her family in Puttaparthi , Andhra Pradesh.
Ms.Pushpa & her family are living under threat to their lives , the
approach road to their house is partly closed , they have suffered
attempts of murder on their lives by police & rowdy elements , police
have illegally entered her house & illegally confiscated her property.
All for the reason that THEY REFUSED TO SELL THEIR PROPERTY TO THE
NEIGHBOURING BUILDER (WHO IS AN INFLUENTIAL POLITICIAN) WHO IS
ILLEGALLY BUILDING A HUGE COMPLEX . On top of this , the police have
foisted false cases on Ms.Pushpa to silence her , circulated
pamphlets , fake stories in the local media defaming Ms.pushpa & her
family , offending the dignity of a woman .
The local Judiciary has failed to stop further injustices to this lady
& failed to take legal action against public servants who failed to do
their duty . These public servants – local police , local judiciary ,
PUDA officials , Jail officials , Government Doctor together with the
complainant Ms.Pushpa must be subjected to narco analysis test. Till
date Unauthorised construction by neighbouring builder (taking away
the acess to Ms.Pushpa & her family’s property) is going on
Ms.Pushpa presently an under trial in district jail , Ananthpur
(admitted at Governement Hospital Ananthapur) IS UNDER FAST UNTO DEATH
protesting against the inaction of Local Judiciary & Police , which is
aiding the criminals to continue their crimes. If Ms.Pushpa & any of
her family member dies , suffers bodily injuries , etc , the Local
Jurisdictional Police , Jurisdictional Magistrate together with the
Superintendent of police , District Collector & Principal District &
Sessions Judge of the said Ananthapur District , Andhra Pradesh will
be responsible for it.
On 09.12.2010 mid night Ms. Pushpa Under trial Patient at Jail Ward
of Ananthapur District Hospital , Andhra Pradesh , faced threats
from some police personnel themselves. The Police claimed that they
are moving her to other higher medical hospital . Did the police had
written orders from Higher police officers to move her that too at
wee hours ? No. Did the police had the written discharge certificate
from the concerned government doctor ? No. Did the police had written
permission from the jurisdictional Judicial Magistrate Court to move
her? No. Even the police themselves didn’t not know where they are
taking her. All this proves that the police personnel were acting
illegally under the behest of some outside criminal elements. Inspite
of appeals for JUSTICE & PROTECTION to Under Trial Ms.Pushpa (who is
on Hunger Strike) , Nobody, no public servant has cared , even if the
public servants neglect their duties they get all 5 star pay & perks
at tax payer’s expense. SHAME SHAME to them.
Nowadays , frequently some hospital staff always abuses Ms.Pushpa with filthy language & are trying to illegally shift her to psychiatric ward although she is mentally sound. Urgently she must be examined by an unbiased doctor from outside of AP state.
Although she is very much available in the jail ward of anantapur district hospital , judicial magistrate has issued NBW against Ms.Pushpa instead of asking jail superintendent to produce her before the court.
Hereby , we do request the Honourable Supreme court of India , to
conduct a thorough enquiry by a third party not belonging to Andhra
Pradesh , to investigate the Corrupt criminal nexus of Criminal Builders - Town Planning Authorities – District Administration – Police & Judges , to find the truth & give justice to the aggrieved.
India has become a strange democracy where Binayak Sen gets life in jail and dacoits get a life in luxury. It takes years of pressure for government to move against those looting the nation’s treasury; and when the majestic forces of enforcement do go on a “raid” they give their quarry enough time to remove every trace of evidence. You have to be exceptionally stupid to store evidence of your own culpability in a telecom scandal where deals were made and money paid three years before. Or, for that matter, even six months ago, as in some instances of the highly lubricated Commonwealth Games. By this time the money has either been spent, converted into assets, or sent to a convenient haven abroad. The political-industrial nexus is above the law, because it controls enforcement. But if the ruling class of India could have hanged Binayak Sen instead of merely trying to send him to jail for the rest of his life, it would have done so.
Binayak made a fundamental, mortal mistake. He was on the side of the poor. That is a non-negotiable error in our oligarchic democracy. Christmas must be truly merry in the homes of Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, P. Chidambaram and of course Raman Singh this year. The Congress and BJP dislike each other with a passion that only a thirst for power can generate; they disagree on just about anything and everything. But there is perfect harmony between them over Naxalite policy. End the Naxalite problem by elimination of the messenger; and the poor will not have the courage to ask for more than the trickle allotted to them by a gluttonous government.
Media is obedient doorman of this nexus, protecting its interests with a zeal that should surprise even the benefactors. The arrest of Binayak was converted into instant accusatory headlines. His trial was ignored by the press, which is why we do not know that there was virtually no substantive evidence. Suffice it to say that two of Binayak’s jailors, during his detention without bail, were declared hostile by the prosecution. Prosecuting lawyers are in the pay of government, as are the jailors. And yet two policemen refused to back the prosecution. A fabricated unsigned letter, apparently cooked up on a computer printout, seems to have been sufficient to convince the honourable guardians of our judicial system that Binayak Sen deserved a sentence reserved for only the most hardened murderer.
It is another matter that Binayak Sen, who was senior to me in school, was and remains the gentlest of people, distinguished only by a fierce commitment to his cause of choice. I do not agree with his political views or inclinations; nor does the political system. But it is only in a dictatorship that disagreement is sufficient reason for incarceration. India seems to be developing a two-tier democracy: generosity of the law for the privileged and vindictive, distorted application on the underprivileged.
It is ironic that the Binayak judgement appeared on the front pages of the Christmas day newspapers. We all know that Jesus was not born on 25 December; it was only in the fourth century that Pope Liberius declared this date to be a birthday because mystery and miracle has been associated with the winter solstice from time beyond memory. Christmas has become an international festival because it represents the most important values that give life some meaning and hold the complex social web together: peace, and goodwill towards all men, without which there cannot be peace.
This goodwill is not sectarian; it is easy to have goodwill towards some men, friends or benefactors. Christmas is the festival of the Other. It is the embrace of the dissident, or even the enemy. The most famous display of the Christmas spirit was the pause on the frontline in the First World War, when a few British and German soldiers announced an impromptu truce, played football, shared a drink and became human for a day before their superiors ordered them to return to the savagery of a terrible war that wrecked Europe.
If Binayak Sen is guilty of sedition on the basis of fictitious evidence, then, as was famously said during the great Gandhian movement against the British between 1919 and 1922, there are not enough jails in India to hold those equally guilty. The reference is not accidental. Governments have begun to opt for a colonial approach towards Naxalism and its myriad manifestations. The reason? Fear, perhaps terror. The corrupt can recognise their nemesis
Thirty years ago, in an act I still feel guilty about, I woke up a very great Indian from his sleep. I was volunteering at a conference in New Delhi, and had been asked to fetch the Member of Parliament from Dhanbad, AKRoy, from his quarters in Vithalbhai Patel House. Roy, a labour leader legendary for his integrity and his wide range of reading, had been elected from the mining town as an Independent, his campaign funds raised from the workers themselves. It was characteristic of the man (and perhaps also of the times) that instead of asking for a Lutyens’ bungalow or even a spacious flat on South Avenue, he settled on a single room in a tall, dark, unattractive building off Parliament Street.
We students asked the reception for Roy’s room number, took the lift up, and knocked on the door. No one answered. We knocked again. At this stage we should probably have left and told the organisers that the MP was not in. But we were students, eager to prove our keenness, so we knocked several times more and also shouted to attract attention. Finally, the door opened, and an erect man in a khadi kurta-pyjama stood in front of us, rubbing his eyes. He asked who we were and what we wanted, meeting our answers with an extraordinarily gentleness of manner. His friend, and temporary host, had apparently gone out on an errand.
The man we had woken up was Shankar Guha Niyogi. He was resting perhaps after a long train journey, and in any case for a man who worked where and like he did any sleep snatched anywhere was a bonus. Originally from Bengal, Guha Niyogi had gone to the Bhilai region as a young man and started working among unorganised labour. While workers employed by the Bhilai steel plant were represented by unions affiliated to the major parties, the labourers in the mines and ancillary industries were unrepresented, and hence shockingly exploited. Under Guha Niyogi’s leadership they came together in unions, and demanded and obtained better wages. But their leader’s vision was never merely economistic. He opened clinics for them and schools for their children, and, with the help of their wives, ran a successful campaign against alcoholism. Guha Niyogi was also a precocious environmentalist, urging factory owners to protect workers from pollution, and asking the general public to conserve the water bodies, forests and overall biodiversity of the region.
A man of quiet dignity and an almost heroic commitment to the poor — like Mahatma Gandhi in both respects — Guha Niyogi inspired many middle-class professionals to join him. Among them was Binayak Sen, a gold medalist from the ChristianMedicalCollege in Vellore, who, with the world at his feet, moved to Chhattisgarh in the early 1980s. He has lived in the region ever since, ministering to patients from a wide variety of backgrounds. If his mentor’s vision went beyond higher wages, Sen’s goes beyond medical ailments. He became increasingly interested in the social rights of the area’s adivasi population, who live on the margins, without access to decent schools or regular employment.
In 1991, Guha Niyogi was murdered by a man hired by industrialists who disapproved of his attempts to enhance the self-respect of the workers. Now, 20 years later, his friend, colleague and protegé has been awarded a life sentence by a court in Raipur for the crime of talking to Maoist prisoners in jail. Binayak Sen has never fired a gun; he probably does not know how to hold one. He has explicitly condemned Maoist violence, and even said of the armed revolutionaries that theirs is “an invalid and unsustainable movement”.
In the eyes of the government of Chhattisgarh, the crime of Binayak Sen is that he dared question the corrupt and brutal methods used to tackle the Maoist upsurge. In 2005, the state government promoted a vigilante army that spread terror through the districts of Dantewada, Bijapur and Bastar. In the name of combating Naxalism, it burned homes (and occasionally, whole villages), violated tribal women, and attacked (and sometimes killed) tribal men who refused to join its ranks. As a result of its depredations almost a hundred thousand adivasis with no connection at all to Maoism were rendered homeless.
Sen was one of the first to document the excesses of the vigilante army, and to expose the hand of the state government in promoting it. That his charges were true I can confirm, for I visited the region shortly afterwards, in the company of a group of independent citizens, who included the respected editors BG Verghese and Harivansh, and the distinguished anthropologist Nandini Sundar, winner of the Infosys Prize. Our report, War in the Heart of India, provides a sober, non-ideological account of the crimes of the state and Union governments in this regard.
Sen’s conviction happened in a court subject to intimidation by a government run by (and I use the word advisedly) paranoid politicians (helped by sometimes paranoid police officers). His conviction will and should be challenged. As it stands, however, it is a disgrace to democracy. His brave wife commented on the verdict that if “one who has worked for the poor of the country for 30 years, if that person is found guilty of sedition activities and conspiracy, when gangsters and scamsters are walking free, I think it’s a scandalous situation”. Any reasonable Indian would concur.
Ramachandra Guha is the author of India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy. The views expressed by the author are personal.
I simply cannot understand why Binayak Sen is back behind the brutal bars again. Yesterday afternoon a session court at Raipur found him guilty of sedition and treason and sentenced him to life in prison. Those who love and admire Binayak were shocked to know that such a distinguished ethicist, pediatrician, human right activist and a public health worker was described by the court as a Maoist and a traitor. A month back, speaking at the Convocation of the Class of 2010 in Asian College of Journalism, Binayak said, “In Chhattisgarh, the term ‘Maoist’ has become a catch-all attribution that includes anyone whose activities the state finds inimical to its current interests.” It is indeed a sad day for the Indian democracy that the Raipur court sided with the government and delivered a judgment that has evoked strong protests, worldwide.
Binayak indulging in sedition and treason? Unbelievable. Binayak trying to wage a war against his nation? Unthinkable. Binayak joining hands with anti-social elements of the society to indulge in unlawful activities. Fragments of imagination. Those who know Binayak Sen- and I have a privilege of knowing him personally for 20 years- were shocked to know that the Raipur session judge believed in these allegations. For, there are few doctors who are as tender, as compassionate, as affable, as committed and as much moved by social injustice as Binayak Sen. And unlike most of us who are just arm chair critics of the violence and inequality, Binayak has spent his productive life –living with the poor, and caring for them.
MGIMS alumni from 1989 batch would recollect their association with ShaheedHospital in Chhattisgarh, where they worked as young doctor trainees during their two-year pre-PG rural posting. Binayak helped this hospital grow and acquire a pro-poor image. Over the past 15 years, he actively worked with marginalized and indigenous communities in Chhattisgarh to develop models of affordable and pragmatic primary health care, defended the liberties of the disadvantaged, and fought against human rights violations. Binayak and his wife, Ilina, founded Rupantar, a community-based NGO that trained, deployed and monitored the work of community health workers. Deeply moved by the plight of poor and vulnerable, Binayak spoke openly against the oppressive tactics of the anti-naxal private army, Salwa Judum and said that violence in any form is not acceptable to him.
A member of Medico Friend Circle (MFC) – a group of secular,pro–people, pro-poor health workers, scientists and social activists- Binayak has been regularly visiting Sevagram since more than three decades to take part in the MFC annual meets. He would almost always arrive unannounced in the Yaatri Niwas, would sit serenely in the far corner of the room, and for most of the time would speak no word. But when he spoke, he spoke with passion. The group would listen to him with apt attention- trying to catch every word that emerged from the quivering lips of a practicing doctor who saw his activism as intrinsic to his work as a health professional. Binayak knew what poverty was all about, how people travel miles to seek healthcare, why women die in labour, why children perish to infections, what it takes to treat TB and malnutrition in resource-poor settings and how people endure and silently suffer torture and victimization. As C. Sathyamala wrote about three years ago, “…while Binayak’s training at CMC (Vellore) gave him excellent clinical skills and reinforced an already present empathy with the patient, it was his close association with MFC that contributed to his understanding and growth as a public health professional with a difference.”
In 2007, the concluding paragraph of an editorial in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics read, “By arresting Binayak, the government is sending a clear message: in today’s globalized world, the government functions as a law and order keeping machinery in the interests of the corporate sector. No one who poses a threat to such interests or comes in the way of “growth”-driven development will be tolerated. “Waging war against the state”, and “unlawful activities”, sections under which Binayak is being held, then get interpreted to mean any activity that opposes the immoral and unjust activities of the government and the capitalists who are under the protection of the benevolent eye of the law.
In December 2010, our worst fears turned true. If activists like Binayak are sent to prison in a democratic country, who would work for the marginalized and socially disadvantaged? As the Lancet editorial (2009) told us, Binayak deserves a right to a fair trial and a right to life. Time to strengthen the campaign for the dropping of all charges against Binayak.
Need Judicial Reforms And A Debate
On The Issues Of Sedition And Governance
As year 2010 is approaching to an end, the outrageous verdict pronounced by a Raipur court to Dr Binayak Sen is a reminder of how judicial system is working in India particularly the lower judiciary. It has not only shocked the nation but also proved that in this country any talk of senses would be dealt by the government and its authorities in the similar way. It is more shameful when we find the same charges being leveled against Arundhati Roy for alleged ‘anti-national’ remarks on Kashmir. It is sadly a poor reflection on how things are manipulated in India by authorities.. Definitely, it shocked the middle class upper caste Hindus also who think how such charge can be leveled against him. So far treason and sedition charges are always domain of the ‘Muslims’ but now we are turning more ‘secular’ for the same.
But my issue is not with what Binayak Sen and Arundhati Roy write or who they meet which actually is part of the life of all of us who claim to work for people. As human rights activist we are supposed to meet and visit people who feel they are threatened and wrongly abused by the state and its authorities. All this is part of democratic process as the aim is to bring people to negotiating table and force the state to be more responsible. State has all the power and that power need to be used with utmost care and more responsibility and accountability. State can not act in a streetfight acting on tit for tat slogan.
We all know that in the past 20 years, India has further degenerated in to the core values of state’s responsibility. The directive principles of our constitution guided us to make a responsible state towards the Dalits and Adivasis. As the assertion of Dalits and Adviasis grew, the state started abdicating its responsibility in a very shrewd way. The two important issues that are part and parcel of our struggle are Land Redistribution and participation in power structure through reservation in the government jobs. Since 1990s, they became target of the ruling elite. Hence on the one hand, the subsequent government in post 1990s opted for opening up of Indian market and thus killing our farmers on the one hand and allowing privatization of more and more companies thus reducing the job quota to a virtual nil in the government sector. This was the silent poison introduce by the government. The ruling elite were not satisfied with this only. The marginalization and isolation of Muslims was complete. Though this country has a history of communal disturbances yet Babari demolition shook the very basic foundation of our nationhood yet nothing happened to those who were behind the killings of people and incited hatred against the ‘second largest community’ in India Contrary to what we felt that these communalist forces would be thrashed and sent to jail, we saw Lal Krishna Advani became deputy prime minister of the country for his Ayodhya Kand. Narendra Modi became chief minister after massacring thousands of Muslims in Gujarat and Kalyan Singh who took oath to defend the Babari Mosque was sentenced to one day imprisonment for a clear act of sedition which actually created an unprecedented divide in the country. We did not a find single sentence for those who allegedly were responsible for massacring thousands of Sikhs in Delhi’s 1984 riots. After 1993 riots Bal Thackrey’s Shiv Sena came to power in Maharastra. Why not a fast track court for our politicians? Can there be any case against Lal Krishna Advani, Narendra Modi, Uma Bharati and Kalyan Singh under sedition. No, they have raised the consciousness of this country for Ram Mandir, the ‘most important’ issue the country, hence they got awarded with power in the country. Actually, questioning the mainstream politics has become very much like a blasphemy law in India and that could send you to jail. This has to be challenged at all level.
If these things were not enough to break the bone of the people of India, the power brokers forced the government to grab the fertile land of the country. Millions of hectares of land was handed over in a throw away prices to the industrialists who suck our blood from morning till evening. The authorities were hell bent to grab all these for the ‘development’ of our country. In each spheres of our life we find rampant corruption which is killing us. Our politicians, bureaucrats, journalists, along with corporate have looted our resources and displaced people from their own places without providing an alternatives. No debate is taking place in parliament on the issues of national concern. If one party opposes certain initiative, they are doing the same in their state. The Hindutva people knew it very well that a cocktail of ‘capital’ and ‘brahmanism’ is best suited to protect their interests in India and hence they have Brahmanised the Indian polity resulting almost no opposition for government policies on corporate. That is why any mention of ‘Hindu terrorist evoke such sharp reactions in Indian media. They do not have same when we refer to Islamic terrorists or Muslim terrorists. The media already become part of the power gangs and judiciary out of domain for the poor, there is no way out for the poorest of the poor. The issues of tribal are in direct conflict with the issue of development. It is not that they do not want it but then the question is whether any one of us ever thought what they want. The democratic deficit in tribal land turned their anger against the state. Hundreds of them have been arrested and put into the jails for no faults of them. Their voices rarely got representation in the mainstream for the sake of ‘community representation’. It is difficult to understand that even the political parties claiming to work for them rarely raised those issues in Parliament and state assemblies.
Land grabbing helped all those contractors come in close contacts of the power elite. Each event in this country has relation with land grabbing and corruption. It is therefore important why right from Common Wealth Games to building of dams, parks, hotels, resorts, SEZs, High ways are the out come of a big disease called brahmanical capitalism at the moment being developed under the supervision of power elites. There is no debate for it as most of them have their hand strained in the blood of the people. That the issue of corruption will never become an issue as it does not influence people who have grown up in worshipping our political class. The only thing is that it has decentralized. Earlier it has brahmanical hegemony but now slowly the Dalit-Bahujans are also having their take in it though their percentage seems to be very low. But at the end of the day, the impact of this is on the poorest of the poor whether it is taken by any one. You can only be good if you dance to the tone of corporate. Hence a Nitish Kumar will turn sour if he does not allot land to some Tatas or Ambanis on throw away prices like Naveen Patnayak.
When the voices of opposition are nowhere then who has to play the role of it. Hundreds of local struggles have emerged up against the state policies which are uprooting people from their land. Whether it is Chhattishgarh state which is currently being ruled by a non tribal and that is the biggest irony of the state,. Similarly, other states have been governed by those who did not remain behind to keep the Dalits and tribal out of their developmental plans. States such as Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Tamilnadu, Gujarat, Maharastra and Uttarakhand, have provided their fertile land and water resources are at the cost of their people to these greedy corporations, many of whom are being run by our ‘esteemed’ politicians, are facing the protest of the people who are resisting every bit of this illegal take over of their land cultivated and nurtured by their ancestors. For ‘national’ media these are ‘regional’ news but the unrest is high though not formidable as people have to look for their next day meal too. It is not my contention that people do not need development but as a human rights defender, I must add that if State has failed to improve the condition of the people then its sovereignty has no right to take the lives of the people. Where is the state when tribal are dying of hunger or their women are being raped by our police and forces? Will they not turn the people against its might? Why is Kashmir boiling? Why is the North East still unable to reconcile to us? It is not that they do not want to be with us but how have we treated them. Can a Kashmiri Muslim get a room on rent in our cities? What do the girls of the North East face truants in Delhi and other parts of the country? What are we as a state? A State of racist nature, which look down upon those who it feel different than us. Yes, as a nation we still worship the white skin and look down upon the black.
Therefore, it is logical for humanists, human rights activists, and social action groups to play the role of the opposition. The issues of Human Rights of the Dalits were taken to international agenda not by the political parties but by the Dalit rights activists who spoke there and presented despite the powerful opposition from the shameless government of India which denied existence of caste based prejudices in India citing the laws and acts in Indian constitution. It is important for the health of democracy that political parties raise the issues concerning the masses but over the last 20 years politics has just become the game of non political actors and that is a dangerous phenomenon. Political parties might have empowered some of them but it is the social movements which have changed the lives of the people. And since many of the writers, activists, struggles for people’s right over resources are challenging government’s action particularly on the issue of sovereignty they are easily targeted as ‘being anti national’ or supporting secessionists or in more popular discourse, supporting the Maoists. For a nation to survive as a healthy democracy, it is important that we have an open debate on issues concerning our people. A debate on Kashmir can not be judged on Barkha Dutt’s upper caste show on NDTV. It needs to be organized in Kashmir and let those champions of Hindutva be there and speak among the masses. The issue of Advasis, need to be discussed with their people and not with one or two members showcased in the TV studios of Delhi to justify that ‘we have space for ‘their’ voices. Let the journalist report going to nook and corners of the country and not become part and parcel of our ‘intelligence’ network. The greatest danger to our democracy is the growing disappearance of demarcation line between a reporter and an intelligence person, between a PR person and an editor. They all have merged together so much that it is important to know who is the person and what is he writing.
The self styled mainstream media has rarely spoken for people who are rotting in our jails. They speak for Dr Binayak Sen as they feel he was one among them. It is a class-caste consciousness which has shocked them that if such a thing could happen to him, it might happen to them. But the fact is media has completely lost interest in people’s issues. Binayak Sen is not important. Important is the issue of charges against him and the way police framed him. Important is to question our sedition laws and the issue of my right to criticize the state. He was critical of Salawa Judum which the state felt was providing justice to the tribal who were not Naxalites. Even the Supreme Court had held that state can not give private citizens right to kill each other and Salwa Judum was that. Hence, questioning state polices today is being considered as challenge to our sovereignty. Therefore, I am also happy that this verdict will expose the Indian judicial system, its courts, its trial methods and how they function. It is indeed a case for judicial reforms in India.
Therefore, it is not necessary for me to dwell on the argument of Dr Binayak Sen or Arundhati Roy which may suffer from flaws and we all have those flaws as we become too sensitive to the issues close to our heart and that is what true about those who fight for people’s right. We may differ on our perceptions but as writers, authors, human rights activists always believe in their perceptions and beliefs and that makes them different than others. We are not political leaders who speak for the ‘people’. We speak our voices and our feeling. As a human rights defender, I write many things which many may not like, of course, many others like them too yet, it is important that this freedom remain unchallenged. For, because of such people, the forces of state and its sponsored campaigns and laws are challenged.
Is not it a hypocrisy that when a Chinese dissenter got Nobel Peace Prize earlier this year, Indian government send its representative to attend the ceremony despite China’s effort to dissuade India from doing so. It was a great gesture in support of a human rights defender for democracy in that country who has been allegedly framed for treason in that country. Its shameful that Binayak Sen’s case is becoming a very similar one where the state is hell bent to prove that he worked against the state.. Binayak Sen might not have done so many things but in their dirty tricks the government officials will only make him bigger and larger than life. The world will only cry foul on conviction of the local court which looks like a kangaroo trial. For long there have been demands for a National judicial Commission and implementation of quota for SC-ST-OBCs, in the judiciary so that the judges themselves understand their issues with utmost care before passing a judgment. The courts have actually become biggest obstacles in progressive laws. Most of the judges have biases against Dalit-Adivasis and their issues related to them. The issue of quota is being made redundant through judicial interventions. Similarly, land reforms failed in India as in most of the cases the high and mighty went to court against land ceiling laws. The brahmanical minds created various side ways to destroy all the reforms and acts.
Binayak Sen has a formidable background as a doctor as well as a civil rights activist and hence his case became internationalized otherwise ordinary mortals like us would never ever think of civil libertarians and news papers supporting this freedom. Hence, we must support his release and ask for a thorough scrutiny of the conditions in Indian jails and reform in the judiciary. Binayak Sen is definitely bound to get justice but in the din of hello being created around, we must not forget thousands of innocents being put in the jail for being Jehadis, Naxalites and what not. Any one raise the issue for his right is charged with challenging the state and this mindset has to be challenged. It is time to start a complete debate on these issues which have emerged out of Binayak Sen’s conviction.
I am very upset about the court decision in Chhattisgarh about Binayak Sen. It is a huge perversion of our system of justice, and particularly of the laws concerning sedition. It’s not at all clear, to start with, that the thing he has been exactly accused of — of passing letters — has been really proved beyond doubt.
Secondly, even if this were correct, that doesn’t amount to sedition. He hasn’t killed anyone, he hasn’t incited anyone to rise in violent protest or rebellion. In fact, we know that in his writings he has written against the use of violence in political struggle, arguing that this is neither correct, nor is it ultimately successful. So, I think, even if this is the case — that the exact thing he is accused of is exactly what they are saying it is, which is by no means clear — even then the charge of sedition does not stand.
Thirdly, in exercising any kind of judgment, one has to take into account the character of the person. In this case, Binayak Sen is a very dedicated social worker, working extremely hard for the welfare of some of the most neglected people in the world. He has dedicated his life to doing that rather than having the prosperous, successful life of a doctor, and making a lot of money. So his dedication is not in doubt.
To turn the dedicated service of someone who drops everything to serve the cause of neglected people into a story of the seditious use of something — in this case, it appears to be the passing of a letter, when sedition usually takes the form of inciting people to violence or actually committing some violence and asking others to follow, none of which had happened — the whole thing seems a ridiculous use of the laws of democratic India.
This is part of a legal process, and we have to bear in mind that this is only the first step in a state which has been extraordinarily keen in keeping Binayak Sen behind bars.
And the legal process will not stop there. If the high court in Chhattisgarh has its thinking straight and unbiased, it will overturn the decision. But if it turns out that — as it happened in Gujarat — justice is difficult to get in the state, which is under the control of a political regime that is keen on justifying its policies, some of which are very deeply problematic, rather than bringing justice to people living in Chhattisgarh, then the issue will have to be dealt with at the central level, that is the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court has shown, time and again, that it is very committed to the fundamental rights of all human beings, and I don’t doubt that if Chhattisgarh is left in this utterly unsatisfactory state we will get satisfaction from the Supreme Court. So, I am not suggesting that we overrule the judicial system in any way. But the reasoning that makes many concerned citizens think that this is a deep miscarriage of justice should be aired and should be known to the people as well as the court. That is the reason for my willingness to make a statement in a case where I am outraged, upset, and feel unjustly treated.
As Rabindranath Tagore said, the maltreatment of any human being is a mistreatment of me as well. I do feel as if I had been mistreated. I hope to make it clear that in spite of the similarities of our names, Binayak Sen is no relation of mine. But then he is also a relation of mine as an Indian citizen, and he is a relation of yours too as an Indian citizen. He is a relation of a lot of people as a global citizen, particularly a relation of those who, like him, fight against injustice in the world, right across the globe.
A Critique Of Binayak Sen’s Judgment
By Ilinia Sen, Sudha Bharadwaj & Kavita Srivastava
This note critiquing the judgement that setences Binayak Sen for life has been written by Ilinia Sen, Sudha Bharadwaj & Kavita Srivastava
Raipur, 26 December, 2010: As you are aware the Second Additional District and Sessions Judge of Raipur Sh. B. P. Verma convicted Binayak Sen, Pijush Guha and Narayan Sanyal for rigorous life imprisonment on the 24 December, 2010. A ninety two page judgement was delivered by Judge BP Verma on the 24 December, 2010. What follows is a quick analysis of the facts of the case and the judgement that has finally been delivered.
Important Dates of the case
The FIR was lodged on the 6th of May, 2007, when Pijush Guha’s arrest was shown. Dr. Sen was arrested on the 14th May, 2007 from Bilaspur and Narayan Sanyal was only made an accused in July 2007, who was already an under trial detained in the Bilaspur Jail in another case. The Charge sheet was filed in August, 2007. The charges were framed on 27th December, 2007 and subsequently the trial began. The trial lasted for two years where 97prosecution witnesses and 12 defence witnesses deposed. Many of the prosecution witnesses were policemen. Three judges presided over the two year trial. They were Judge Saluja, Judge Ganpat Rao and finally Judge B P Verma (a judge awaiting confirmation in the lower judiciary). The judgement would have taken longer had it not been for the Supreme Court, which on a bail application filed by Pijush Guha ordered in October, 2010 that the trial be completed in three months.
The Analysis of the Judgement
The Second Additional Sessions Judge, Raipur B.P. Verma has sentenced human rights defender Dr. Binayak Sen, Kolkata businessman Pijush Guha and Maoist ideologue Narayan Sanyal for rigorous life imprisonment and shorter prison terms, to run concurrently under Sections 124A read with Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code, Sections 8(1), 8(2), 8(3) and 8(5) of the Chhattisgarh Vishesh Jan Suraksha Adhiniyam, 2005 (Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act) and Section 39(2) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967. Narayan Sanyal has been additionally sentenced under Section 20 of the UAPA Act, 1967. Briefly put Section 124A read with Section 120B of IPC pertains to sedition and conspiracy for sedition; CSPSA, 2005 makes culpable membership of, association with, and furthering the interests, financially or otherwise, of organizations notified and banned under the Act as unlawful. UAPA, 1967 seeks to penalize membership of a terrorist gang or association, holding proceeds of terrorism, or support given to a terrorist organization.
To hold the three accused guilty under the above mentioned laws, the judgment had to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the accused were either directly indulging in seditious activities as individuals or as members of an organization, or conspiring to abet and further seditious activities of individuals or organization. Also, the judgment was to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the accused were either members of organizations notified as unlawful under CSPSA or/ and UAPA, or conspiring to abet and further the activities of such unlawful organizations. Judge Verma’s verdict weaves a flawed legal narrative trying to establish the aforementioned links.
Judge Verma’s narrative hinges on the following points:
>> Narayan Sanyal is a member of the highest decision making body, Politburo, of CPI (Maoist) a seditious organization and notified as unlawful under the CSPSA and UAPA. As a basis for this, the judgment cites the content of certain journals purported to be organs of the CPI (Maoist) and certain cases lodged against him for Maoist activities in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand. The above-mentioned magazines have been reportedly seized from co-accused Pijush Guha who has contended that they were planted on him by the police. The judge has unquestioningly accepted the version of the police on the basis of the supposed testimony of the seizure witness Anil Singh, ignoring the objections of Pijush Guha and co-accused Binayak Sen to the effect that the seizure witness had claimed to overhear a conversation between Guha and the police in a situation where the police had Guha in their custody, and any statement made by Guha to the police in a custodial situation is inadmissible as evidence under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. It should not be forgotten that the seizure witness Anil Singh did not accompany the police when they came to apprehend and search Guha, but was supposedly a passerby, who was stopped by the police when Guha was already in their custody. The judge has held Narayan Sanyal to be a member of CPI (Maoist) on the basis of cases against him in other states in which he has not yet been pronounced guilty.
>> The central point around which the verdict’s narrative is woven is the arrest and seizure of certain articles, including the abovementioned journals and three letters supposedly written by Narayan Sanyal to his party comrades, handed over to Binayak Sen when he met Sanyal in jail, and then handed over by Sen to Pijush Guha who was supposed to pass it on to Sanyal’s party comrades. This supposedly establishes a chain binding the three in a conspiratorial relationship. According to this supposed conspiratorial chain, Narayan Sanyal is a leader of a seditious organization also notified as unlawful and as such banned; Binayak Sen conspires with Sanyal to pass on his letters to his party comrades through Guha, thus both Sen and Guha assist in the activities of a seditious and unlawful organization. In constructing this conspiratorial chain, the Judge has relied on forensic evidence testifying that the letters were indeed written by Sanyal, but for them being in possession of Pijush Guha, he has relied solely on the evidence of police officers and seizure witness Anil Singh whose versions have been contested by Guha but ignored by the Judge. Guha’s statement before the Magistrate which was recorded when he was produced on the 7th of May, 2007 says that he was arrested on 1.5.2007 from Mahindra Hotel, kept in illegal custody blindfolded for six days and finally produced before a Magistrate only on 7.5.2007. The Judge has ignored even Guha’s statement to this effect made before the Magistrate as soon as he was produced. Judge Verma has said in his verdict that Guha has failed to produce any evidence in favour of his statement, thereby putting the onus of proof on the accused and not the prosecution, which is bad in law. (Neither the CSPSA or UAPA (2004) puts the burden of proof on the accused.
>> The Judge has also ignored the contradiction between the police affidavit filed before the Supreme Court while opposing the bail application of Binayak Sen and the police version presented in the charge sheet filed in the sessions court. In the Supreme Court the police said that Guha had been arrested from Mahindra Hotel (which Guha has alleged in his testimony) but in the sessions court the police have said that Guha was arrested from Station Road where the police supposedly seized the aforementioned incriminating articles in the presence of seizure witness Anil Singh. The police’s flimsy argument, that the discrepancy was because of a typographical error in the affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, has been fully accepted by Judge Verma. Actually, the police officer responsible should be tried for either filing a false affidavit in the Apex Court, or lying in the Sessions court under oath. Accepting Guha’s testimony would have rendered the seizure witness’s statement implausible on which the Judge has centrally relied for his narrative. This would have in turn resulted in a complete collapse of the case against all the accused, especially so against Guha and Binayak Sen, against whom there was no material evidence of either being a member of CPI (Maoist) or being in conspiratorial relationship with Narayan Sanyal, the principal Maoist character in Judge Verma’s narrative.
>> Once the central conspiratorial point and incident has been constructed in the judicial narrative, conspiratorial linkages between the three accused and their common causes and actions before the incident also needed to be established. This has been attempted in Pijush Guha’s case by a reference to his frequent visits to Raipur and a case pending in district Purulia, West Bengal. Judge Verma has ignored the fact that Guha was made an accused in the Purulia case after 6.5.2007, the date on which he is said to have been arrested in Raipur. This fact strongly generates a suspicion of afterthought by the police of the two states acting in collusion. Judge Verma’s verdict also naturally ignores the fact that Pijush Guha’s frequent visits are explained by his being a tendu leaf trader trading in the areas of Chhattisgarh.
>> Binayak Sen’s supposed conspiratorial relationship with Narayan Sanyal and his seditious Maoist causes is sought to be established by the following:
1. Testimony of the so called Landlord of Narayan Sanyal
Deepak Choubey’ in his testimony stated that he accepted Narayan Sanyal as a tenant in his house on the recommendation of Binayak Sen some time before Sanyal’s arrest.
The Judge has ignored the fact that Deepak Choubey did not own the house but acted on behalf of his brother in law. More crucially, the Judge set aside Sen’s objection that Choubey’s assertion came in response to a leading question by the Public Prosecutor. Judge Verma’s verdict makes no reference to Sen’s objections against this witness going beyond his statement under Section 161 of the Cr.P.C., and the fact that the witness admitted in cross examination that an earlier statement recorded by the police at the time when allegedly a Maoist leader was arrested from his house was not brought on record. This casts doubt as to the veracity of the statement made subsequently since the same could be manipulated so as to suit the Prosecution story. Judge Verma rejected Sen’s contention that Choubey’s statement was made under duress because the police threatened to implicate him in context of the said arrest. It also does not take into account the contradiction with the police’s own version that Narayan Sanyal was arrested from Bhadrachalam in Andhra Pradesh to which effect police officers of Andhra Pradesh have testified.
2. Binayak Sen’s thirty three meetings in eighteen months with jailed Narayan Sanyal.
The judge without giving any reason has ignored Sen’s contention that he was merely performing his duty as a human rights activist and a physician in addressing the legal and health issues of an ailing undertrial prisoner on the request of the undertrial’s family. The Judge has not considered the documents exhibited by the defence showing that Sen had permission from the Senior Superintendent of Police for his jail visits. Instead, Judge Verma’s verdict makes a convoluted argument by holding that Sanyal’s sister-in-law’s (Bula Sanyal’s) phone calls to Binayak Sen in this regard proved a conspiratorial relationship between him and Narayan Sanyal, whereas Bula Sanyal is a housewife absolutely unconnected with any kind of Maoist/ unlawful activity. Since the prosecution failed to produce even a single jail official or any other eye witness testifying to any letter or message, oral or written, being passed by Narayan Sanyal to Binayak Sen in their jail meetings, the verdict makes much fuss about certain entries in jail registers referring to Sen being Sanyal’s relative, ignoring the defence contention that these entries were filled in by the jail officials, and not by either the visited or visitor, as apparent from the face of the record. On the contrary, all the applications Binayak Sen submitted to the jail officials, requesting a meeting with Sanyal, were written on the letterhead of his organization – PUCL (a Civil Liberties and Democratic Rights organization founded by leading Sarvodaya leader Jayprakash Narayan). These visits were duly permitted by the jail officials and transpired in their full view and hearing.
3. Binayak Sen’s relationship with the CPI (Maoists)
3.1 That Binayak Sen had a close relationship with CPI (Maoist) is sought to be established by the unsubstantiated testimonies of police officials claiming that Sen and his wife Ilina Sen had assisted alleged hard core Maoists Shankar Singh and Amita Srivastava. Sen has not disputed that Shankar was employed by Rupantar – an NGO founded by his wife Ilina. Nor has he disputed that he and Ilina knew Amita Srivastava whom the latter, on the recommendation of a friend, had helped find a job in a school. But the Judge has just accepted the police’s word, without any other testimony or material evidence whatsoever that Shankar and Amita were Maoists.
3.2 Judge Verma has also wrongly concluded, on the basis of hearsay by the police, that one Malati employed by Rupantar was the same person as Shantipriya, also using the alias Malati, a Maoist leader’s wife convicted for 10 years in a case tried in another court in Raipur. The judge has not even mentioned or verified the defence evidence put on record that the Malati employed by Rupantar was actually Malati Jadhav, whose address was provided by defence witness Prahlad Sahu.
3.3. Judge Verma’s narrative seems to have a particular fondness for police hearsay as he has blindly accepted, without any corroboration by another witness or any material evidence, wild allegations made by police officials Vijay Thakur and Sher Singh Bande, officer in charge of Konta and Chhuria police stations respectively that Binayak Sen, his wife Ilina Sen and other PUCL members and human rights activists attended the meetings of Maoists in their respective areas. These officials have gone well beyond their Section 161 statements introducing documents not earlier annexed with the charge sheet, and all defence objections in this regard were overruled by the Judge.
3.4 But a certain planted letter, exhibit A-37, takes the cake in Judge Verma’s narrative. This unsigned letter, supposedly written by the Central Committee of CPI (Maoist) to Binayak Sen, was claimed by the police to have been seized from Sen’s house when the police ran a search there. But this letter finds no mention in the seizure list, neither has it been signed by Sen nor the investigating officers nor the search witnesses as per proper procedural requirement. The said letter was also not part of the copy of the charge sheet received by Sen in the court. But the Judge has completely overlooked this obvious planting of evidence, accepting the ridiculous explanation provided by investigating officers BS Jagrit and BBS Rajput that the Article A-37 probably stuck to another article (chipak gaya tha) and hence could not get signed by either Sen or the investigating officer or search witnesses. It is no surprise that the judge has also ignored the very valid testimonies of defence witnesses Amit Bannerji and Mahesh Mahobe in this context.
3.5 The verdict lets the cat of its ideological bias out of the bag , however, when it accepts above the Supreme Court’s wise judicial pronouncements which were brought on record in the case by Sen, the testimony of a mere district collector KR Pisda in charge of Dantewada district that Salwa Judum was a peaceful and spontaneous protest movement of the tribals against the atrocities committed by the Maoists, and not a brutal and armed vigilante operation sponsored by the state. Later in his judgment Judge Verma insinuates that Binayak Sen’s principled opposition as a human rights defender to such a non-legal, repressive, brutal vigilante operation indulging in mayhem and violence put him in the Maoist camp against whom the Salwa Judum was targeted.
Not taking into cognizance the evidence provided by the Defence
The statement made by Binayak Sen, the evidence that he brought on record as to his work as a human rights activist, and the newspaper reports which were exhibited by the defence carrying statements of the then DGP Police threatening to take human rights activists to task, which reveal prima facie malice and motive have not been taken into consideration by the Judge, who appears to have considered and relied only upon that interpretation of the evidence that supported the prosecution case without a reasoned consideration of the lacunae and contradictions therein, the objections of the defence and the evidence adduced by Sen, or even the well settled legal principles on which the defence rested its arguments.
Using the legal provision of sedition as a political instrument
While weaving a narrative of sedition against Binayak Sen and other accused in the case, the Sessions court verdict violates a well laid judicial principle of the Supreme Court in matters of sedition. InKedarnath Singh Vs State of Bihar the Supreme Court has held that the provision of sedition in the Indian Penal Code must be interpreted in a manner consistent with the fundamental freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. In this regard the Supreme Court held that the offence of sedition, which is defined as spreading disaffection against the state, should be considered as having been committed only if the said disaffection is a direct incitement to violence or will lead to serious public disorder. No speech or deed milder than this should be considered seditious. The Sessions court verdict in the case against Binayak Sen and others fails to establish that the words or deeds of the accused were a direct incitement to violence or would lead to serious public disorder. This would be the case even if it was established beyond doubt that Binayak Sen had passed on Narayan Sanyal’s letters to Pijush Guha, or Pijush Guha was likely to pass on these letters to other members of the CPI (Maoist), or that Narayan Sanyal was a politburo member of the CPI (Maoist)
[This article was written before the judgment of the sessions court, Raipur.]
Human rights activist Binayak Sen spent two years in jail before being granted bail. Charged with sedition, waging war against the Indian state, as well as being a Maoist supporter, both under normal laws and under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and the Unlawful Activities Act, the evidence has been full of discrepancies and contradictions on material points. The trial has just concluded at the sessions court in Raipur.
The trial of one of the most celebrated political prisoners in recent times has just ended. Going through the trial proceedings makes one laugh at the kind of evidence the Chhattisgarh police have managed to gather against Binayak Sen; but the human rights activist spent two years in jail on the basis of this evidence, charged with sedition, waging war against the State, as well as being a Maoist supporter, both under normal laws and under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The international clamour for his release, with Nobel Laureates joining in, had no effect on either our highly educated prime minister or the person who appointed him, the supposedly liberal Congress Party president who surrounds herself with some of the country’s leading intellectuals. Even the Supreme Court rejected his bail application the first time, with no reasons being given. Binayak Sen made news when he was in jail, but soon after he was released on bail by the Supreme Court (again, no reasons given) he faded away from media focus. But his trial continued. Had it been reported regularly, the country would have known the nature of the evidence against him, and also about the ordinary men and women who stood up in court and insisted the police version was wrong. The complete blackout of the trial throws light on the functioning of the Chhattisgarh media, which had gone to town when Sen was arrested, proclaiming in banner headlines his guilt by calling him a Naxali daakiya (Naxalite postman).
There is one more aspect of this episode that needs to be highlighted: Sen’s co-accused, the alleged “hardcore Naxalite” Narayan Sanyal, and businessman Piyush Guha, were denied bail and remained in custody all this time. The evidence against them did not inspire confidence either.
What were the specific charges against Sen? All three accused in the case faced the same charges: that of having conspired at any of six different places (sic) to wage war against the state, and of being members of or contributed funds to or assisted the work of an illegal organisation.
What was the evidence to support these charges? The prosecution alleged that Sen had passed on letters from Narayan Sanyal, whom he used to meet in Raipur Central Jail, to Piyush Guha, to be sent “out”. These letters were allegedly found on Guha when he was arrested. However, jailor after jailor testified that there was no way Sanyal could have handed over anything to Sen in jail because Sanyal’s visitors were not only searched before and after meeting him, but all Sanyal’s meetings with visitors were held under strict supervision. Not only could the jailors see Sen and Sanyal during the meeting, they could also hear their conversation, which they testified, centred on the 74-year-old Sanyal’s health, his case, and his family. When asked if they had been pulled up for carelessness in monitoring Sanyal, the jail staff said no. Two jailors were declared hostile by the prosecution.
The prosecution could not prove that Sen ever met Guha. The hotel owner and manager, in whose hotels the police alleged the two would meet, told the court that they had never seen Sen or anyone come to meet Guha. The prosecution declared them hostile. Thus the triangle sought to be established by the prosecution– of Sen as the link between Sanyal and Guha – could not be established.
It could be argued that witnesses normally turn hostile in cases against Naxalites, being too scared of the latter to depose against them. However, in Chhattisgarh’s cities, there is little evidence of Naxalite terror. On the contrary, be it Raipur or Dantewada, this state has seen members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the opposition Congress gang up to boot out anyone suspected of being a Naxalite sympathiser, even Gandhians and scientists. The police have of course taken the lead in targeting those they label “Naxalite sympathisers”. They did not allow academics Nandini Sundar and Ujjwal Singh to meet people in Dantewada last December, nor did they let an all-women’s team reach Dantewada to join Gandhian Himanshu Kumar’s peace march around the same time. If any terror exists in Chhattisgarh’s cities, it is the terror of the police. Hence the ordinary men and women who disproved the police story against Sen in court – two hoteliers and one school principal – were unlikely to have been acting under fear of the Naxalites. And what of the jailors? What motivated them to deny the police version?
The prosecution had one more weapon against Sen, a “proof” that needed no eyewitnesses to validate it: a letter dated 1 December 2005, ostensibly written by Naxalites thanking him for his services in Chhattisgarh and hoping for similar services in Orissa. This unsigned letter, in the form of a computer printout, made a sudden appearance when a prosecution witness was deposing, a man who claimed to have been called by the police to witness their search of Sen’s house. Unlike the other documents seized from the house, this letter had neither Sen’s signature nor that of the investigating officer, B B Rajpoot, who was part of the police search party, on it. It had instead only the signatures of the two witnesses the police claim were present during the search. It is neither mentioned in the list of documents seized from Sen’s house (seizure memo) nor in the final report presented with the challan; nor in the list given to the court’s maalkhana where all seized material is stored. “I have no knowledge who found it or from where’’, the town inspector, B S Jagrit told the court, maintaining however, that it was found in Sen’s house. Both he and the investigation officer had the same explanation as to why it had neither Rajpoot’s nor Sen’s signature:
“Either we forgot, or this paper got overlooked because it was stuck to some other document seized during the search”. But how come the witnesses signed it?
To prevent planting of evidence, all the material seized from an accused’s house is supposed to be sealed in the presence of witnesses before being taken away. The prosecution claimed this was done. The defence alleged it was not. And to substantiate its allegation, Sen’s lawyer Surendra Singh asked for permission to play the video recording of the entire seizure, shot by a professional videographer hired by Sen’s wife Ilina, with the permission of the court. Summoned by Sen as a defence witness, the videographer told the court that he had seen the police take away the seized material in an open bag. However, the judge B P Verma refused to allow the video to be screened at that stage, even after the special public prosecutor (SPP) challenged the authenticity of the CD.
However, that same afternoon, the same judge allowed the SPP to play a CD which, claimed the prosecution, showed Sen talking to Naxalites in the jungle. In the witness box at that time was another defence witness, documentary maker Ajay T G, who had shot this particular video. Like the videographer, Ajay too maintained that he needed to see the CD before he could identify it. The judge allowed it to be played, but refused to see it himself. However, the CD could not be played and hence remained unidentified.
Ajay T G told the court that he had filmed Sen and advocate Holaram Prajapati talking to adivasis during a 2004 People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) investigation into the killing of three adivasis in a village adjoining the forest. This set of CDs made by Ajay was seized from Sen’s house. Sen’s alleged Naxalite links were sought to be established through other material seized from his house – especially his computer, wherein names of various persons were found, whom the police said were Naxalites. The computer had details of payments made to those working for Rupantar, the non-governmental organisation set up by Binayak Sen and his wife Ilina that works on issues of health and biodiversity.
In his testimony, inspector Jagrit described Rupantar as a Naxalite organisation run by the Sens, which did “urban networking” for the Naxalites. The Malti and Vijay mentioned in the computer, said Jagrit, were the same “Malti” and “Vijay” known to the police as Naxalites. An entry “Vijay-non AA budget” was interpreted by Jagrit as being “codewords used by Naxalites’’. The defence explained Malti Jadhav and Vijay had worked for Rupantar, and that “non AA budget” meant “non-Action Aid budget”. Incidentally, as pointed out by the defence, Rupantar continues to get funds from both the central and the state governments!
Then there is the case of Amita Srivastav, declared to be an absconding Naxalite by the police. A woman by the same name was recommended by Ilina Sen to a local school which employed her. However, when shown a photograph said to be of the absconding Amita, the school principal said she was not the person employed by her. The principal was declared hostile. Hum PUCL Ko Dekh LengeThe prosecution made a big deal about Sen’s visits to Sanyal in jail. But in cross-examination by Sen’s counsel, Mahindra Dubey, the jailors admitted that all applications to meet Sanyal were made by Sen as a PUCL office-bearer, on the PUCL letterhead, and that these meetings were allowed only after the local police had cleared them. Sanyal was not the only prisoner in whom Sen seems to have had an inordinate interest. A prisoner from Balaghat jail wrote directly to Sen for help; Sen gave the letter to the local press. The eveninger Chhattisgarh published it prominently.
When a prisoner from Bilaspur Central Jail sent an appeal to the Supreme Court, the jail authorities sent a copy to Sen as PUCL general secretary. This was a month before his arrest. PUCL, of which Sen is now currently national vice-president, and state president, has played no small part in the proceedings. I O Rajpoot stated in court that PUCL worked for the Naxalites. Sen was arrested in May 2007. As far back as January 2006, then Chhattisgarh Director General of Police O P Rathore had declared to the press: Hum PUCL ko dekh lenge (we will take care of PUCL). That was a month after the Chhattisgarh PUCL, under its general secretary Binayak Sen, had investigated the brutal displacement of adivasis under Salwa Judum, the state-backed vigilante movement that has drawn the Supreme Court’s disapproval.
On 2 December 2005, PUCL released its preliminary report of a joint fact-finding done in Dantewada, with other human rights groups. It was an indictment of the Chhattisgarh administration’s role in setting up and running Salwa Judum camps, and the havoc this had wrought on the lives of the adivasis there. All through 2006, PUCL statements against Salwa Judum and against the newly-enacted CSPSA were published in the local press.
More than one policeman testified that PUCL members Sen, his wife Ilina and then general secretary Rajendra Sail, participated in meetings with Naxalites in Chhattisgarh’s jungles. Under cross-examination, they admitted this was just hearsay. One policeman said that local villagers had told him this, but he had not recorded their statements because it would have been dangerous for them!
Discrepancies and Contradictions
What is surprising is that in a case that attracted international attention and a trial at which foreign observers were present (when Sen was in jail), the police performed as sloppily as they do in any routine case. The evidence was full of discrepancies and contradictions on material points, be it the letters alleged to have been found on Piyush Guha’s person (no mention of them have been made in the arrest panchnama), or the time and place of his arrest (the affidavit filed in reply to his bail application in the Supreme Court, mentioned it as Mahindra Hotel, the charge sheet in the case mentioned it as the busy station road in Raipur), the arrest of Narayan Sanyal (two policemen testified he had been arrested in Bhadrachalam, but a prosecution witness told the court he had been arrested from his house, only to admit in cross-examination that this was hearsay), or the SPP’s description of the Indian Social Institute as Pakistan’s ISI. Bill books and registers were seized from the two hotels in which Guha was said to have stayed, and remained in the possession of the police since. Yet, in one of the registers, an entry was made on a date after it was seized from the hotel. The CD in which Sen is supposed to be talking to Naxalites should have been a crucial piece of evidence for the prosecution. Yet, I O Rajpoot admitted that he had neither investigated who made the CD, nor did he know which village it featured.
Take the articles seized from Sen’s house. Those in the possession of the prosecution, produced in court, had the signatures of Sen, inspector Rajpoot, and two police witnesses. Xerox copies of these documents were sent to Sen – but, they did not have the signatures of the two witnesses. What does this imply? What is interesting also is the way policemen deposed about Naxalites – giving long accounts of their violent acts and the terror they create, their lack of belief in any law and their desire to overthrow the state at the point of a gun. Under cross-examination, these policemen admitted they had neither read Naxalite literature, nor interacted with any of them. What could be the reason for such indifference?
Did the police feel the accused would not be able to get good lawyers? Or, that since the trial would not attract media attention, these discrepancies would never come to light outside the court? Like everywhere else, in Chhattisgarh too, the police seem to have been pretty confident that the press would not stray from the briefings given to it.
What is frightening is that on such flimsy evidence, the accused were deprived of their liberty for three years (Sen for two years). Said Sen’s advocate Mahendra Dubey, who cross-examined most of the witnesses: “With the most important prosecution evidence having been demolished, what’s left? Just a list of supposedly incriminating documents seized from his house? Going by that, all scholars would go to jail.’’ Advocate Surendra Singh, Sen’s senior counsel, who concluded the defence arguments, saw this case as “an attempt to stifle any form of dissent’’.
That attempt seems to have succeeded; few fact-finding teams have been allowed to enter Dantewada in the last year, especially after Operation Green Hunt was launched. Even established political parties such as the Communist Party of India (CPI) are being targeted. Their leading activists are being arrested on false charges; when they organise protest rallies the adivasis going to these rallies are beaten, as happened in November. More such conduct will leave the field open to the police and the Maoists.
But hope exists. Lawyers such as Sudha Bharadwaj continue fighting at the local level, and at the Supreme Court, Nandini Sundar and ex-CPI MLA Manish Kunjam have not given up. The very fact that Binayak Sen, Narayan Sanyal and Piyush Guha could get lawyers who demolished the prosecution’s version, in the capital of a state where human rights is a dirty word, is proof that the State has not made cowards of all of us.
Jyoti Punwani (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Mumbai-based freelance journalist and human rights activist.