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A life sentence that brings shame to the “greatest democracy on earth.”

Dr Binayak SenHe’s a soft spoken, mild mannered 60 something doctor and currently being championed by Amnesty International, Noam Chomsky and international human rights activists around the world.  And this Christmas Eve, while I was digging into an enormous Christmas dinner with friends, full of convivial goodwill to all mankind, Dr Binayak Sen who has spent his life bringing health care to marginalized indiginous communities and advocating non violent political engagement was being sentenced to life imprisonment.

His crime: sedition and consipiracy.

Dr Sen has been working for 30 years in Dantewada  in India’s so called Maoist corridor - which explains the fact that his sentence is considerably more severe than if he’d been a murderer, serial thief or violent rapist.  His crime is defending the voiceless people of Chhatisgarh who the local police, the national government and much of the national media like to group together as one homogenous mass carrying the brand Naxals or Maoists.

All governments - and why should India be any different -  long ago recognized how easy it is to incite hatred and find popular backing for state inflicted violence when a label is applied.

In Kashmir, as in many other parts of the world, the label Muslim militants or insurgents gives the state enough grounds to infringe almost anything mentioned in the Geneva Conventions.  In Chattisgarh, the state behaviour is the same, but this time the label to use is Naxals, Maoists, or Maoist insurgents.

Then, if you’re the a representitive of the Special Police Officers, or the army, or the Salwa Judum, you utizlize the mainstream media, to stick that label on your target and find it can easily hide a lifetime’s worth of work and sacrifice.  Then you publicly hang your target out to dry.  Or in the case of Dr Sen, to wither away, hopefully forgotten in some isolated prison cell in Raipur.

I was so proud of India turning up to the Nobel award ceremony for Liu Xiaobo when so many nations, cowed by the threat of Chinese economic and military might, timidly stayed away.  But I belive that sentencing a man like Binayak Sen to life imprisonment, is a declaration of fear from the Indian authorities - a declaration that proclaims loudly that India is afraid of the very democracy they so proudly tote on the international stage.

3 Comments on “A life sentence that brings shame to the “greatest democracy on earth.””

  1. #1 David Berridge
    on Jan 4th, 2011 at 10:19 am

    The Indian government should know better that it won’t get away with this nonsense outside of India. Foreign scurinty will smear the Indian hovernment with more negative publicity than it is attempting to avoid through media manipulation and the life incarcaration. It is also more than a proverbial blackeye on India’s collective media efforts, not to begin to ask questions about this man and where any proof may lie over who he is supposed to be and what he is supposed to be doing. This is an oversimlification of the Us vs. Them game that insults even those of merely modest intellectual attention in this matter. The Indian government has grossly overestimated its efforts in this affair, and seriously underestimated the outside scrutiny which will accompany this insane injustice. India must learn from China that human rights violations still get on to diplomatic agendas and public awareness causes around the world, no matter how important and influentally powerful India may consider itself to be. The life sentance at issue here is based on nothing less than a self-inflicted act of nationalistic hubris.

  2. #2 Dheera Sujan
    on Jan 4th, 2011 at 10:38 am

    I do agree with your comments here David, however, in matters of what they call “national security” I’m afraid that India is as impervious to foreign critisicm as any other nation in the world, including China and the US.
    If you are interested in the case of Binayak Sen, you can add your voice of dissent to the various campaigns in his name.

  3. #3 David Berridge
    on Jan 4th, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    Many thanks Dheera. It is amazing at how a man in his senior years just by practising medicine to destitute people can become a threat to the state, despite the fact that he has been doing so for a number of decades, and only lately has the government of India recognized this as being a sedious act,ridiculous as this is. Can a country of over one billion be “knocked off” by a few bottles of aspirin? What is really tragic is that no viable opposition to the idiotic propaganda of this case can be mounted, even if only on the basis of common sense.

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