Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was a high member of the Pakistani State apparatus - high enough to warrant a dozen men on his bodyguard detail - one of whom would kill him.
Dr Sen though has been sentenced to life imprisonment by the Indian State. With this sentence, India has openly shown it’s fear of dissent, of the shameful spotlight one man can shine on his country’s failures in helping its most marginalized citizens.
They share a public opposition to hatred. They call for brotherhood. They both believe in the words that Salman Taseer tweeted not long before his death: “My observation on minorities: A man/nation is judged by how they support those weaker than them not how they lean on those stronger.”
Adding portentiously: “Covered in the righteous cloak of religion and even a puny dwarf imagines himself a monster. Important to face. And call their bluff.”
He called thier bluff and was gunned down by a bodyguard, probably because he so vehemently opposed his country’s blasphemy law and for his defence of Aasiya Bibi who herself is on Pakistan’s Death Row for blashphemy. Perhaps Mr Taseer’s whiskey soaked voice, his staunch defence of freedom of religion, and the flippant way he brushed away concerns for his personal security, were too much of a temptation for that faction of fundamentalists who are terrified of people who are not afraid of them. Too afraid to take on their opponents in public debate - which they are too inarticulate and stupid to ever win - they find its just easier to kill those who disagree.
And then we have Dr Binayak Sen - apparently, also a terrifying figure for some. He started clinics, spoke out for the poor and dispossesed. He was educated, he could have had the easy consumerist lifestyle that India’s middle class has embraced so eagerly. But silly man, he wanted to sacrifice personal comfort for the sake of a few people not many of India’s middle class really cares for - the tribals of Chhatisgarh. And in that choice, he posed a direct threat to the mighty Indian state - who likes to talk the talk when it comes to joining the ranks of the powerful western powers on the UN Security Council, but at heart remains as terrified of true democracy as it was under the colonial powers.
All in all, its been a depressing few days. If I could, I’d just stop monitoring the news. But that’s not really an option for a journalist. So I continue, with heavy heart, to read the bad news and still keep wishing everyone a Happy 2011.