Dr Binayak Sen is free today. Around Christmas last year, he was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment by the Raipur Court for aiding a Naxalite leader.
But the Supreme Court ruled that just because he had Naxalite literature in his possession doens’t make him a Naxalite - anymore than owning Gandhi’s writings make someone a Gandhian. Whether he’s free and clear for good is unsure - but the important thing for this great and good man is that he’s free now and re-united with his family again.
His wife Illena Sen, a scholar and academic as well as an activist in her own right, had said publicly in January soon after her husband’s arrest, that she was considering the possibility of moving out of the country - for the safety of her daughters.
Losing people like the Sens to jail or immigration, is a loss a country like India can ill affrord.
Facing so many problems from within, with a soaring illiteracy rate, a hunger problem even as an elite gets ever wealthier, corruption so endemic that people are going on hunger strike to protest it, can India afford to lose the people who are its beating heart?
The world’s greatest democracy is in a crucial struggle for its soul these days. While the elite government continue to enrich themselves during the country’s global economic rise, millions are being left behind. The only voice they have is that of people like Binayak and Ilina Sen. The couple have set up primary health centres, a malaria clinic and basic schooling facilities in one of India’s most neglected regions. They have provided a listening ear for the put upon villagers of Chattisgarh and for their pains Dr Sen has been arrested, and his wife threatened enough to fear for her daughters’ safety.
Anyone who has India’s best interests at heart, who doesn’t want to see it go in the way of Russia or South Africa - must keep protesting at the summary arrests of people like Dr Binayak Sen, the persecution of Right to Information activists, and the harrassment of the people who are trying to help the country’s most disenfranchised.