May 16, 2008

It's you

You want to become a doctor. You apply to and get admission in one of the best medical colleges in the country. There, you are an outstanding student, one your physiology professor himself describes as "exceptionally bright". You are awarded a gold medal in your post-graduate paediatrics programme.

Done with your medical education, at least in a formal sense, you begin a career in health care in rural India. You had seen and studied malnutrition and poor health care, but now you're face to face with those things every day. In a remote mining area of Madhya Pradesh, you start a hospital, actually involving the miners in every aspect of its work. Over seven years, it grows from ten beds to 90, and is the only reasonable health care facility available to the rural poor there for miles.

By now, you've realized that such things as malnutrition don't just happen in a vacuum. They are intimately tied to such other things as corruption, access to ration cards, justice and governance. Inevitably, your work in health care with the rural poor of what is now Chhattisgarh touches on these themes. You begin seeing the links between them and that word that so many quake at hearing: Naxalites. You don't excuse the violence of Naxalism, but you can see that the roots of this growing movement lie in the misery and injustice you can see everywhere.

Somewhere along the way, a man approaches you for medical help for his brother, who is in prison. The prisoner is a well-known Naxalite leader, Narayan Sanyal. Taking the government's permission every time you visit the prison, you treat Sanyal's condition.

In 2007, you are yourself arrested by the Chhattisgarh government, charged with sedition and links to Naxalites, and jailed.

Your work has been recognized and applauded, even internationally. In April 2008, you receive the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights. Several Nobel Prize winners have just issued a joint appeal for your release.

None of this matters. May 2008 marks one year in jail.

Your name -- this means you, reading this -- is Binayak Sen.


Sidhusaaheb said...

Hoping for Dr. Sen to be released soon...


Rahul Siddharthan said...

Let's not blame the Chhattisgarh government alone. The Supreme Court denied him bail several months ago. And the central government is doing nothing, either. Nor are most of our media. The first I heard of this case was in Tehelka, several months after Sen was arrested.

Anonymous said...

curb the civil liberties of the secretary of the People's union of Civil Liberties! good first step. The rest is trivial.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Rahul, actually there has been some coverage, though there should have been much more. For example, CNN (I think?) ran a documentary last Oct on the health initiative Sen helped found outside Bilaspur, mentioning Sen in that.

Anonymous said...


i guess i'll have to read the other side of the story if any, but thanks for this post. i had never even heard about him.


Gaurav said...

Toally OT. After years of planning to, wanting to and somehow missing it, I finally watched The Princess Bride and fully appreciated that Inigo quote on your sidebar.

Anonymous said...

1. Thanks Dilip. Last time you wrote on this, I got a bit distracted with Murali Satya Reddy.

INI had blogged about this - in support of the SC verdict - and thru the blog debate I found the link to:

that focuses heavily on Binayak Sen.

2. My own take on this is even grimmer:

It shouldnt be possible for even Jai_Choorakkot, runner-up to a village award April 2008, whose name is spread as far as 50m around his house and who can maybe get his auto-driver to appeal on his behalf- to be locked up this way on such evidence.

3. If there is no case, not even Murali Satya Reddy, not for a year.


PS: Do you have any update on Arun Ferreira?