What gets me most about the conviction of Binayak Sen is not the conviction itself. Not the sentence. Not the fact I can see no evidence for what he has been accused of.
What gets me most are the reactions. The people who immediately pronounce that the "antinational" has been punished. That the "traitor" should be taken out and shot. That the "jholawallas" have finally got their "come-uppance".
So here's a random grab-bag of things I believe about this case, and I believe there's going to be no come-uppance about them.
1) On appeal, a higher court will overturn this judgement. That's how flimsy I think the evidence against Sen is. This is the silver lining I see in the case.
2) Those who easily label others "antinational" are in truly exalted company. Thus did people brand Nelson Mandela for 25+ yrs. And Aung San Suu Kyi.
3) People who work among the poorest Indians are promptly branded "leftist" and "communist" and the like. The only reason I can imagine for this is that the branders feel an inexplicable guilt that they don't have the balls, substance or interest to work like that themselves. So they seek to denigrate those who do, and these words are the worst denigration they can imagine.
4) A lot of people are ordinarily sceptical of governments, and rightly so. But too many of them only need to hear the same governments use the word "Maoist" to forget their own scepticism.
Or let me put it this way: Our political establishment's complicity in 2G, or Adarsh, or the Kargil coffin scam, or you name it, is the reason I'm sceptical about their pursuit of Sen. It's baffling that others who recognize and deplore that same complicity become believers as soon as Sen's accusers say "Maoist" in the same breath as his name.
5) Sen's case is a litmus test for us for this reason: it asks us to think about what's going on in this country. I think the Maoists are a menace to us all; but I am forced to face the fact that they have a lot of support in the areas in which they operate. Why? What are the circumstances for those people that makes them support Maoists? That's what Sen's case makes us ask.
Therefore: Remember your scepticism and ask.