December 25, 2010

Remembering scepticism

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.


Jai_C said...

As the Hindu reported it, the case was full of holes: depending on a sheet of paper unsigned by either Dr.Sen or the investigating officer as one of the main planks, the prosecutor mentions at another place a nefarious "ISI Fernandes" completely clueless that this is not the ISI he is thinking abt.

Let me make a couple of things unambiguously clear: *if* somebody X has broken the law and actually conspired with Maoists or whoever, I'm perfectly happy with his/her being punished.

1. It does not matter if

X = Binayak Sen and he has won the Nobel Prize for Medicine
X= Dilip D and he has won the Nobel Prize for literature
X= Jai_C and he has managed to roll his hoop along reasonably okay

2. It does not matter if

X = Binayak Sen and all Bastar supports him
X = Thackeray and all Marathwada supports him
X = Jai_C and maybe his family supports him

I wouldnt like the sentence or punishment varied one iota.

But this verdict is simply, absolutely not right. Justice has *not* been done. It shouldnt take too long hopefully to overturn this.


Anonymous said...

Jai - "Marathwada" is not what you wanted to say. Its a region in Maharashtra. Ironically, Thackeray has little support there. Shiv Sena is a Mumbai thing and has now spread to Konkan, the west coast of Maharashtra.

Marathwada, Konkan, Ghats, Vidharba etc are the regions in Maharashtra.

Chandru K said...

The reference to Aung San and Mandela was utterly ridiculous. Both those figures struggled( are struggling) against dictatorships, with the idea of ushering in a new era of freedom, democracy and pluralism. The Naxals/Maoists are attempting to do the opposite. Create a vicious, Khmer Rouge type regime which will be far, far harsher on the Binayak Sens, Arundhati Roys and Gilanis, than the Indian state could ever be.

Anonymous said...

Dilip you are a liar plain and simple, No, a sanctimonious liar. There are 100s of people who work with the poor and needy, and there is a good reason no one calls them Leftist-Maoist-criminals. because these servants lift others out of their poverty and rehabilitate them. That is why no one calls Swami Dayananda Saraswati a Maoist thug, becuae he manages the AIM for Seva. No one calls Narayanan Krishnan who feeds the mentally ill in Madurai a Maoist. No one calls Dr.Badrinath a leftist because he has built an organization that treats >50% of its patients for free. What sort of hypocrisy is this? To repeat my fellow blogger's comment. Aung San Su Kyi and Mandela were fighting a dictatorship to bring about democracy. Binayak Sen aids killer thugs like Sanyal in their quest to overthrow a democracy and implement a dictatorship. Big difference, big whopping difference, difference between the night and the day.

Anonymous said...

maoists have lot of support?? even a kid holding ak-47 will get support

Nikhil said...

Chandru and Anon.
Thanks for the comments. You guys stated a lot of what I had to say on this. Anon add to your list people like Bindeshwar Pathak, Dr Sudarshan, Baba Amte and even M Teresa (may have been out for oublicity) but were never labeled a branded "leftist" and "communist". What about the people who are responsible for Akshay Patra schemes among others and have genuinely made a difference in people’s lives? No guilt from any of us who do our duties in our daily lives and contribute in some small way without leeching on somebody else’s money. How did you even come to this conclusion? Did you do any interviews or gather field data etc?As usual you have done the usual thing of guessing and then branding and labeling people.
Why do you have a problem with the reactions? Did you also not say in your earlier columns – Get used to it. We should allow dissent etc etc? After are these reactions not just ‘opinions’ Er double standards someone???? . So X can have an opinion and voice it everywhere, but Y cannot do so.

same governments use the word "Maoist" to forget their own skepticism

Forget skepticism for a moment – Is the following ‘ fact’ or fiction”? this year alone, more than 200 people have been killed by Maoists and these are just reported killings. Is their ideology of overthrowing the Indian state fiction? So we are actually seeing what Maoists would do if they ever grabbed power. At least with the current govt, I am assured that I live in my house, can earn a daily living and will not be kicked out of my house and forced to work in the fields . I think a trip to Cambodia is due for you – see the magnificent Angkor Wat and then see the Tuol seng interrogation center in Phnomh Penh. Just see what the magnificent civilization had to go through. Maybe you will feel what a lot of others like us feel about Maoists.

become believers as soon as Sen's accusers say "Maoist" in the same breath as his name.

Is Sen guilty or not of parlaying with Maoists? What was his extent of involvement? Those are the key issues here?
Did he deserve life imprisonment for these? I think Jai is right here. So far he has not murdered anybody or been involved in bloodshed – so maybe the sentence is too harsh?

How come the guys who are screaming about this case have been silent about thousands of undertrials who are languishing in jail, do not have bail and against whom there have been no formal charges. Lastly what about Col Purohit who has been labeled a terrorist but has not yet been charged. No Skepticism for him or again – different strokes for different folks.

Dilip D'Souza said...

No web access for last three days, minimal now, some quick responses while I'm online:

* I have never once called Purohit a terrorist. But why should that matter to people habituated to flinging accusations about but unhabituated to backing them up?

* One of the earliest articles I ever wrote was about undertrials; later I wrote a long report on torture that spoke a lot about the treatment of undertrials. But why should that matter ... etc.

* The question is hardly about why you feel what anyone feels about the Maoists. After all, the prospect of them coming to power fills me with dread too. But I am forced to face the undeniable fact that they have a lot of support from ordinary people in a broad swathe of central India. The question that faces us all is simple: why? Imprisoning BInayak Sen won't answer that. Understanding the conditions in which too many of those ordinary people live, even today, might be a start towards answering that.

Consider just a small example of what I'm getting at: in the district in AP that I've just spent two days in about 50% of the people are BPL. Why?

* Simply giving me a figure of 200 is meaningless. After all, I know personally that organizations professing certain other ideologies were responsible for many times more deaths in years gone by, and those organizations' political manifestations actually did come to power in this country, arguably riding on the political capital generated by those massacres.

* I've seen plenty of references to the "traitor" Sen, or the "antinational" Sen. Such were the terms used to describe Suu Kyi and Mandela, among others. Those who want to see a difference are welcome to do so. They might also consider yet another analogy here: the same section of the IPC used to convict Sen, 124-A, was used by the British to convict Tilak and Gandhi, among others. i.e. more names for you to find differences with.

* The very anger and name-calling on display here proves to me my point about labeling people Maoist and leftists and the like. It takes away the need to do the hard work of, again, understanding the support Maoists have among millions of perfectly ordinary people. But then name-callers, in my experience, tend to shy away from hard work anyway.

Anonymous said...

arre bhai what is with this suu kyi mandela suu kyi mandela chant? despo? suu kyi mandela did prison time for dozens of years. let your jesuit darling bnatak sen also spend at least ten years in jail then we will agree he is also mandela material, ok?

Chandru K said...

Yes, and when Binayak Sen is released from prison, let the world hail the event, which will usher in a new era of freedom, democracy, end of colonialism, end of military dictatorship, as in South Africa and Myanmar. Right comparison indeed!

Jai_C said...

"...the hard work of, again, understanding the support Maoists have among millions of perfectly ordinary people..."

1. I regretfully conclude from this statement that those people are not be very ordinary. OR they are not very differently ordinary from the ppl who support Thackeray. AND that they seem to be differently ordinary from the dirt poor ppl I *have* seen around me here in TN and in KA. OR that ordinary means something different from what I ordinarily make it out to be.

2. I believe the Maoists make millions in transit rights and other levies on any businesses operating in their area. I've even read that in some areas *Govt funding* reaches them thru the lower level govt functionaries being either sympathizers or coerced due to fear. IIRC this was in AR's piece or one of the accompanying articles somewhere. Maoists admitted that part of the funds are used to build up their *defence infrastructure*

3. If the ordinary ppl support the Maoists what prevents them from asking them in an ordinary way to directly help them with that money rather than blast rly stations, communications towers, schools, roads which they ordinarily use?

4. Perhaps they could also make the ordinary point that tapping govt funds to fight against govt forces could lead to the funds being curtailed.

5. Perhaps some of the ordinary ppl do make those points to the Maoists. But AFAIK the Maoists are not ordinarily cordial with protesters, doubters and dissenters.


Jai_C said...

btw Annie's site has info abt a Binayak Sen support fund:

Couldnt get a post URL for some reason. site:

post titled: If you can, if you want to, if you feel you must


Nikhil said...

that those people are not be very ordinary. OR they are not very differently ordinary from the ppl who support Thackeray.

But Dilip never does any hard work to find why people support Thackeray,Modi etc. All hard work is spent on finding why Maoists have support

I believe the Maoists make millions in transit rights and other levies on any businesses operating in their area. I've even read that in some areas *Govt funding* reaches them thru the lower level govt functionaries being either sympathizers or coerced due to fear.

Dilip has very conveniently omitted this or even the fact that Maoists have never targetted exploiters such as venal politicians, Contractors etc.

Diip once again repeat -Why should we try to understand root causes when maoists indulge in violence but should not do so when Thackeray's goons go on a rampage.

So Dilip let is all do some hard work and get some better understanding. Go and study the root causes of 1984, 1992, 2002 riots etc. Let even these thugs get the benevolence and understanding that you have for maoists, Kashmir stone pelters etc.