As expected, Binayak Sen is challenging his sentence of life imprisonment in the Chhattisgarh High Court. While I hope it will be overturned, there is what a good friend, a lawyer, said to me the other day: "Be prepared, always, for our courts to surprise you." And he did not mean pleasant surprises.
There are many things about this case that disturb me.
One, the way a law (Section 124) the British used against the giants of our freedom struggle is used by an Indian government against Indians.
Two, the way this use of the law is uncritically applauded and justified by so many.
Three, the flimsiness of the evidence against Sen. He carried letters? He spoke to jailed (but not convicted) Maoists? He got email from the "ISI", only that turned out to be Delhi's Indian Social Institute?
Four, the way governments seek to stifle any discussion of why we have this enormous problem of the Maoist movement hanging over us.
Five, the way so many of us go along with that stifling, and abuse anyone who seeks such discussion.
Six, the meaning of Indian democracy itself. Does holding elections every few years make us a democracy? Or should the standard be the fundamental promise and ideal of democracy: that everyone feels she has been heard?
Seven, and this follows: the meaning of India itself.