April 15, 2011

To thinking

Update: Not long after I posted what's below, the Supreme Court granted bail to Binayak Sen. It has also said the evidence on record proves no charge of sedition against Sen. And the bench made this observation: "Symphatising with Maoists is no ground for Sen's arrest [and] possession of literature is no proof of Maoist involvement."

Read what's below in that light.


The Supreme Court will hear today (April 15), barring yet another adjournment sought by the Government of Chhattisgarh, the appeal for bail for Binayak Sen.

Right off the bat, there's this comment (Hindi) to remember from the Home Minister of Chhattisgarh, Nankiram Kanwar: that since some doctors in Ganiyari, he thinks, are working for Sen's bail, they have "Naxal connections". With the reasonable assumption that doctors in Ganiyari are in no way privileged over the rest of us, we may assume from Shri Kanwar's reasoning that anyone who works for Sen's bail has "Naxal connections."

Therefore Shri Kanwar must believe that the lawyers arguing the bail appeal today in the Supreme Court have Naxal connections. He must believe that the innumerable groups and individuals all over India, indeed all over the world, who have asked for Sen's release all have Naxal connections. He must believe that the 20-plus Nobel prize winners who have asked for Sen's release have Naxal connections.

Perhaps this is a farce that I should not be taking seriously. But I cannot help wondering, how is it that Sen's detractors -- and there are plenty of those -- are unable to see the case against him for what it is: a tissue of whisper and insinuation that on even the most cursory examination holds no water? In other words, a farce.

I mean, think of it: if a Home Minister -- a Home Minister! -- is this oblivious of the working of law and justice, what does that say about his government's case against this man?

But you don't even have to read that news report to wonder on these lines. The case is full of stuff that should give any reasonable Indian enough questions to ask.

Two examples:

* One chargesheet against Sen starts by saying he met Naxals "accused of murder", "looting", "kidnapping", and "he has been meeting Narayan Sanyal repeatedly." (Sanyal, of course is the 70+ year-old imprisoned man whose meetings with Binayak Sen are the basis of this case). All of which may be true, but where's the crime in meeting such men? It may offend you, but where's the crime? Even Sen's detractors, surely, must wonder about the legitimacy of guilt by association?

* Next, the same chargesheet has a couple of paragraphs near the start that talk of a Maoist magazine seized from another accused in this case, Piyush Guha. The paragraphs tell us that this magazine talks of boycotting the Lok Sabha elections, "strengthening the guerrilla Army", etc. No mention of Sen anywhere. Then there's one sentence I'll spell out in a bit. Then there's a list of Maoist crimes: they destroy schools and bridges, they are dangerous, they are creating terror around the country, they battle CRPF personnel in Dantewada, etc. Still no mention of Sen.

No, but the sole mention of Sen in all this is in that sentence right in the middle: "Like this accused Piyush Guha together with Dr. Binayak Sen with directions from Narayan Sanyal was working for the Maoist organization."

Nice, no? Mention a magazine owned by an accused. Mention what it contains. Fill half a page listing Maoist crimes. Somewhere in the middle, toss in a mention of Binayak Sen and his co-accused.

This is not even guilt by association. This is guilt by the hope that when you stumble across names stuck in the middle of a critique of Maoists, you will just assume those names are Maoist too.

There is just plenty more of this stuff, too much for a mere blog post. Riding on such tissue, a man has been sentenced to life in prison.

To me, Sen's case raises plenty of questions about us, for us. But maybe it raises this one above all: why is it that as soon as a government mentions the word "Maoist", so many of us willingly give up thinking?


Rahul Siddharthan said...

News just in that he's got bail. The Supreme Court must harbour Maoist sympathisers too.

Mast Qalandar said...

From the Hindustan Times....

... "No case for sedition was made out against Sen, the apex court said while making a scathing observation that a person does not become a Gandhian just because he is found with a biography of Mahatma Gandhi."

Without making any presumptions about the ultimate fate of the case against Dr Sen, what does this observation of the Supreme Court say about the application of mind by the lower courts (including the Chhattisgarh High Court).

Is the Supreme Court the only judicial forum in this country which applies some basic commonsense and legal principles? Then why have other courts? Let the Supreme Court be the court of first appeal for every case and not that of last appeal.

ramani said...

i am surprised there is no hate mail yet, dilip. we are of course delighted that binayak will be out on bail. at present ilina can visit him once a fortnight. he can receive letters, but can write only one postcard in 15 days; he stays alone in his cell, is let out for three hours a day into a small courtyard where he can meet other maximum security prisoners - sanyal and guha, and one more person. no newspapers, no tv. not quite solitary confinement, but bad enough.
the appeal against the conviction will crawl along in the high court i suspect.

Chandru K said...

Didn't Sen receive a more or less fair trial? Now it's up to his lawyer's to appeal the conviction. But the trial was okay.

Jai_C said...

Perhaps unlike Dilip and most of the previous commenters, when I first started reading abt Dr.Sen years ago, I pretty much believed he'd done something deserving of the charges against him. Surely the govt had better things to do than pick fights with and put up false cases against innocent ppl?

My support for Dr.Sen was inspite of this belief. It was more on the lines of "everybody needs to get a fair trial" and courts need to presume innocence until guilt is proven.

While allowing for the credibility of various awardees and grandees advocating for Dr. Sen, it did not displease me that such notables were NOT getting much weight at the court proceedings. In the unlikely event that a laureate or sulphate spoke up for me when I was unfairly charged I'd still have liked him/her to be ignored.

My thinking abt Dr.Sen has certainly changed over this period. Now that I think he is innocent, my basic stand is: "everybody needs to get a fair trial".

As can be made out from the above I may not be much of a friend to have :-) What has more significantly changed is my thinking abt the system:

" everybody needs a fair trial and unfortunately, too few trials in India seem to be fair"

With all that said, I congratulate Dr.Sen on securing bail. I wonder what are the conditions to sue for wrongful arrest and harassment.


Suresh said...

But maybe it raises this one above all: why is it that as soon as a government mentions the word "Maoist", so many of us willingly give up thinking?

Two possible reasons:

Firstly, we middle-class and upper middle-class Indians -- those who live mostly in urban areas -- don't really feel the brutality of the Indian state. We feel its corrupt nature because it affects our daily lives but not its brutality (for the most part).

Secondly, when we elite do hear about the brutality -- in Kashmir, in most of the North-east, in Chhattisgarh, in Jharkhand and elsewhere -- our reactions are muted and even nullified by our wish that the union of India must be preserved at all costs. Often, the government and the media together succeed in portraying what is happening in those parts as movements to "dismember" India even when that is not actually the case.

I would like to note that we are not alone in "giving up thinking" as you say. One can point to instances in other countries too but this discussion is about us and bring in other examples will only divert the discussion.

Chandru K said...

From another forum, a lament about Sen's release on bail:

Extremely sad day for Indian judiciary since it caved in to the pressure appiled by European Union to release convicted Maoists. I hope Maoists rise in Europe too and these "EU observers" will live to see their Maoists, then India can send observers to protest the innocence of the bombers and their helpers.

Now that the supreme court has given free hand to maoists to indulge in wanton murder and waging war against the government there will surely be a marked increase in deaths of innocent civilians for which ultimately justices H S Bedi and C K Prasad should be held responsible.

And the dimwit law minister moily is speaking about scrapping the law on sedition. If that happens then Chhattisgarh should immediately secede from the Indian Union, no need to live under the rule of these senile law minister and criminal friendly supreme court judges who cant punish traitors and instead encourages and helps them.

Suresh said...

Typical Chandru, I must say. Dont you have the guts to say your own piece, instead of pretending someone else said it?

Even if it is full of empty-headed paranoia?

(I am another Suresh).

Anonymous said...

When the Maoists start thinking instead of reacting

perhaps we will also do the same


Chandru K said...

" Even if it is full of empty-headed paranoia?"

So we should see the Naxalites/Maoists as a group that is striving for more freedom, democracy, openness, pluralism and tolerance, than what currently exists? That all this killing that they do, is in order to achieve such a state of existence? That once they get into power, they will not brutally suppress disagreements, differences or dissent?

If this is the case, sign me on as a major sympathiser.

ramani said...

i assume anonymous and chandru do not live in chhattisgarh or jharkhand or orissa, or if they do, they live in the india shining bit of it and not in bharat. very few condone maoist violence, though state violence is often felt "necessary".