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Governing Human Rights Violation And Dr. Binayak Sen

By Arpita Banerjee

30 April, 2008
Countercurrents.org

“To be GOVERNED is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, values, censured, commanded,…stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under the pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be places under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed, and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.”

- Pierre Joseph Proudhon.

This old verse have come a full circle in India. The unethical detention of Dr. Binayak Sen is one of the many glaring examples of state repression. On May 14th 2008, it will be one year since Dr. Sen was arrested under various sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and the Crimes Against the State Chapter of the Indian Penal Code. The Supreme Court of India has denied the bail petition, ironically on the International Human Rights Day on December 10, 2007. Dr. Sen has spent the last twenty-five years working – leaving conventional life behind – among the tribal people of Chhattisgarh, setting up the worker’s hospital in Dalli-Rajhara, Chhattisgarh. As long as Dr. Sen bore the singular identity of a competent and dedicated doctor working in one of the poorest and neglected communities of India, his efficiency and service had been recognized by the government as it called upon him for advice on public health issues. His crime however has been a focus on all issues that affect people’s lives. He relentlessly documented incidents of fake police encounters, inhuman conditions in the prison, the lack of the very basic health care among the tribal. As the vice president and the state-level general secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), he has admirably blended his responsibilities as a doctor and his vocal opposition to state actions that rob the poor of their livelihood.

For the above crimes, Dr. Sen has been put in prison. The state used a series of incoherent and planted stories as ‘evidence’ of a purported liaison with the naxalites (Maoist). A detailed explanation and analysis of the ‘evidences’ is available in the recent report on the case published by the People’s Union for Democratic Rights (“Through the Lens of National Security: The Case against Dr. Binayak Sen and the Attack on Civil Liberties”, PUDR, Delhi, January 2008).

The State demands unconditional submission from its citizens irrespective of whether the citizens are dissatisfied or deprived. It is the State, who determines the necessary policies for the ‘greater common good’. Clearly, such good is ever greater for people who can put a greater contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) and lesser for common people. The government in Chhattisgarh, like in many other places of the Third World, is fast embracing the prescription of Neoliberalism and is hunting for acres of land to build revenue zones. Poor tribal communities are the easiest denied of their access to the land, water, forest and other natural resources, as they did in Chhattisgarh. The state-sponsored counter-militant group Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh has taken a prominent role in propagating the acquisition, under the veil of fighting the recent fad naxalite militia who are ‘anti-development’ in the State discourse. Dr. Binayak Sen lent a voice to the evicted, victimized, brutalized communities and thereby challenged the State’s agency. Thus, the alleged connection of Dr. Sen with the Maoists helped the Chhattisgarh government to stigmatize Dr. Sen and to keep the mainstream media largely aloof. If such detachment continues to infect the society, Dr. Sen might never see the daylight again.

Dr. Binayak Sen is still in prison and it is only recently that the court has allowed him trial starting on April 30, 2008. Along with the legal battle, there is another serious battle facing the common people and civil society. Dr. Sen’s case is the latest addition to the long list of the attacks on civil rights. State enjoys ‘unquestionable’ authority in deciding on people’s behalf. GDPism legitimizes every action of the State in appropriating land, forest, rivers and other resources from the people surviving on them and transferring them into corporate revenue enclosures. Human rights violation of the Activists and intellectuals trying to protect the rights of the outraged communities has been the agenda of the police State. The stigma of being an alleged acquaintance of the ‘traitor’ Maoists has provided the Chhattisgarh government an added advantage and has helped in channeling the mass perception against Dr. Sen. Moreover, it tries to force one’s eyes away from the underlying State-propagated terror network in the name of national integrity, which is in place to alienate any dissent against corporatization. Corporate and industrial use of natural resources that historically belonged to the local communities for generations has emerged as the only normal ‘development’ procedure on the part of the State. One must not question such top-down approach, even if it turns out to be the systematic robbing of the dignity and means of living of the impoverished, the farmers, the tribal population and so on. Either you are with the State program of chasing poor people away from their livelihood or you are with the ‘traitors’. Sounds familiar?

(Documentations of land-grab in Chhattisgarh are available in the various issues of “Down to Earth”).

Arpita Banerjee is a PhD student, Department of Economics, University of New Hampshire, New Hampshire, USA. She is originally from Kolkata, India.