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Binayak Sen: Battling through hard times

From CNBC-TV18:

The full video of the interview is available at this link:

Human rights activists Binayak Sen is someone who has since 2007 spent close to two years and four months in jail, battling charges of sedition and support to unlawful groups and unlawful activities.

Recently, the Supreme Court granted bail to human rights activist, who has been sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of sedition and for having links with Naxalites.

In an interview with CNBC-TV18’s Anuradha SenGupta, Binayak Sen speaks about the trial process.
Below is a verbatim transcript of the exclusive interview on CNBC-TV18. Also watch the accompanying videos.

Q: Can you feel relaxed at this point of time? While the Supreme Court has let you out on bail, your case continues, the life imprisonment term that was handed by the Raipur sessions court is being challenged by you and will be heard in the Chhattisgarh High Court, isn’t it?

A: Yes, I am hopeful that people will see the reality of the situation. The Supreme Court in the process of granting me bail made some verbal observations that there is no evidence of sedition against me. Even on the other charges against me, our lawyers have told us what we already know and that is there is no evidence against me. And there cannot be because I have not taken part in the activities of which I am accused. So, it is a made up case, and it is made up evidence.

Q: Given that the trial process will continue and there is uncertainty on that course. Today, as we speak, would you say the glass is half-full or half-empty?

A: The glass is more than half-full. I am very happy with the way the situation as it exists on the ground. As far as fighting the case is concerned, it is extremely difficult process and my family and my friends, especially my family has been very hard put to meet the challenges of fighting the case. But we have had a lot of help and support, both from our lawyers to start with. At the national and international level, we have had a lot of help and support. So, this is part of campaign. So, the issues in the campaign are more important than the individuals.

Q: When I introduced you, I said that you have spent close to two and a half years in jail over the past four years. What is that like? I read in an interview, you said, your mind becomes soggy, after a while I couldn’t remember names, familiar words and that used to panic me because few of us would have any idea of what you would have gone through two years and four months.

A: Yes, one is of course the idea that one is being unjustly incarcerated. That itself is an extremely toxic feeling. The other thing that happens in jail is that you are exposed to the way in which all the convicts around you, the under trials and the convicts, are been treated, both by the jail system as well as by the justice system. And that is an extremely shocking experience.

Q: What it was really like, what were some of the thoughts that went on in your mind?

A: One is of course extremely worried about what is happening in the trial because how long it is going to extend. After we were condemned to life imprisonment, we never expected that the sessions court would give this kind of a verdict. And then to have the bail refused by the High Court again was a big blow. So, all these judicial mishaps, which we underwent, they were certainly extremely trying.

Q: You have said in a written statement that it is not prosecution, but persecution that the state of Chhattisgarh and the government in Chhattisgarh has launched against you over these years. Is it untenable to stay in that state now? Is it difficult for you in Chhattisgarh today in Raipur where your home is?

A: We are aware that our communications are all intercepted. We are aware that we are kept under the watch all the time. So, that certainly doesn’t promote an ease of mind. But what is more important is that we can see the democratic spaces in Chhattisgarh shrinking very rapidly. From the point of view of human rights worker, that is source for major amount of disquiet.

Q: And yet Chhattisgarh is, would I be right in saying, your karmabhumi?

A: I spent 30 years of my life working there. Since 1981, we have been all along in Chhattisgarh. And I have never thought of working anywhere else. The kind of work we do, it is not like a job, you can’t just hand in your resignation one day and walk away and take another job. It doesn’t work that way. So, from that point of view, living in Chhattisgarh is extremely essential for me.

Q: What has happened that you were doing, the running of the hospital, the NGO Rupantar that you and your wife started, what has happened to all of this in the last four years?

A: Firstly, much of the work, which I have been associated earlier, has been extremely ably managed by my colleagues. So nothing could be better than the work that is going on. So, there is no problem about that.
As far as the work in Dhamtari district, that Rupantar was involved in, many of my colleagues are with great dedication continuing, elements of that work, important elements of that work. But one thing that we have been aware of is that whenever I have gone back to the villages to meet my friends there, the police have been in there after me and they have interrogated the people with whom I have interacted in those villages. So, that makes it very difficult to actually take up that work on a regular basis. Apart from the fact that, as long as the trial is going on, it is going to be very difficult for me to continue the work on a regular basis. So, that is one of the unfortunate things that has happened to us.

For complete interview watch the videos.