Guest post by DILIP D’SOUZA
So you’ve been following the Binayak Sen case. What now? What are the aspects and implications of the case to consider now that he is out on bail?
Here are a few that come to my mind. Your mileage may vary.
*The suspicious things Sen is supposed to have done. For example, you have heard often that Sen visited Narayan Sanyal in jail multiple times. Why, you ask. Whatever the reason, think of this: In 2006, before the first time (and indeed before each subsequent time), he wrote to the Raipur Jail Superintendent asking for permission to visit Sanyal. After this request made its way through the police bureaucracy, senior police officials in Raipur wrote to the same Superintendent saying “Central Jail Raipur mein bandi Narayan Sanyal se bhent karne ke liye Dr. Binayak Sen jaata hai to is karyalay ko koi aapatti nahin hai.” (“This department has no objection if Dr. Binayak Sen goes to meet Narayan Sanyal who is detained in Central
If the police had no objection to the visits “at the time”, why was this later an issue at all? Why have learned commenters made so much of this, hinting at dark things Sen must have been doing? One example, note how the author of the ‘report’ says “Admittedly, the meetings took place with prior permission from jail officials”, but has let stand the implication that there was something dark going on).
* The evidence collected to implicate Sen. For example, there are various documents the police took from Sen’s seized computer, printed and bound and presented to the courts to support their case. Among them is one that lists names of Sen’s family (him, his wife and their two daughters) and some friends. In parentheses alongside these names are the respective nicknames, if any. (Given that this is a Bengali family, they all have nicknames — as most of us know is common among
Why was this innocuous document attached to the case? Well, the police listed it thus: “Code Names of Ilina Sen, Binayak Sen and others”. I leave you to mull over the implications of calling them “code names”.
* The idea of guilt by association. You may hate Maoists and undertrials and leftists and commies and whatever else you want to call them. But meeting them is not (yet) a crime. It might offend you, but it is not a crime.
* The anger Sen triggers, and his bail has triggered, in a lot of people. Think what you like about Sen, but note a couple of things.
One, in order to grant bail, a court simply has to be convinced that the person concerned will not vanish and evade the justice system. Given that Sen spent over 18 months (May 2009 to December 2010) on bail while being tried, it’s a good bet he won’t vanish this time.
Two, the Supreme Court bench observed that in their estimation, the evidence does not support the charge of sedition against Sen. They also observed that Sen does not become a Maoist merely because Maoist literature was found in his home, as his prosecutors alleged.
If these two points make you angry as they have made plenty of others angry, you probably need to more clearly comprehend what justice means, and I suspect you need to remove those shades.
* Perhaps summing up all of the above, the ability of the word “Maoist” to strip otherwise intelligent people of their capacity to think and reason.
Why would an intelligent person look at everything that’s been used to damn Sen and be persuaded by it? Is insinuation proof? Is meeting people a crime? Is possessing books a crime?
Make it more difficult: Is sympathizing with a certain ideology — even assuming Sen does so — itself a crime? Is professing a certain ideology itself a crime?
* The way too many Indians live. I won’t bore you with a recounting of malnutrition (interestingly, Sen spoke about malnutrition on his release on April 18), or nonexistent education and healthcare, or injustice, or … you get the picture. What I hope Sen’s case will do is focus some of our attention on these things too many of us would much rather not pay any attention to.
Because it is such themes that lie at the root of the support Maoists get. Address those shortcomings, and they’ll be starved of that support.
Binayak Sen is out on bail. To those who are upset by that, let me just say: Get used to it. But even better, get used to thinking again.