First published in The Hindu
Narayan Sanyal is a 74-year-old man with white hair parted to one side and fibromatosis in both hands. His arrest memo notes that he wears dentures, has spots on his body and smokes cigarettes. “My health is not going well, arthritis is a new thing catching up, age is telling,” he writes in a letter addressed to a ‘Dear friend V’. This letter and two others became crucial evidence in the conviction last week of Mr. Sanyal, Kolkata businessman Pijush Guha and eminent doctor and human rights activist Binayak Sen.
Behind their conviction lies a curious paradox to which the Chhattisgarh police has never given a satisfactory answer: Why was Mr. Sanyal — whose Maoist connections led to charges against the co-accused in the first place — himself never charged with sedition or conspiracy to wage war or even with belonging to or supporting an unlawful organisation until well after Dr. Sen’s arrest under those serious offences?