New on my other blogs

"Gandhi is dead, Who is now Mahatmaji?"
Solar scam reveals decadent polity and sociery
A Dalit poet writing in English, based in Kerala
Foreword to Media Tides on Kerala Coast
Teacher seeks V.S. Achuthanandan's intervention to end harassment by partymen


16 January, 2009

Binayak Sen’s message: Choose your politics before your politics chooses you

The following is a New Year message, handwritten in jail by Dr Binayak Sen for the Medico Friends Circle (MFC) and Jan Swasthya Sahyog (JSS) and distributed by Ilina Sen:

My warmest greetings to all friends in the MFC, and best wishes for 2009.

As an Indian child of parents from the territory that is now Bangladesh, displacement was a lived reality for me from my childhood, as it was for millions of other children of my generation.

But then, in so many ways, the history of the last 500 years (1492 is a useful reference date), is the history of successive waves of displacement- either as displacement from as in the case of the native Americans, or displacement to, as in the case of slave labour from Africa or India. A particularly gruesome episode is being played out before our eyes in Palestine. The NBA (Narmada Bachao Andolan) brought the issue of displacement into the mainstream of Indian public discourse. In Chhattisgarh, seasonal migration provides an example of large-scale displacement, and a particularly iconic experience was watching a young migrant mother lying on the floor of a train while her baby slowly dehydrated from gastroenteritis. The Salwa Judum in Bastar has displaced huge numbers of people at gunpoint, and over 100,000 people have been pushed over the border into Andhra Pradesh.

In China today, 100 million people are in the process of being displaced by the Three gorges dam and other projects. As usual, in India, we go one better. The redoubtable Prof (MS) Swaminathan has chaired a committee that has concluded that Indian agriculture can accommodate at most a third of its population in agriculture, as opposed to half as at present.. The difference is a small matter of 200 million people.

Displacement is about the sequestration of privileged access to resources and need not always involve a geographical reference. Thus, the chronic nutritional deprivation from which half our children and a third of our adults suffer can be regarded as a special form of displacement. What displacement invariably does entail is the ruthless cutting short of the micro evolutionary process involved in any instance of eco adaptation, involving chemical or physical factors as in Bhopal, or the social environment as in south Bastar.

That's enough. Too bad I can't take part. All the best for your deliberations.. Choose your politics before your politics chooses you.

For an article on Dr Binayak Sen's work, see earlier post.

Jan Swasthya Sahyog (JSS) is a voluntary, non-profit, registered society founded by a group of health professionals committed to developing a low-cost and effective health program that provides both preventive and curative services in the tribal and rural areas of Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh state in central India.

Medico Friends Circle’s Convener N. B. Sarojini can be contacted at

No comments: