Amit Sengupta writes from Delhi:
The horrifying verdict of life imprisonment for Dr Binayak Sen, accused of unimaginable crimes such as treason and sedition, has come as a real new low in the dirty quagmire of a litany of injustices in this fragmented and corrupt, largest democracy in the world. It will immediately polarize the civil society with a collective howl of protest against this brazen injustice and the recharged longing for justice so brazenly denied to someone called 'the good doctor' all over the world. The judgment will definitely sharpen the solidarity of all sensitive, secular and democratic opinion in India and across the world, and prove the brazenly undemocratic and fascistic character of the BJP regime in Chhattisgarh, who went about concocting false charges against Dr Sen, despite almost no tangible evidence.
Raipur District and Sessions Court judge BP Varma on Friday found Dr Sen guilty on a variety of counts and also under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act.
According to the latest dispatch from PUCL General Secretary Kavita Srivastava from Raipur: "By now you all must have got to know about the conviction of Dr Binayak Sen u/s of 120(B), 124(A) of the IPC and 1,2,3,5, Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and Sec 39 (2) of the UAPA (2004 amended). Binayak was taken away immediately into custody. He was extremely equanimous. It was an emotional moment for Dr Sen's daughters and brother Dipanker Sen. His wife, Professor Ilina Sen, is upset but thinking ahead...
Said Prof Sen, "It is a sad day for me. It is a sadder day for Indian democracy. They had no evidence, nothing to prove the charges. They even termed me an ISI agent (ISI turned out to be the Indian Social Institute in Delhi). This is injustice and it's for all to see."
"This judgment is really unacceptable and unconstitutional. After all, two of the laws under which he has been convicted are themselves being questioned as far as their constitutional validity is concerned... We need to really build a campaign again. There was really no evidence," said Kavita Srivastava.
Dr Binayak Sen will appeal in the High Court at the earliest, though the court, in an uncanny timing of the judgement, will go on vacation from December 25. The other two co-accused,
Piyush Guha and Narayan Sanyal, have also been convicted. Some extra sections have been applied to Sanyal, accused of being a Maoist leader.
Most human rights activists, academics and even journalists who have covered the long imprisonment of Dr Sen in the past have reacted with utmost horror at the sheer injustice of the judgment, despite such widespread public opinion and factual evidence against the false cases against Dr Sen by the BJP-led regime in Chhattisgarh. "This is bizarre, shocking, inhuman, unjust, absolutely incomprehensible. How can the judge do that? How can they so publicly demonstrate such irrational behaviour? Such brazen injustice?" - this is the kind of remorse and anger flowing out of all over the country after the shocking judgment.
From university campuses to newspaper offices to middle-class homes and power corridors across India, this is a judgement which is seen to be clearly destroying the last edifices of the public perception of the Indian justice system, the faith in the judiciary and the idea of justice, and the faith which the civil society has on the edifices of democracy. "All kinds of scamsters and mass murderers are all over the power establishment and a man who lived and worked for the poor all this life, he is charged with sedition. What utter nonsense is this," said a JNU student.
Said Thomas Kocherry, leader of the National Fishermen's Federation, in a bulk email from Kochi: "Let us send out protest letters to the Chhattisgarh court and the state government and send out this to the whole world. It is unjust. An innocent man is arrested again. Is there any justice in this country? We have to keep protesting till Binayak Sen gets justice. We cannot keep quiet. We have to fight for the rights of the people. We cannot organise the people. This is the character of the BJP government in Chhattisgarh. Another Emergency is in the making in MP."
Dr Sen is currently a professor at the prestigious Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore, of which he is an eminent alumnus. The entire alumni of CMC had petitioned for his release during his imprisonment. At least 22 Nobel Prize winners from all over the world had sought his immediate freedom and lauded the exemplary work Dr Sen had in the medical sciences, in it among the poorest of the poor, and in providing the best of treatment to the impoverished adivasis in the Hindi heartland. Distinguished artists, academics, filmmakers and writers like Sudhir Mishra, Noam Chomsky, Romila Thapar, Arundhati Roy, Sumit Sarkar, Tanika Sarkar, Dilip Simeon, Praful Bidwai, Sanjay Kak, among others, had campaigned and petitioned for his freedom. Even Sri Sri Ravishankar had visited him at Raipur jail and sought his release, even as singers like Rabbi and Indian Ocean, and students from all across India and the world, organised protests, campaigns and concerts demanding freedom for the good doctor. In fact, the website www.binayaksen.net became an international forum for a vigorous and relentless campaign.
"This campaign will become national and global soon. This is certain. We start with a list of all those who have not been given life imprisonment for sedition and treason, including scamsters, criminals and mass murderers who call the shots in the Indian power establishment. We all know their names. Their names will be put up on the website. And the mass protests all over the world against the brazen injustice will start from now, right now, at this moment," said Satya Sivaraman, journalist, filmmaker and activist, who was one of the key catalysts in the campaign last time. This, when news is still trickling in, and a global and national web and SMS campaign is already underway. Indeed, TV channels are already moving in with the news.
'Free Dr Binayak Sen.' 'Freedom for the good doctor.' Surely, the old slogans are coming back