Jhansi Ki Rani by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan

खूब लड़ी मर्दानी वह तो झाँसी वाली रानी थी।।

I grew up in Gwalior and every morning on the way to school we passed by the statue of Rani Lakshmibai, popularly known as Jhansi Ki Rani. Rani Lakshmibai is one of the most remembered leaders of the rebellion of 1957.

On May 10, 1857 the Indian Rebellion started in Meerut forcing the British to focus their attentions to the hotspots of rebellion, leaving Lakshmi Bai, a widow, was left to rule Jhansi alone. During this time, she was able to lead her troops swiftly and efficiently to quell skirmishes breaking out in Jhansi. Through this leadership Lakshmi Bai was able to keep Jhansi relatively calm and peaceful in the midst of the Empire’s unrest.

Up to this point, she had been hesitant to rebel against the British, but her hesitation finally ended when British troops arrived under Sir Hugh Rose and laid siege to Jhansi. She rallied her troops around her and fought fiercely. An army of 20,000, headed by the rebel leader Tatya Tope, was sent to relieve Jhansi and to take Lakshmi Bai to freedom. However, the British, though numbering only 1,540 were better trained and disciplined than the raw recruits, and these inexperienced soldiers turned and fled shortly after the British began to attack.Three days later the British were able to breach the city walls and capture the city. Lakshmi Bai escaped by jumping from the wall at night with her son and fled from her city, surrounded by her guards, many of them women.

The Rani decamped to Kalpi along with her forces where she joined other rebel forces, including those of Tatya Tope. The Rani and Tatya Tope moved on to Gwalior, where the combined rebel forces defeated the army of the Maharaja of Gwalior after his armies deserted the rebel forces. They then occupied a strategic fort at Gwalior. However, on the 17th of June 1858, while battling in full warrior regalia against the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars in Kotah-ki Serai near the Phool Bagh area of Gwalior, she died. The British captured Gwalior three days later. In the British report of the battle, General Hugh Rose commented that the Rani, “remarkable for her beauty, cleverness and perseverance”, had been “the most dangerous of all the rebel leaders”

Today, a majestic bronze statue showing her charging atop her horse graces Gwalior in a prominent spot.

Her story, if you were to look at the bare facts, is not very encouraging. She lost a battle that was heavily in her favour, ran away from her city as it was being taken and then was killed right after her only victory. But for some reason, her short but powerful attack on the British crown did not die out with her. She has inspired folk tales, songs, poems and continues till date an archetype of the fierce Indian  women who played a crucial role in the independence wars.

She was immortalised for modern India by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan’s poem, reciting which still gives me goose bumps. It is like the indefatigable spirit of Rani Lakshmibai has possessed the words.

You can find the whole poem here. quoted below are some of my favourite parts.

सिंहासन हिल उठे राजवंशों ने भृकुटी तानी थी,
बूढ़े भारत में आई फिर से नयी जवानी थी,
गुमी हुई आज़ादी की कीमत सबने पहचानी थी,
दूर फिरंगी को करने की सबने मन में ठानी थी।
चमक उठी सन सत्तावन में, वह तलवार पुरानी थी,
बुंदेले हरबोलों के मुँह हमने सुनी कहानी थी,
खूब लड़ी मर्दानी वह तो झाँसी वाली रानी थी।।

….

लक्ष्मी थी या दुर्गा थी वह स्वयं वीरता की अवतार,
देख मराठे पुलकित होते उसकी तलवारों के वार,
नकली युद्ध-व्यूह की रचना और खेलना खूब शिकार,
सैन्य घेरना, दुर्ग तोड़ना ये थे उसके प्रिय खिलवार।
महाराष्टर-कुल-देवी उसकी भी आराध्य भवानी थी,
बुंदेले हरबोलों के मुँह हमने सुनी कहानी थी,
खूब लड़ी मर्दानी वह तो झाँसी वाली रानी थी।।

हुई वीरता की वैभव के साथ सगाई झाँसी में,
ब्याह हुआ रानी बन आई लक्ष्मीबाई झाँसी में,
राजमहल में बजी बधाई खुशियाँ छाई झाँसी में,
सुभट बुंदेलों की विरुदावलि सी वह आयी झांसी में,
चित्रा ने अर्जुन को पाया, शिव से मिली भवानी थी,
बुंदेले हरबोलों के मुँह हमने सुनी कहानी थी,
खूब लड़ी मर्दानी वह तो झाँसी वाली रानी थी।।

….

रानी गई सिधार चिता अब उसकी दिव्य सवारी थी,
मिला तेज से तेज, तेज की वह सच्ची अधिकारी थी,
अभी उम्र कुल तेइस की थी, मनुज नहीं अवतारी थी,
हमको जीवित करने आयी बन स्वतंत्रता-नारी थी,
दिखा गई पथ, सिखा गई हमको जो सीख सिखानी थी,
बुंदेले हरबोलों के मुँह हमने सुनी कहानी थी,
खूब लड़ी मर्दानी वह तो झाँसी वाली रानी थी।।

जाओ रानी याद रखेंगे ये कृतज्ञ भारतवासी,
यह तेरा बलिदान जगावेगा स्वतंत्रता अविनासी,
होवे चुप इतिहास, लगे सच्चाई को चाहे फाँसी,
हो मदमाती विजय, मिटा दे गोलों से चाहे झाँसी।
तेरा स्मारक तू ही होगी, तू खुद अमिट निशानी थी,
बुंदेले हरबोलों के मुँह हमने सुनी कहानी थी,
खूब लड़ी मर्दानी वह तो झाँसी वाली रानी थी।।

Here is a translation of the first verse,

The thrones shook and royalties scowled
Old India was re-invigorated with new youth
People realised the value of lost freedom
Everybody was determined to throw the foreigners out
The old sword glistened again in 1857
This story we heard from the mouths of Bundel bards
Like a man she fought, she was the Queen of Jhansi

I don’t want to spoil the rest of the poem by attempting a translation, sorry non-Hindi speaking readers.

Information in this article is adapted from Wikipedia, the awesome Free encyclopaedia

Rage Rage Rage

Rage is the dominant emotion on the Internet. India seems to find new things to be angry about every day, and often multiple times a day. There is corruption, poverty, injustice, Maoists, communalism, educational fraud, freedom of speech, the list goes on.

Rage Rage Rage India rage
The full range of rage

Rage is usually caused by inaction/improper action of others. Because we know we deserve better, we want better and better is achievable, but not happening. Twitter gives you a very good snapshot at the anger phenomenon. Like restaurants change the dish of the day, following twitter trends will tell you what the in thing to be angry about is. Meta tweets about how twitter is all about getting angry, bitching and complaining about the state are not uncommon. We are angry, we know we are angry and that makes us angrier still.

Expressing your rage makes other angry, it gives you the opportunity to lash out, vent, feel better. It makes you feel like you are doing something.

Rage is justified, to some extent and it is definitely a result of very real stimuli. There is much injustice around us, much incompetence and a lot of unnecessary suffering. We feel helpless, cheated and small, in the face of the various rage makers, be it bureaucracy or poverty.

But we all know that rage leads to; mostly, more rage, clouding of good judgment and action that is hasty, too forceful and often misplaced. This, of course leads to more frustration and venting, and the cycle continues.

We need to graduate from harmful rage, of course. Here is how.

Markers of “bad” rage

Cynicism – you’ve made up your mind that nothings gonna get better, and there is no use trying, so why are you frothing at all?
Violence, in speech or action we’ve tried this a lot in India havent we? Has it changed anything? Small petty victories, at the cost of formation of bigger deeper enmities and fault lines.

Get good rage

Action: angry about giving a bribe? Owe up, decide that next time you wont. Learn how to not give bribes. Angry at how the road near your house is always dug up? Do something about it, small things, like what these guys did.

Positivity: Not to be confused with naivety. Things are getting better and with good action, co-operation and will, things can get better still. What you do makes a difference. Fight the negative thought that develops after you read about corrupt doctors who do genitoplasty on girls to “convert them” to boys. Realize that for every corrupt doctor there are ten activists willing to fight them, they need support and encouragement.

Follow sites like The Better India learn about the good things that are being done. People who have been able to use adverse circumstances to their advantage have all common beliefs, traits. They don’t give up and they keep pushing for better. Stop the rage, get happy.

How do you think we should handle anger? what are your outlets? And has rage ever struck you are harming you?

PS: Other, legitimate forms of rage must be preserved and promoted, of course. introducing Rage series Mallu rage, Tam Brahm rage , Gult rage and Kannada rage.

Note: Sometime last week i realized that there was a lot of contempt and anger in my tweets, both were crippling me. Both are things I can do without. SO I decided that while there are many people and practices I have problems with, I would not use contempt to express dissent. The next thing I want to tackle is rage, tougher to get rid of because it feels so right, but if overdone it is a liability, a disability and a thorn in my flesh. Hence this post.

Childhood sexual abuse awareness month- april 2011

Child sexual awareness month

A bunch of concerned bloggers are spreading awareness about various aspects of Childhood sexual abuse using blogs and twitter. I am really happy to see so much concern, as well as the positive response they are getting. click on the image above to find out more, and follow them on twitter because they are tweeting fantastic info about how to deal with/identify/talk to your kids about sexual abuse.

follow CSAawareness on twitter.


From their site.

Child Sexual Abuse is a topic which is rarely discussed in India thanks to the social stigma and cultural taboos associated with it. Nonetheless, research does show that over 53 per cent of our children, across SECs, geographical locations and age groups report some degree of sexual abuse.
The CSAAM April 2011 is an effort by a group of bloggers, both parents and non parents, to bring this topic to the fore, to generate discussion and awareness and remove the shroud of silence that covers it.

Images of the Original Constitution of India

Cover page of the Constitution of Indiaa

The Preamble to the Constitution of India
The Preamble to the Constitution of India
Satyameva Jayate- The national emblem the four lions
The national Emblem Of The republic of India
First Page of the Constitution of India
First page of the Constitution of India
Signatures of some of the Founding fathers on the Constitution
Signatures of some of the Founders of the Constitution of India

Images are from a scanned copy of the Photolithographic reproduction of the original constitution of India. Courtesey World digital Library

Description

This book is one of 1,000 photolithographic reproductions of the Constitution of the Republic of India, which came into effect on January 26, 1950, after being approved by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949. The original of this elaborate edition took nearly five years to produce. It is signed by the framers of the constitution, most of whom are regarded as the founders of the Republic of India. The original of the book is kept in a special helium-filled case in the Library of the Parliament of India. The illustrations represent styles from the different civilizations of the subcontinent, ranging from the prehistoric Mohenjodaro, in the Indus Valley, to the present. The calligraphy in the book was done by Prem Behari Narain Raizda. It was illuminated by Nandalal Bose and other artists, published by Dehra Dun, and photolithographed at the Survey of India Offices.

Calligrapher: Narain Raizada , Prem Behari
Contributor: Ambedkar, Bhimrao Ramji (1891-1956)
Illuminator: Basu, Nandalāla (1883-1966)

Jai Hind

26th January 2011: India’s 62nd Republic Day

The (Indian) Republic is governed in terms of the Constitution of India which was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26th November 1949 and came into force on 26th January 1950.

A republic is a state under a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, retain supreme control over the government.

Take a moment to read some of the best about Republic day and what it means

Are we republicans or democrats : Harsh gupta on the Republic of India.

http://swaraj.nationalinterest.in/2008/09/07/republicans-or-democrats/

You can download a pdf copy of a photolithographic reproduction of the Constitution of India from the World Digital Library [PDF]. Pages from the book are shown below.

January 26 was selected because it was the day the Purna Swaraj declaration (Declaration of the Independence of India) was promulgated by the Indian National Congress at Lahore in 1930. In fact, the Congress had then asked the people of India to observe January 26 as Independence Day. Moreover, Republic Day is also about the Indian constitution, which was a wholly Indian enterprise.

Republic Day, on a date we ourselves chose, ought to be the more solemn occasion — a day of promises to make and pledges to keep.

If Independence Day is about the remembrances and retrospection, Republic Day ought to signify how we can preserve and improve the fate of the country, and how that task falls upon us, each one of us.

You could read more at Pragmatic Euophony on the Republic day

And as the author suggests, remember that the Republic day is for renewing the fire inside to fight for a free, equal and truly republic-an India.

You could take up this year to learn more about how the problems in india can be solved, and I would say there is no better book than Breaking free of Nehru, and no better company than the Freedom Team of India to keep.

To a Free India.

Jai Hind

The Art and Craft of insinuation- A reply to Swapan Das Gupta by Imrana Qadeer

The day the eminent lawyer Soli Sorabji told the listeners of a TV programme in no uncertain terms that the interpretation of the term sedition in the case of Binayak Sen belonged to a bygone era and is no more legally valid, there were others who were trying to preach otherwise. One of these assertive voices came from journalist Sawapan Das Gupta (SD ji) who chose to tell us “How Binayak Sen became a cause celebre”; while, in the same paper and on the same day, economist Amartya Sen said that the verdict “smacked of political motivation” (TOI Jan 9th, 2011). Thus we hear two sets of voices, one giving reasons for the fallibility of the verdict and thereby questioning the wisdom of the Sessions judge, and the other asking us to have blind faith in the judicial process and not use our reason nor raise doubts about it.

One may ask, if the debate around Binayak Sen is a fabrication of the minds of a handful of cause-hungry intellectuals, then why has it spread so wide? Why has SD ji too joined it and is now emphasising the “image make over”of Binayak Sen? Is he just angry that Binayak Sen, “did not fit the (read ‘his’) mental image of a dangerous man”, or, is he now contributing to theory by introducing such innovative categories of social analysis as bearded men, men without jhola, and men who sport both? He perhaps thinks that through this rude, flippant, and callous articulation (which he well recognises), he will add some weight to the judgement and thereby contain the emerging trend where the judiciary is being questioned and accountability demanded of it, because it is unable to show that it respects the law that it practices.
Let us look at the game SD ji is playing.

According to him Binayak Sen’s crime is:
(a) shaving off his beard (that amounts to destruction of evidence!);
(b) transforming from a relatively unknown activist (only known to the unknown of Chhattisgarh);
(c) choosing to highlight the Chhattisgarh Special Security Act in a state that is “the rotten apple”; and
(d) being deserving of defence by Amartya Sen (who is chided for his “arrogance”).

Since SD ji is not inclined to look at the “technical issues” such as the evidence, the authenticity of legal procedures, or the interpretation of conflicting evidence and evident failure to establish association – all of which makes the judgment unfathomable – he unilaterally acquires the right to assert that “to assume that any alternative perspective implies a bent and biased system is rash”.

The story of Chhattisgarh is no secret. It is best told by its HDI rank, based on achievements in health, education, income, and gender development, where it is ranked among the worst performing States. To address these critical issues the State can think of nothing better than to set up an Army training centre there that would “naturally” require heavy security measures. Is this the alternative perspective that SD ji is hinting at? Where it is natural and justified that judges should be influenced by the seriousness of the overall situation? And where the basic principle of justice, that the more severe the punishment the more careful should be the assessment of evidence, can be easily belied?
Such a perspective attempts to reduce the gap between reason and unreason by making light of the goings on in States like Gujarat and Chattisgarh. It values the glamour of annual Prabasi winter meets, but disapproves of NRIs going beyond the set boundaries to see and experience their own country. It is a perspective that, in its effort to influence “the young and impressionable” thinking people, attacks all liberal intellectual thought attempting to protect a judicial system, and all institutions that represent the liberal dimension of Indian democracy, which is gradually curtailing all rights and freedoms.

SD ji says nothing about all this but he does claim a wide following amongst those who disagree with the perception that there is a concerted programme of expropriation, “governed by the political first cousins of those who administer Gujarat, heavy-handed policing, law of the jungle, capitalist iniquity and the brutal suppression of tribal rights”. He altogether misses the point that majority assertion and reasoned arguments are two different domains, and that he has failed to offer any reason for the susceptible to shed their understanding and join his ideological brand of paranoia. He also misses the point that undermining criminal law amounts to undermining of constitutional provision of fundamental rights. The lower courts cannot be callous towards principles and procedures of justice just because correctives are possible at higher levels of appeal.

SD ji dubs all those who disagree with him as unthinking and providing “unintended” legitimacy to Maoist insurgency. One may be grateful for his generosity in using the word unintended, but will he tell us which India does he cherish? – the one where people have a right to demand reason from governing structures or one where rules, however unreasonable, must dominate?

Imrana Qadeer is a retired Professor From the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, JNU

This Post is in reply to Swapan Das Gupta’s Article in Times of India How Binayak Sen became a cause celebre

Let’s talk about shit

By the time you finish reading this sentence at least one child would have died in india of diarrhea. The most important cause of diarrhea is  contaminated drinking water and poor sanitation.

Rose George is a British journalist [wikipedia] and author whose book “The big nessecity [amazon]” addressed the issue of lack of sanitation as one of the greatest killers of the modern world.

This is her on Shit and India.

How/when did you get interested in sanitation?
It was a long story. I used to work at a magazine called COLORS, owned by but left alone by Benetton. The editor was Oliviero Toscani, famed for the scandalous Benetton ads. One day he decided to do a coffee-table picture book about shit called CACAS. I researched some of the very short texts that accompanied the pics and thought them fascinating. I was astonished that I could consider myself well-educated and not know, for example, that a quarter of the world’s population has no toilet. But I also learned that the topic of sanitation could be entertaining, and that urine can change the colour of your wallpaper, and that sewage in the streets probably led to the invention of high heels, and that kings used to defecate in public and eat in private. It is a rich, wide, deep and endlessly fascinating topic.

After the book, how do you keep being involved in the sanitation world-if you do
Yes, I do. I keep a blog about mostly sanitation matters at www.rosegeorge.com and still write op-eds here and there about sanitation.

I also do a lot of lectures about sanitation. In the last month, I gave a keynote speech to 2500 freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania, who had been assigned my book as part of the Penn Reading Project; then flew to Stockholm to hand out awards to journalists writing about sanitation and water; then to Hong Kong to talk at a conference of 1500 investors, to persuade them that shit is a scandalously underexploited resource, both as fertilizer and as energy.

What are, if there are, your most memorable experiences in India?

You don’t forget three days in a slum in a hurry. I originally intended to stay overnight in a slum but chickened out. I wouldn’t have been worried about the accommodation; all the houses I visited were pristine. But as soon as you step foot outside you are overwhelmed by filth. And of course, there are hardly any toilets. On the other hand, I met some fabulous people in India who I think of as sanitation footsoldiers. Milon Nag, who runs a plastics factory outside Pune and who has developed a low-cost plastic sanitation slab that is now regularly used in emergencies; Dr. Mapuskar, a doctor near Pune who arrived in his village – now a town – to find no toilets and became a sanitation evangelist, persuading 100% of people to install toilets and even human shit biogas digesters (a miracle in India); or the wonderful staff of Gram Vikas in Orissa, who are attempting to get villages to install 100% Total Sanitation. In one village they went to, it took 162 meetings for people to agree but they did and now disease has been dramatically diminished and the village school teacher told me 80% more girl children go to school. People think a toilet is a symptom of development but actually it can trigger it.
What are 3 easy-to-solve problems that governments and other agencies should tackle immediately?
1. Stop focusing on clean water at the expense of sanitation. There is no point installing one without the other.
2. Switch mindsets: Expensive wastewater utility systems are not always the solution. There is innovation in sanitation: use it.
3. Stop thinking that development has to cost a fortune. Invest in software like human behaviour change-makers. Persuasion doesn’t cost much but it can reap so much.

What are 2 of the knottier issues?
There is only one knotty issue: Diarrhoea. It is astonishing in 2010 that children die of something that is easily curable, and that they die at the rate of one every fifteen seconds. Astonishing and disgraceful.

How can the behavioural change be brought about rapidly- it happened within a generation in most of the world- why are some parts lagging behind so much?
Because often the investment goes to hardware and not to the software. Humans are complicated creatures. They can be persuaded but it takes marketing psychology. People have to want to use a toilet, and that is not always a straightforward thing to bring about, to someone who has been shitting in the bush quite happily for generations. There has to be investment in persuasion.

Some practical technological solutions?
Far too many to list. Practical Action does good fact-sheets on sanitation solutions. Akvopedia has a great database of technology.

We dont like talking about shit, its considered boorish and uncouth. But of all times now, we need to start talking about shit seriously. The sanitation challenge india faces is not going away anytime now, and is getting worse in some places like big cities.

I will be talking about shit in 1 or 2 more follow-up posts at the end of which I hope to have converted you into a fellow foot soldier for shit. In the mean time, do look through the Akovopedia portal on sanitaion for some great technologies that can radically reduce cost and improve outcome in implementing sanitation. Viva la revolution!

The Binayak Sen Digest -1

Below are some of the best writing on the web on the Binayak sen judgement, for and against. Text in Bold is  for emphasis.
The case of the good Doctor By Rakesh Shukla: an advocate at the Supreme Court of India.

A look at the trial court judgment convicting Dr Binayak Sen illustrates the hazards of retaining provisions like sedition on the statute books. The principal allegation against Dr Sen is of passing three letters written by jailed Naxalite leader Narayan Sanyal to unspecified people in Kolkata… Dr Sen had formally applied for permissions for each of the meetings as the General Secretary of the PUCL, permissions granted by the jail authorities. In fact, the jailors deposed that all of the meetings were strictly supervised, ruling out the possibility of any letters being exchanged between Sanyal and Dr Sen.

The choice of Dr Binayak Sen, a winner of international awards, for prosecution by the state would be really puzzling if the motive were not so obvious. The targeting of an individual like Dr Sen is not something initiated by a Superintendent of Police or an Inspector General of Police. It is but, undoubtedly, a high-level decision made by the powers-that-be to send a message to civil liberties activists to desist from highlighting atrocities committed by the state against people in Maoist-affected areas. Instead of starting a dialogue or addressing  inequalities in society that give rise to Maoist movements, it seems that the state is bent on breaking all forms of connection between the civil society and the Maoist rebels, as if to prepare a prelude to a military crushing,

DR.BINAYAK SEN & TWO OTHERS VS THE STATE By B. Raman: Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies.

The conviction and sentencing of Dr.Sen and two others have been questioned by the critics on grounds of the reliability of the facts as adduced before the court and the interpretation of the laws relating to sedition. There is apparently no independent corroboration of Guha’s statements that the documents allegedly written by Sanyal had been brought out of jail by Sen after one of his meetings with Sanyal and handed over to Guha. The conviction of Sen seems to have been based largely on the uncorroborated testimony of Anil Kumar Singh who claims to have heard Guha tell the police that Sen gave him the letters from Sanyal.

The awarding of the extreme penalty of life sentence on the basis of an independently uncorroborated testimony of a single witness has shocked the critics of the judgement. Questions have also been raised regarding the interpretation of the laws relating to sedition. To prove a charge of sedition, it is necessary to show that Sen—even if he had received the letters from Sanyal as alleged by the police— had intended to cause disaffection against the State and promote acts of violence.

A careful identification of the missing links in the chain and an examination of the evidence regarding the benign personality of Sen might have led to the mitigating circumstances being given greater weight than they apparently were. One would find it difficult to avoid the conclusion that the prosecution and the court had adopted a narrowly legalistic approach to the case without seeing it in the broader context

Our counter-insurgency operations against the Maoists should be more nuanced than they are at present—-marked by strong action against those in the hard core indulging in or advocating violence and a more sympathetic approach to those like Sen, who do not belong to the hard core and do not advocate violence. By treating both as no different from each other who deserve deterrent punishment, we will be driving more people who are now merely in the periphery into the arms of the hard core. The police should not unwittingly become a source of aggravation of the problem.

More detailed anylysis of the verdict and list of protests across India.

Once the central conspiratorial point and incident has been constructed in the judicial narrative, conspiratorial linkages between the three accused and their common causes and actions before the incident also needed to be established. This has been attempted in Pijush Guha’s case by a reference to his frequent visits to Raipur and a case pending in district Purulia, West Bengal. Judge Verma has ignored the fact that Guha was made an accused in the Purulia case after 6.5.2007, the date on which he is said to have been arrested in Raipur. This fact strongly generates a suspicion of afterthought by the police of the two states acting in collusion. Judge Verma’s verdict also naturally ignores the fact that Pijush Guha’s frequent visits are explained by his being a tendu leaf trader trading in the areas of Chhattisgarh.

3. That Binayak Sen had a close relationship with CPI (Maoist) is sought to be established by the unsubstantiated testimonies of police officials claiming that Sen and his wife Ilina Sen had assisted alleged hard core Maoists Shankar Singh and Amita Srivastava. Sen has not disputed that Shankar was employed by Rupantar – an NGO founded by his wife Ilina. Nor has he disputed that he and Ilina knew Amita Srivastava whom the latter, on the recommendation of a friend, had helped find a job in a school. But the Judge has just accepted the police’s word, without any other testimony or material evidence whatsoever that Shankar and Amita were Maoists.

4. Judge Verma has also wrongly concluded, on the basis of hearsay by the police, that one Malati employed by Rupantar was the same person as Shantipriya, also using the alias Malati, a Maoist leader’s wife convicted for 10 years in a case tried in another court in Raipur. The judge has not even mentioned or verified the defence evidence put on record that the Malati employed by Rupantar was actually Malati Yadav.

5. Judge Verma’s narrative seems to have a particular fondness for police hearsay as he has blindly accepted, without any corroboration by another witness or any material evidence, wild allegations made by police officials Vijay Thakur and Sher Singh Bande, officer in charge of Konta and Chhuria police stations respectively that Binayak Sen, his wife Ilina Sen and other PUCL members and human rights activists attended the meetings of Maoists in their respective areas. These officials have gone well beyond their Section 161 statements introducing documents not earlier annexed with the charge sheet, and all defence objections in this regard were overruled by the Judge.

Not to question why by Ramachandra Guha The author is a writer and political historian

In the eyes of the government of Chhattisgarh, the crime of Binayak Sen is that he dared question the corrupt and brutal methods used to tackle the Maoist upsurge. In 2005, the state government promoted a vigilante army that spread terror through the districts of Dantewada, Bijapur and Bastar. In the name of combating Naxalism, it burned homes (and occasionally, whole villages), violated tribal women, and attacked (and sometimes killed) tribal men who refused to join its ranks. As a result of its depredations almost a hundred thousand adivasis with no connection at all to Maoism were rendered homeless.

Sen was one of the first to document the excesses of the vigilante army, and to expose the hand of the state government in promoting it. That his charges were true I can confirm, for I visited the region shortly afterwards, in the company of a group of independent citizens, who included the respected editors BG Verghese and Harivansh, and the distinguished anthropologist Nandini Sundar, winner of the Infosys Prize. Our report, War in the Heart of India, provides a sober, non-ideological account of the crimes of the state and Union governments in this regard.

Sen’s conviction happened in a court subject to intimidation by a government run by (and I use the word advisedly) paranoid politicians (helped by sometimes paranoid police officers). His conviction will and should be challenged. As it stands, however, it is a disgrace to democracy. His brave wife commented on the verdict that if “one who has worked for the poor of the country for 30 years, if that person is found guilty of sedition activities and conspiracy, when gangsters and scamsters are walking free, I think it’s a scandalous situation”. Any reasonable Indian would concur.

A more or less Neutral article with some good questions:
The case of Dr. Sen By Mr. Arnab Author and Technology consultant.

One’s opinions then should be formed by considering two things—-the case against Dr. Sen and whether what he is being accused of should get the life sentence? From a general look at documents available on the Net, one can conclude that there is little credible evidence to establish that Dr. Sen was involved in the operational details of Maoist terrorist activities. The prosecution’s attempts to link him to ISI have been farcical.

However what is pretty clear, and that has not even been denied much also, is that Dr. Sen is a strong Maoist sympathizer.
He and his wife had been instrumental in getting jobs for people accused of being Naxalites but then again considering the kind of company the Sens kept, being Maoist sympathizers themselves, that is but natural.

According to the Chattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA), any kind of facilitation for members of unlawful organizations is a crime and by that token the case against Dr. Sen is strong.

Taking a step back, the larger issue is “Is it a democratic right to believe in “banned” philosophies and to facilitate the nominally non-violent activities (like passing their propaganda around or helping in their legal defense) of those who plan and engage in violence against the State”? Or in other words, is CSPSA by definition anti-democratic?
Dr. Sen’s case is a case which sits right in this twilight zone. Working tirelessly all his life for the uplift of the dispossessed, Dr. Sen has frequently found common cause with Naxalites and even if we accept his contention that he does not support their methods of violence, their goals and his overall philosophy has been congruent. Given this, it is only natural that the lines of cooperation between them would become blurred over the years and what the State considers active facilitation he would put down to legitimate political activity in support of people whose goals he supports.

Now for a post favoring the judgment, one of the very few that are intelligent and make any sense at all. Most of the Anti-Sen writing on the web is vitriolic rantings against Maoism and epistles of murderous rage by armchair philosophers about Dr. Sen’s “ideological war on the state of India”
Spurious protests over Binayak Sen By Kanchan Gupta editor of the Pioneer newspaper

A less charitable, and possibly unfair, explanation for Sen’s seemingly innocuous query to the judge — “What is Section 124A?” — is the contempt with which self-appointed civil liberties and human rights activists in this country hold the law of the land. Any law that seeks to impose the writ of the state and uphold the Constitution of the Republic of India, and hence, by definition, outlaws anarchy and subversion, apart from other crimes, is anathema to these champions of civil liberties and human rights as it militates against their libertarian agenda. “What law?” a civil rights activists mocked at me during a television debate on Sen’s conviction, “A law passed by Parliament of India? We refuse to accept its legitimacy.”

A fair assessment of the curious case of Binayak Sen would be incomplete without mentioning his admirable efforts to take healthcare to the poor, impoverished tribals of Chhattisgarh. Undoubtedly, Rupantar, set up by him and his wife Elina, has done remarkable work. Not many alumni of Christian Medical College in Vellore would give up lucrative careers at home and abroad to tend to the sick and the suffering in the interiors of Bastar. But somewhere along the line, the healer became an ideologue and a partisan in Chhattisgarh’s war against Maoists, choosing to align with Left extremism over apolitical humanism.

Sen was tried in an open court under laws that are equally applicable to all citizens of India; it was a fair trial, he had access to the best lawyers and at no stage was he starved of either legal advice or funds. This is in sharp contrast to the kangaroo courts where those who refuse to obey the Maoists’ diktat are summarily tried and executed. Those held ‘guilty’ by these ‘people’s courts’ are poor Adivasis and Dalits who are denied the right to appeal, a right Sen can exercise under the very laws which his supporters are now vociferously denouncing. If the higher judiciary finds the trial court has erred, Sen’s conviction will be set aside.

Worse, implicit in this threat of retribution is the mistaken belief that some are more equal than others and hence above the law. Or that courts must make a distinction between those deemed to be ideologically ‘correct’ and those who are ideologically ‘incorrect’, the prerogative to decide the correctness or incorrectness being that of the Lib-left intelligentsia.

Third, it’s a war being waged by the democratic Republic of India against those who want a totalitarian People’s Republic of Maoistan. In the first 10 months of this year alone Maoists have killed 577 civilians and 260 security forces personnel; they have lost 137 cadre in encounters. In this war, we can choose to be either with the state or the Maoists; there’s no halfway house because the future of our freedom, our liberty, our open society and our democracy is at stake. Binayak Sen exercised his choice.

Official Statement of the Medico Friends Circle on the Binayak Sen Judgement

We, the Medico Friend Circle, a national organization of health professionals, express our outrage at the verdict of the Raipur district and sessions court, on 24th December 2010, declaring Dr Binayak Sen, General Secretary of the Chhattisgarh People’s Union for Civil Liberties and Vice-President of the National PUCL, guilty of sedition and treason, and sentencing him to life imprisonment.

Dr Sen has an illustrious record of over 25 years of selfless public service in areas of health and human rights. He has been an active member and former convenor of the Medico Friend Circle. He has been closely associated with the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, the Indian chapter of the People’s Health Movement. He is a pediatrician and is associated with a
number of hospitals and health programs that focus on reaching the most marginalized. In recognition of his work, the
Christian Medical College, Vellore conferred on him the Paul Harrison Award in 2004, which is the highest award given to an alumnus for distinguished service in rural areas. He continues to be an inspiration to successive generations of students and faculty. Many of his articles based on his work have been internationally appreciated.

His indictment under the draconian and undemocratic Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2006, and the Unlawful Activities(Prevention) Act, 1967 is utterly condemnable. Not only has the farcical nature of the trial been reported in themedia, the charges against Dr Sen, of engaging in anti-national activities, have been widely held as baseless. This judgment is an unacceptable attempt to intimidate and vilify those who advocate for the rights of the poor and the marginalized, and reveals the indiscriminate use of state machinery to stifle democratic dissent.

MFC believes that a great injustice has been done, not only to Dr Sen but also to the democratic fabric of this country. MFC salutes Dr Sen’s work, and demands that justice be delivered in his case.

International Post Graduate Certificate course in Health and Human Rights

The 7th International Post Graduate Certificate course in Health and Human Rights will be organized from 10Th January to 19th January 2011, at Mumbai. The 10 days intensive course is organised in collaboration with the Department of Civics and Politics, University of Mumbai. The main objective of the course is to prepare participants to understand and interact with the local, national and international systems relating health and human rights. And to have knowledge of (a) human rights standards (b) the supervisory mechanisms which encourage compliance; and (c) the ways in which practical
respect for human rights is fostered in concrete, practical terms.

The last date for submission of Application forms is 15th December, 2010.

For Application form and other details please visit www.cehat.org /