I am returning to the blog after a hiatus of this entire year. Distracted by the demands of my professional life, made somewhat heavier partly by my dissatisfaction with my professional situation, my own lack of foresight and planning, by a fruitless search for positions abroad, and being pursued relentlessly by a school back in India that wanted to recruit me, I have hardly had any time to record the many ideas that crossed my mind while I watched events unfurl before me. The assassination of Hrant Dink, the political crisis of secularism in Turkey, the open and shameless betrayal of the last vestiges of their ideals by the left at Nandigram and Singur, the rapid disappearance of any semblance of justice for the Palestinians and Iraqis and Afghans, as well as my own readings and reflections on education and the irrelevance of schools as presently structured - all these would have provided grist for the mill had I only the energy and time to write them down. But recent events have forced me to record what may be a rather grim turn of events affecting my older brother, resulting from trends that I have written about here before.
Ensconced as we usually are in our comfort and privilege, we seldom think that the wars over resources that are disrupting the lives of a significant proportion of the people on this planet are going to affect us in some form. We who are familiar with middle class urban life in India or abroad are usually only peripherally aware, if at all, of the growing misery that is threatening to engulf us as our agriculture is corporatized, and as the predatory industrialization that we have adopted as our development model displaces more and more of the most vulnerable among our people. In accordance with the new Zeitgeist, our media and officialdom are content to label as terrorism the resulting resistance to this twenty-first century enclosure movement. Our state security forces are being increasingly empowered to adopt the most draconian measures against this resistance. This is the new politics that is gaining ground almost everywhere as “democracy-free-markets-and-the-rule-of-law”.
So where does my older brother come in?
My brother Dr. Binayak Sen has spent most of his adult life as a paediatrician and human rights activist, for the last few years with the People’s Union of Civil Liberties. He is now facing the prospect of arrest in the city of Raipur in Chhattisgarh where he and his family live. The police have announced their intention to arrest him and have his home searched for incriminating documents. They also claim that he is absconding to evade arrest, despite the fact that some local newspaper editors are in touch with him at our family home in Kalyani, WB. Anyone who has knowledge of the impunity with which the security forces operate in our country when it comes to issues of Naxalism and terrorism will not be surprised if these allegedly incriminating documents are “discovered” in his flat. He is returning to Chhattisgarh today from our family home, where he had gone for a few days with his family to visit our mother, amidst much uncertainty about what awaits him in Chhattisgarh. There is a real possibility that he might be arrested and jailed for allegedly having links with Naxals and other assorted terrorists. In the present circumstances, and within the framework of the systematic injustice that we are beginning to accept as the legal framework in our country, he may be kept in custody virtually indefinitely at the whim of the police administration of Chhattisgarh.
Originally a region of MP, this is a state that was created with the intention of enabling its enormous mineral and forest wealth to be exploited by global corporations. Its Special Public Security Act exemplifies in India what Guantanamo Bay and the Patriot Act represent in the US, presumably to facilitate and secure the Special Economic Zones that will no doubt be created there.
Building hospitals now successfully run by mine and factory workers, training people in villages to look after the health of their own communities, running free clinics in areas where the state’s medical facilities are not available, defending the rights of citizens, and urging the state to observe its own legal obligations of granting habeus corpus, properly treating under-trial prisoners, and observing the so-called “D K Basu protocol” – these are some of the acts of terrorism that have constituted my brother’s professional life for nearly the last three decades. His work has been recognized by that great alma mater of terrorists, the Christian Medical College in Vellore, which bestowed on him the Paul Harrison Award in 2004.
This is therefore an urgent appeal to acquaint yourselves with the situation in Chhattisgarh, and publicize the conditions there. In the case of my brother his possible arrest is only a milder form of the oppression that is being wreaked on others much less well connected than he is.
I appeal to readers to publicize my brother's situation as much as possible.