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PUCL, May 2009

Binayak Sen and our society

-- By Pushkar Raj, General Secretary, PUCL

It is two years now that Dr. Binayak Sen continues to be in jail. If the way his incarceration anniversary was commemorated all over the country and abroad is any indication there is little doubt that he has become a powerful symbol of ´freedom in cage` for unjustified reasons.
Binayak Sen continuing behind the bars points to several pale patches in our polity, media and legal system. It would be good for all of us if we sit up and take notice of it and address them. Rhetoric of living and dying for the down trodden in election meetings and at public platforms apart when it comes to real standing along the people who struggle to survive against the onslaught of powerful economic and entrenched state interests all political parties and leaders fail miserably. Be it tribals fighting to save their land and forests from prowler of capitalism in Orissa, people huddled like animals away from their homes in state sponsored camps in Chhattisgarh or people entangled in crossfire of insurgents and state machinery in Sri Lanka all the political parties show a remarkable similarity in exhibition of their eloquent silence.
There is growing trend in media, particularly the local media deserting people centric issues. Invariably when it comes to agitation by the most vulnerable and marginalised for their rights and dignity media’s objectivity apart its selective coverage is jarring. One wonders if this transition too is a symbol of market eating into very vitals of social institutions that possibly can provide the society breath of conscience on which it survives. The coverage of media of socio-economic agitations in Orissa, extra judicial killings in Andhra Pradesh and naxalite effected areas, farmers’ suicides in some parts of the country reduce them to official version of press briefs. Thereby it converts the very significant issues into anonymity with serious implications for fundamental freedoms in the society.

Less said is better for judiciary. Barring bright spots where it has stepped in to improve governance in the country in commendable ways-   in right to food, police reform directive and clean election judgments-  much needs to be done to enhance its own accountability. In Binayak Sen’s case itself the Supreme Court did not think it fit to underline reasons why he should not be given bail. In an ideal situation the Court at its own should have taken cognizance of his incarceration given the wide scale public protest against his being continuing in jail. Besides, going by its own precedents where the Court ruled that bail should be regarded a norm rather than exception, the Court should have ordered him to be released. But that is an ideal situation and judiciary has a long way to arrive at even the normal functioning given millions of cases pending all over the country waiting in queue for justice.

Binayak Sen’s case poses a serious challenge before human rights defenders in our society where human worth is in the process of slowly being recognized. Thanks to millions of Binayaks - foot soldiers of humanity- spread all over the country who stand up against the injustice to women, lower castes, tribals, displaced and poor at the hands of society and state and try to spread rays of light in a semi-dark environ. It is a cause worth supporting and empathizing if we are to be a civilized nation in true sense in time to come. If we shut them up we shut many windows to cherish-able values for our society. Choice is ours!



People's Union for Civil Liberties, 81 Sahayoga Apartmrnts, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110091, India. Phone (91) 11 2275 0014