Come home Dr Sen…
THE MORNING OF Monday, May 25, 2009, arrived like a song, crushed by little men, and yet waiting to happen. It sensitised the senses, lifted the mind, and pulled us all into a loop of hope and happiness. After two years, this nation can feel the redemption of relief. Along with thousands across the globe, in the universities and on streets, who cherished this dream of freedom for a man called 'The Good Doctor', imprisoned in a Raipur jail in Chhattisgarh, by a heartless BJP regime.
The joy was not only because the muscle pumping, chest thumping, xenophobic hate machine of the fascists led by a discredited and graceless 80 plus politician was defeated roundly by the people of India, it was also because a grave injustice had been partially corrected. This is because people campaigned for him hard, with the faith that they were on the side of justice and truth.
The bearded man's half smile behind the bars of a police van became an iconic image, especially among youngsters across the global landscape. The highest medical award in the US was given to him, British MPs signed a collective petition in his support. Academics from universities all over the world gave their names in solidarity led by Noam Chomsky, historians Romila Thapar, Sumit Sarkar and others. Twenty one Nobel laureates signed a petition to the prime minister of India and doctors from Christian Medical College in Vellore, where he studied medicine, and from across the medical fraternity in India and abroad, campaigned for him. In blogs, on websites, through email and sms campaigns, T-shirts, calendars, posters, film festivals, roadside shows, there were protests across cities and towns of India and the West, weekly satyagraha at Raipur where people from all over India would come and peacefully court arrest, poems, petitions and editorials were written, singer Sushmit Bose composed a song for him with his guitar and harmonica, documentaries were being made. Filmmaker Sudhir Mishra, his classmate, met him in jail and said he will make a film on his life and work. Sri Sri Ravishankar went to meet him in jail. Rabbi sang Bulla ki Jaana in Delhi for him. 'Free the good doctor' became a living river of solidarity, a movement for freedom and humanism, an ode to peace and justice.
Ministers, MPs, even reportedly the prime minister, were persuaded by delegations. The BJP leadership was approached with fervent pleas that this is grave injustice. The entire Indian media backed his cause, plus prestigious publications like The Economist, The Guardian and medical journal Lancet. Even students of Development Communication bringing out an in-house tabloid in Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi, wrote a moving editorial on him. This was a fire which spread on the wings of hope - for freedom, truth and justice.
But nothing touched the BJP-led government in Chhattisgarh and its leadership in Delhi. They remained as cold-blooded and thick-skinned as ever. Popular feelings and world opinion means little to little men whose minds are clogged with fanaticism and hatred, with not one clear stream of consciousness or compassion.
They forgot that this man they had put behind bars had inherited the incredible non-violent legacy of legendary mass leader Shankar Guha Niyogi, who transformed the lives of mine workers in Chhattisgarh with his innovative synthesis of 'sangharsh aur nirman' - struggle and creation. Niyogi never propagated violence. Not only were the mine workers the best paid, with collective social safety structures, they financially supported thousands of peasants and jobless workers across the terrain of Bhilai, Dalli Rajhara and Rajnandgaon for years. Tens of thousands would eat in this collective kitchen. Schools, public distribution systems, a Shaheed Hospital was built, where 'The Good Doctor' gave years of his life. This was a creative synthesis of peaceful, responsible mass action and greater common good.
This was the visionary legacy which was inherited by Dr Binayak Sen who chose to work among the poorest, setting up clinics, hospitals and health centres. Between this and his work in the civil liberties movement, there was no contradiction. He has always denied any links with Maoists and opposed all forms of violence - State, military, Maoist - or against people forcibly displaced from their land and resources. "Our agenda is clear," he said after coming out of jail on May 26. "Peace, not war. Political engagement, not military violence."
His work speaks, his conscience is clear. That is why every fabricated charge against him did not stick, the entire false edifice collapsed, and the whole nation and the world were convinced that this injustice is unacceptable. A great weight was thus lifted when he was released on bail by the Supreme Court. And a great wave of hope and happiness spread through the scorching summer streets of our hearts. Because, in his freedom also lies our collective redemption.
Come home, Dr Sen. Come to the world. Between home and the world (Ghore-Baire), the parched earth waits for rain