IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE GOOD DOCTOR
Said a sticker pasted all over, 'If Binayak Sen is guilty of sedition, so are We!'
Amit Sengupta Delhi
This is like a perverse witch-hunt. Now they are targeting Prof Illina Sen, the wife of Dr Binayak Sen, legendary medical practitioner among the poorest in India's interiors, given life imprisonment, charged with sedition by the BJP-led Chhattisgarh government's police, jailed in solitary confinement in Raipur. Earlier, on January 3, 2010, in a jam-packed press conference in Delhi, Illina Sen had said, "I say, take me in also. I am ready to go to jail. If they don't release Binayak, only his body will come out." She also said, "So sharp is the witch-hunt, I fear for my daughters. Sometimes I feel I might have to take asylum in another liberal democratic country. I had faith in the Indian judiciary. I am losing that faith now. I had faith in the Indian democracy. I am losing that faith now."
The response to the absurd police attack on Illina Sen has been sharp and quick. Virtually the who's who of Indian intelligentsia across the country reacted strongly. They said: "We strongly condemn the Nagpur Anti-Terrorism Squad's registering of a case of violating the 'Foreigners Act' against Dr Ilina Sen, head of the Department of Women's Studies at Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University (MGAHV), Wardha... The Nagpur ATS has neither taken into consideration the fact that the organisers of the conference are respected scholars and academics, nor the fact that two of the foreign scholars stayed in the Vice Chancellor's residence. Both these facts (especially since the VC is a well-known former member of the police force), indicate that nothing was done surreptitiously or behind the back of the authorities..."
The signatories include academics Nivedita Menon, Aditya Nigam, Udaya Kumar, Prabhat Patnaik, Utsa Patnaik, Krishna Kumar, Jayati Ghosh, Neeladri Bhattacharya, Uma Chakravarti, Narayani Gupta, Tridip Suhrud, theatreperson Ram Gopal Bajaj, NAC members Harsh Mander and Aruna Roy, among 100 others.
This has been the trend across the national/international canvas, marking an outrage which has been persistent, dogged, democratic, peaceful, full of anger and deeply anguished. "Instead of honouring him, they have put him in jail. They should not only release him, but compensate him," said actress Sharmila Tagore in Delhi in a 'Free Binayak' concert. Joining her, filmmaker Aparna Sen said, "We will protest till the time he gets freedom. This is unacceptable." Theatreperson MK Raina said he represents all theatrepersons in the country in support of Sen. Writer Ashok Bajpayee said the sedition law is outdated, should be scrapped. Filmmakers Sudhir Mishra, Gautam Ghosh and others joined the appeal. Young musicians Imphal Talkies performed. So did legendary singer Sushmit Bose. Amartya Sen sharply criticised the judgement, so did former judges, and almost the entire medical and academic fraternity in India. The 22 Nobel prize winners' petition to the PM was resurrected; prestigious medical journal Lancet honoured "world renowned" Sen with an article by him in its special issue on India, while an empty chair in silence, stood as testimony.
They are lighting candles all over. Almost every top doctor in Bengal has protested on the streets, in word and deed - they have also organised blood donation camps. Ditto in Delhi, where there is a Free Binayak camp for the homeless, with three hot meals a day. In Lucknow they sang songs and marched, in Vishakapatnam, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Bhopal, Bangalore, Chennai, Kochi, Patna, Ranchi, in universities across India and the world, the Free Binayak Sen campaign moved like a massive wave of hope against State-sponsored despair. Said a sticker pasted all over, "If Binayak Sen is guilty of sedition, so are We!