Monday, May 25, 2009

He’s released at last—with the Court granting bail in 10 minutes, ending a long wait of two years. A dedicated pediatrician, for whom healthcare of everyone matters as much as human rights, Binayak Sen is a noble guy. Speaking against human right violations as well as the Maoist menace, Binayak is a sane voice who sides with the oppressed landless—striving to redeem them democratically. Chattisgarh, the state that jailed Binayak, has an odd distinction of arming tribals, living deep in untouched parts of India, through a program called Salwa Judum (ironically translates into peace campaign). This to let villagers guard themselves against the Maoists, but many claim the scheme is making the recruits a law unto themselves.

Binayak, a soft-spoken 58-year-old man, is accused of acting as a courier to a Maoist leader. He has indeed cared for him (as he would for any other) and spoke for his basic human rights. And Binayak has strongly condemned the Naxal violence, time and again (but the leader is after all another human). Caught in this crossfire are innocent tribals, who have been sandwiched between a state that wants to seize their lands and develop them (ruining the idyllic Chattisgarh and killing them, if necessary) and the Naxal outfit that wants to save the dispossessed tribals (at whatever cost, even murdering anyone including the tribals). Noted intellectual, Ramachandra Guha sums it up well:

How, finally, might the Maoist insurgency be ended or at least contained? On the Maoist side this might take the shape of a compact with bourgeois democracy, by participating in and perhaps even winning elections. On the government side it might take the shape of a sensitively conceived and sincerely implemented plan to make tribals true partners in the development process: by assuring them the title on lands they cultivate, allowing them the right to manage forests sustainably, giving them a solid stake in industrial or mining projects that come up where they live and that often cost them their homes.

In truth, the one is as unlikely as the other. One cannot easily see the Maoists giving up on their commitment to armed struggle. Nor, given the way the Indian state actually functions, can one see it so radically reform itself as to put the interests of a vulnerable minority, the tribals, ahead of those with more money and power.

In the long run, perhaps, the Maoists might indeed make their peace with the Republic of India, and the Republic come to treat its tribal citizens with dignity and honor.

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