The Mindless, Self-Centred, Virtually Anti-National Activism in India by Certain Individuals & Groups

For a country which labours under a whole multitude of problems, inequities and injustices, one would think that liberals, intellectuals and activists would try and address some of the key issues bedevilling the nation. One would also assume that folks who scream about the virtues of democracy would do whatever it takes to bolster the pillars of democracy rather than trying to tear it down when it doesn’t quite suit them or their special friends. They champion democratic and human rights without quite bothering about duties or responsibilities that go hand-in-hand with certain rights. While there is no place for revolutions in a democracy and the way forward on most issues is through strengthening systems, structures and processes and working on building a consensus or at least a majority view on most important issues, a section of Indian faux intellectuals & activists seem to espouse that when their ‘my way or the highway’ approach is rebuffed, at times for good and perfectly sensible reasons, they start talking of overthrowing the system and ushering in a revolution of sorts, never once bothering about the inherent contradictions of their stance under the circumstances.

If you get the drift of the point I am trying to make, allow me to illustrate this with all that certain groups have been talking about & orchestrating in the case of Binayak Sen.

One of the fundamental and essential pillars of a healthy and working democracy is the judiciary. While, like most other institutions in India, it is nowhere near perfect and could do with a lot of improvement in several areas, it has at times been the lone bulwark against rampaging politicians and governments bent on compromising national interests and plundering national resources for their own self-serving desires and interests. Ergo, if one were genuinely interested in championing & strengthening democracy in a country like India, one would do what one can to bring about judicial reforms, strengthen judicial integrity and increase judicial efficiency, wouldn’t you think? Well, as it turns out, you would be thinking wrong because the aforementioned individuals & groups think nothing of trashing the judiciary, demeaning & harshly criticizing it when it passes judgements which they don’t quite like or fancy. And then, do they do anything to help bring about judicial reforms or strengthen the integrity or the efficiency of the judiciary? Nothing at all that anyone quite knows about or has heard of.

When the Binayak Sen case first grabbed the headlines, I had looked up a fair bit of details and reports about the various aspects of the whole case and had composed a blog piece, stating my point of view about the whole topic and incorporating links to a cross-section of the most objective reports on the subject that I came across. [ Link to my blog piece ].

While I stated quite categorically that I didn’t quite know or understand enough about the facts of the case to be able to pass summary judgement on whether it was merited or not under the existing laws of the land, I subsequently received enough winks and nudges from a fair number of people to join their ranks and condemn the state, the judicial system and this ‘gross miscarriage of justice’.

Subsequently I came across several other reports which inclined me to believe that an orchestrated, motivated campaign was on to wring public sympathy, particularly from certain foreign countries which often loudly talk about championing human rights and to bring enough pressure to bear on the judiciary to deliver a judgement in his favour, even though it may be unwarranted. Here are some essential pointers to that line of thinking:

Sen’s wife, Ilina Sen, a lady belonging to the most significant minority community of India and apparently an academic, played up the classical line often used by asylum-seeker wannabes in foreign lands. P. Chidambaram, the Home Minister, a person of some erudition and an eminent lawyer in his own right, answered, I thought quite appropriately, that the string of unsubstantiated allegations that she tried to play up through her friends and certain human rights organizations didn’t quite merit serious consideration (Binayak Sen is the Vice-President of the PUCL). [ Link to the report here ].

Shorn of the rhetoric and the shades of opinion expressed by these individuals & groups, there seems to be quite a few pointers to the fact that the man is at least worthy of suspicion.  Despite being a paediatrician, he doesn’t seem to have done anything much, if at all,  for the sick & ailing children of the region that he has been living in for a good number of years. Neither does he seem to have conducted medical clinics frequently, which, rather than being mere publicity stunts, took serious stabs at addressing the ailments of the old, sick and the underprivileged in the region. No medical equipment or literature was found in his house. [ Link to news item ]. And finally,no one is quite questioning his undeniable links with the Maoists for years together, though, of course, that alone does not make a man guilty of sedition or anti-state activities presumably.

There are very many instances of the heavy hand of the state oppressing people in India one or way or another, particularly the ill-educated and the underprivileged. There are also many instances of miscarriage of justice particularly for these same sections of the population. These faux intellectuals and liberals never have done anything significant to take up these causes and ensure that justice is done to them. Binayak Sen on the other hand is an elitist by comparison. He is a high profile political & civil rights activist, an office-bearer of the PUCL, and a friend apparently of scores of Nobel laureates all over the world, who, though in all probability largely clueless about the details of his case, thought nothing of signing some petition circulated by certain bodies, professing his innocence and condemning the legal system of the country. His case was fast-forwarded through the lower courts at the instance of no less than the Home Minister of the country. His case has gone through several appeals to the High Court and the Supreme Court earlier and now, which have all been fast-forwarded and represented by some of the best legal brains in the  country like Ram Jethmalani, who made a name for himself in the 70s & 80s, representing a string of high profile murderers, mafia dons and smugglers and rapists among others. By all accounts therefore, very few ordinary Indians can have as much of a chance of getting justice through the system as Binayak Sen. And yet, his shrill backers keep decrying the courts of the land and running down the legal system and the laws of the land, leading one to almost believe that these tactics are actually meant to arm-twist and browbeat the judiciary, possibly apprehending that the case for his innocence is not quite strong enough. Rajeev Srinivasan sums it all up rather well in this piece. [ Link to Rajeev Srinivasan’s piece ].

The shrill cries have started up again in right earnest immediately after the High Court rejected the appeal for his bail. [ Link to news item about the judgement ]. One senses of course that if the judgement had gone the other way, these same folks, groups and media columnists would have been singing hallelujah to the concerned judges. Hence clearly a precedent is being set of praising what one likes and trashing in every possible way what one doesn’t quite like.

As I have mentioned earlier, I have nothing personally for or against Binayak Sen. If there has indeed been a gross miscarriage of justice in his case, by all means that should be set right as expeditiously as possible. If, on the other hand, the man is guilty as charged, judgement and punishment should be also be decided on speedily, sans the posturing and the drama indulged in by these faux liberals, intellectuals, activists & columnists. However, it is amply clear that this bunch of people do not either represent the people of India or the state of India in any way. The people of India would rather look to its legal system, however imperfect it may be, for the final verdict on Sen.