Trumped up charges'

Published : Jan 28, 2011 00:00 IST

THE sentencing of Dr Binayak Sen to life imprisonment under the charge of sedition by a Sessions Court in Raipur, capital of Chhattisgarh, has drawn angry reactions not only from people associated with him but also from the organised Left parties.

The very first protest rally in Raipur, on December 31, saw the State units of the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha come together and issue a joint statement demanding Sen's immediate and unconditional release.

They said he had been trapped by the Bharatiya Janata Party government in the State on trumped up charges as he raised his voice against rights abuses in the State. They also demanded the repeal of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005. The Left parties also vented their anger against the rampant killings of innocent citizens by Maoists as well as the security forces, in Chhattisgarh and elsewhere. The Binayak Sen case needs to be reviewed by the higher judiciary expeditiously. The travesty of justice perpetrated by the trial needs to be corrected, said a CPI(M) statement.

The CPI(M) termed the verdict by the additional Sessions Court judge as shocking and a grave miscarriage of justice. It said the evidence presented at the trial by the prosecution was so flimsy and concocted that it is surprising that such a judicial verdict has been given. The statement drew attention to the dangers inherent in the draconian provisions in laws such as the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

When the amendments to the UAPA were introduced in Parliament following the November 26, 2008, terror attacks in Mumbai, the CPI(M) had protested against the same, arguing how some of the draconian provisions, such as denial of bail for a prolonged period of time, could be misused. In the context of the verdict delivered on Binayak Sen, the CPI(M) criticised the BJP government in Chhattisgarh for trampling on the democratic rights for citizens in the name of fighting Maoists. The State government, it said, had promoted Salwa Judum, which led to the herding of one lakh Adivasis into camps after they were uprooted from their homes. Sections of the media that had pointed out the excesses were threatened as well.

On the issue of Maoists and their activities, the CPI(M) said there was little doubt that they were resorting to large-scale violence in the State. They need to be fought and countered and the police forces have been deployed for that purpose in Dantewada and other places. The Maoists who are perpetrating violence, when they are apprehended, must be tried by law. But the BJP government and the police authorities cannot be given the licence to brazenly violate the rights of the citizens.

The CPI, which has a well-knit organisation in Bastar, Dantewada, Bailadila and Jagdalpur, was equally emphatic in its criticism of the verdict and the actions of the security forces. D. Raja, national secretary and Rajya Sabha member, told Frontline that Sen's sentence of life imprisonment was a travesty of justice. He said he had met Chief Minister Raman Singh and pointed out to him the excesses carried out by security forces against CPI cadre. Our party leaders have been arrested in the name of countering terrorism. It is not the question of one Binayak Sen alone. I told the Chief Minister that it was not right to condone the attacks on the legitimate functioning of a political party. If we disagree with the government, it cannot be termed as sedition, he said.

There was genuine resentment among the tribal people and resistance was growing in many parts of the country against the unpopular neoliberal policies of the government, he said. He added that it was an irony that in the case of right-wing extremism, the state was never a target, but, in fact, the former posed a larger threat to the integrity and harmony of the country. The state doesn't bother as these forces do not directly challenge its authority. In the case of neoliberalism, it does.

Fighting against government policies was not equal to being anti-national, he said, adding that the Left parties had always stood up against the anti-people, anti-poor and anti-working class policies of the government. Our Left Front government in West Bengal allowed protests to be held on the Binayak Sen issue. I know of at least one State government, a UPA ally, that gave permission only very reluctantly, he said. The Left parties, through their representatives in Parliament, have consistently raised the issue of the extrajudicial powers of Salwa Judum.

Unlike the BJP and to an extent the Congress, they do not think that the outfit resembles a people's movement. Raja said that none other than Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, soon after he took charge of the Ministry, had called Salwa Judum a non-state player.

The Left parties have always objected to a security-centric approach. This, they maintain, will not solve the problem. Extremist violence, according to a CPI(M) document on Maoist violence, needed to be dealt with firm administrative steps . The tribal people, the document says, are caught in a vicious cycle of violence and counter-violence by the Maoists and the state-sponsored militia, Salwa Judum. While the Left has made its stand clear on the issue, the silence of the Centre and the State government and the UPA allies has been deafening.

T.K. Rajalakshmi
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