Justice outraged

The conviction of celebrated human rights activist Binayak Sen for treason by the Raipur sessions court on Friday has raised question about the country’s system of justice. Sen, along with two others, has been awarded a harsh life sentence for allegedly aiding and abetting Maoist activities. But the evidence produced against Sen is very unconvincing and there are strong reasons to believe that it was manufactured or doctored to implicate him in a false case. He has been hounded and persecuted by the police and the authorities in Chhattisgarh for long and has suffered much for his commitment to the welfare of poor tribals in the state. He was even denied the normal right of bail after he was arrested in 2006 and it was after spending nearly two years in jail that he won freedom at the intervention of the supreme court.

The prosecution charge that Sen acted as a conduit between a jailed Maoist leader and a businessman is weak because all the meetings between the two in jail were under the supervision of the authorities. The defence claim that evidence was planted to incriminate Sen seems to be correct in the light of production of letters and documents which were not recovered from his residence. The ridiculousness of the prosecution claim became clear in the court during the trial when it accused Sen of links with the Pakistani ISI on the basis of an e-mail message to an organisation with that acronym. It turned out the organisation was the Indian Social Institute (ISI) in Delhi.

There is no doubt that Sen did not get a fair trial and his conviction has tarnished the reputation of the country. He has become an international symbol of the struggle of the poor and marginalised people for their legitimate rights. The Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience. A man who has been honoured with international awards for his work among the poor, and on whose behalf Nobel laureates have pleaded with the government, should not be treated the way he has been. The Chhattisgarh police and the trial judge who accepted its story uncritically have sent out a dire warning to all those who value and work for human rights. It is the disregard for the rights of the poor that has triggered the Maoist revolt. It is unfortunate that this truth is not recognised.

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