'The trial of Binayak Sen was a mockery of justice'

The Inquirer

Prof Ilina Sen

She points out that ‘it could be your turn next.’ She goes on to term the Binayak conviction by a trial court in Raipur, the capital of the naxalite affected Chhattisgarh,  as an ‘attack on life and liberty by the Indian state.’

Although Ilina is a professor of history at Mahatma Gandhi Antar-rashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya at Wardha in Maharashtra, she speaks the language of the lawyers now-a-days. She will require the same skill in the days to come in her effort to prove her husband innocent. A mother of two and a teacher, she finds it really difficult to visit places in her endeavour to win support of the people for her husband’s release and exoneration. Sanjay Pandey of Deccan Herald caught up with her during her recent visit to Lucknow. Excerpts:

Dr Binayak Sen's case is sub judice. You have decided to appeal against the lower court verdict. Should you not fight your case legally?

Judiciary is just like any other institution. We strongly feel that the people of the country should have the right to criticise the judiciary if they feel that it has committed a mistake. It is important to monitor the judiciary.

Why don’t the Maoist sympathisers like Dr Binayak Sen prevail upon the Maoists to shun the path of violence and join the dialogue process with the government?

First of all I would like to contest the claim that Binayak Sen is a Maoist sympathiser. He did receive a few letters from the Maoists. But the maoists keep sending letters to the members of the media in Chhattisgarh also. Should they also then be called the Maoist sympathisers? We are dead against the violence. The fact is that the government is not at all serious about resolving the matter through talks. I strongly feel that both the Maoists and the government want to maintain the ‘threat perception.’ It suits the interests of both of them.

Why would the Chhattisgarh government take interest in prosecuting your husband if he was innocent?

You see ,the government of Chhattisgarh turned against whosoever exposed the truth behind the ‘salwa judum’ (‘peace march,’ an anti-naxalite tribal grouping sponsored by the government to defend themselves from the reign of terror unleashed by the Maoists). Salwa Judum had exposed the government completely. It was in fact arming people, who indulged various acts of illegality. Binayak was among the rights activists, who brought this to the notice of the people and hence he became its enemy.

You will get an opportunity to plead your case in the higher court. Why then are you using the media to plead your case?

The trial of Binayak Sen was a mockery of justice. The prosecution’s case rests upon hearsay evidence from police officers about Binayak’s presence in naxal meetings, his supposed association with ‘hard core naxals,’ who are not even named in any case anywhere in the country. The police also produced the supposed seditious literature pertaining to resistance of US imperialism and atrocities committed during the Salwa Judum seized from our house during police search and evidence of correspondence with people bearing muslim names. The conviction of Binayak has followed an unfair prosecution and prejudiced judgment based on confessional statement recorded during preliminary investigation before the first accused in the case was taken into police custody thereby defeating the provision of custodial confessions.

You have been trying to portray your husband as a victim of the state and seek public support. What do you expect from the people?

Ilina- The battle for Binayak's acquittal is as much mine as that of any Indian citizen. The people of the country today are struggling for the establishment of accountability and transparency in our governance structures, which is befitting of our status as the world’s largest democracy. It is very sad that once a false case is registered against someone in the name of security, it is almost impossible to turn the clock back even if the case does not have any basis. If we are the victims today it could very well be your (people) turn tomorrow. The issues in Binayak’s case go beyond the case itself and the fight for justice for Binayak becomes the struggle of all of us for the Rule of Law in our polity.

What kind of response are you getting?

Ilina- The response of the people by and large has been positive. Several Nobel laureates, lawyers and civil rights activists have supported us.

How hopeful are you about acquittal of Binayak Sen?

Ilina- We have applied for suspension of the sentence and enlarging Binayak on bail. I am hopeful that we will succeed in our fight.

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