The granting of bail to Dr. Binayak Sen by the Hon. Supreme Court on 14th of April 2011 in the sedition case is a great relief to him, his family and his well wishers in Chhattisgarh, the country and across the world. All interested in democratic rights in the country must welcome this. It also gives rise to the possibility of the granting of bail to his co-convicts M/s Narayan Sanyal and Piyush Guha. Of these, the former is an elderly person who had already been in prison before the sedition case and is presently in hospital due to his deteriorating health. The case of Dr. Sen had attracted a great deal of reaction across different sections of society where expression of disgust was widespread at what was considered a patently absurd and vindictive judgment of the courts in Chhattisgarh, and also at the refusal of the Chhattisgarh High Court to grant bail. The Hon. Supreme Court had expressed doubts on the validity of the evidence that had been produced by the prosecution as regards the passing of information between Dr. Sen and Mr. Sanyal on the basis of jail records and screening procedures. The Court also expressed its disapproval of the conclusion that was drawn by the lower courts on basis of literature in possession by Dr. Sen, that he was (must be) a Naxalite. Thus, the Supreme Court saw it fit to grant bail, while the conviction is being appealed in higher courts in Chhattisgarh. The Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh Mr. Raman Singh has observed that his Government would respect the decision of the Supreme Court.
The case at hand has brought into very sharp focus the intensification of the struggle that is going in the country between those in power and their institutions and those who are not in power. The latter represents the bulk of the people of the country, while the former are those who have acquired the sovereign power over the decades through Constitutional and other mechanisms, and have sharpened all the tools and implements in their hands for continuing their hold on power. In the case of Chhattisgarh, a state that has been carved out of the state of Madhya Pradesh in the recent past, successive Governments have armed themselves with ever increasing powers or arbitrary nature, some of which rank among the most draconian in the country and perhaps in the world. The need for these laws lies is the innate contradiction between the multitudes living on these lands as indeed have been their forefathers for generations, and those that seek to use the produce of the forest land and the vast minerals that lie below them. The latter have the state institutions on their side, while the former and their supporters have the ability, if not the imperative, to resist the snatching away of what is legitimately theirs. It is precisely in this struggle of opposites lies the case of Dr. Sen and M/s Sanyal and Guha. While the nakedness of the brute force of the state is there for everyone to see in the unprincipled incarceration, the granting of the bail to Dr. Sen by the Supreme Court has been seen by many as a sign of hope that justice will prevail in the country. Others have stated that for each breath of fresh air of this sort, there are myriads of cases where there is no hope for those who are under trial or convicted unfairly under such draconian laws. Such being the case, there is a growing call for the repeal of the sedition law in particular. Indeed, it may be noted that there are many other laws in addition to the sedition law under which individuals can be put away for prolonged periods.
There is growing realization across the length and breadth of the country that the Indian state today stands in violent opposition to the vast multitudes of the country. Standing behind the state is the powerful class of big industrial monopolies and financial oligarchs who have an insatiable appetite for resources and for cheap labour. Most of the policies of the Governments in the States as well as at the Centre are geared towards advancing the interests of these. Peasants and tribal people if found to be living on lands for which there is a demand by these interests may be mercilessly pushed out with the full power of the state. The vast multitudes are viewed as no more than cattle, whose labour must be made available at cheap rates for the extraction of resources and for work in industry, with virtually no security or benefit assured for the labouring classes. Given this scenario, the labouring masses, peasants and tribal people have no choice but to resist, as not doing so will lead to their complete deprivation and destitution. Laws are passed to ensure that this resistance is eliminated and its leadership done away with, and rule through terror of one kind or another is the order of the day. Courts are rarely known to rule in favour of those resisting. Only when the heat becomes unbearable, and only at the highest levels hardly accessible to the multitudes, is there any respite, and that too only on occasion. The extent of the oppression has become so bad that individuals are now in a position to be incarcerated for merely being suspected of holding certain opinions, or being in possession of certain kinds of literature, or being sympathizers of this or that organization.
The granting of the bail by the Supreme Court has come at a time when the embarrassment that was caused by the conviction of Dr. Sen on sedition charges across the country and world itself because unbearable. Today, those fighting for the rights of the downtrodden and the exploited in the country, viz. those in the democratic movement, must be conscious of all these facts and background against which these events have taken place before rejoicing. As the ruling classes in India hone their line of march on the path that has brought disaster to the multitudes, so must those that stand in opposition.
by B. Ananthanarayan