being brown

When Sedition became Sexy

Arundhati Roy had a case of sedition filed against her. She is a sexy woman but that didn’t make sedition sexy. It just made the government look silly. Binayak sen, though, was charged with sedition and waging war against the Indian state; he was committed to life in prison for the same and that made sedition sexy.

Victim of national paranoia

Victim of national paranoia

The equanimity with which some people are taking this horrific tale of injustice is mildly unnerving. On Barkha Dutt’s show, We the People, the ‘oh so reasonable’ Swapan Dasgupta, with his impeccable English concedes that even if Sen was guilty of sedition, the penalty is over the top. However, do not lose heart, he says. Because, as another guest points out, the Indian judiciary has a redressal system that is good enough to set wrongs right. Of course, he meant that the case will go on appeal and a higher, saner court will topple this ridiculous ruling. Little regard is given to the fact that the man will, in all probability, lose many years of his life, looking for justice in this remarkable judicial system that has mechanisms of redress. Suffice it to say, the time spent in different courts will amount to his lifetime- the sentence for life is not looking that ridiculous, is it?

Swapan goes on to say, the magistrate has just interpreted the law and there is no need to think that the Chattisgarh court is in some kind of conspiracy with the government to put Binayak Sen in prison. He is trying to remove the political context from the judgment because civil society assumes that context and that’s why it is outraged. But 10-15 minutes in to the discussion, he contradicts himself when he says that the judgment has been taken with a context in mind. The context being that some number of people, police and civilians were killed by the Maoists. Indeed the judge seems to have said something to the effect of how he would normally have been sympathetic had it not been for the larger issue of Maoism. This convenient politicizing and depoliticizing is what makes Swapan the hawk that he is.

Harsh Mander, also on the show, amply illustrates the paranoid context that really is in play in this judgment. He alludes to a POTA-type draconian law that makes the way the evidence has been assessed and evaluated or used questionable. This law is specific to the state. In the commercial break during the Big Fight programme, an ad by the Chatisgadh government was aired. It was an animation advertisement about the terror unleashed by the Naxals and how the Government of Chattisgadh itself is inclined towards ‘jeeney ka haq’ or the ‘right to life’. If it is true that the sessions court judge himself conceded that he might have been more lenient had the situation been ‘normal’, he is himself setting the paranoid tone for the context. His own argument is in line with the Government of Chattisgadh.

This paranoid response of a state, both legislative and judiciary, to an innocent man’s ( forget his service to the less privileged) is eerily reminiscent of that other witch-hunt in another ‘democratic’ country spear headed by McCarthy. And, like in that other case, it just shows the failure of the state.

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7 responses

  1. nikita

    Agree sumanya to what u have done here….but why r u watching the very ridiculous show like ‘We the People’..??? just don’t waste your time..well will u be coming tomorrow to Town hall between 5 n 7 pm..for the protest??

    December 28, 2010 at 11:32 am

  2. sumanyav

    ha ha, Nikki! tell me one good news channel to watch. Plus if you ignore Barkha, we the people has some good guests- for example in this particular show I loved listening to harsh mander, Soli Sorabjee, Ilina Sen and Ashish nandi. It was worth it!

    yes yes! I am coming. Will give you a call before I leave office.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:57 am

  3. Jayashree

    Very well written and well argued, Sumanya.Still, the fussy teacher in me wants the grammar and punctuation oversights out of the way. I don’t need to point them out to you, please correct them.
    Also, would like to see this in print. WHy don’t you send your articles to newspapers? Take a chance.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:25 pm

  4. Rene Lacoste

    Excerpts from the judgment’s text, in case you haven’t read this already : http://www.indianexpress.com/news/therefore-guilty-of-conspiracy-to-commit-sedition/730053/0

    I doubt if most people have read it. (I dozed off while reading it :()

    December 29, 2010 at 3:46 am

  5. sumanyav

    @ Jayashree ok!

    @ Rene yeah i got through about half of it. actually parts of the judgment are hilarious. I dont know whether to laugh or to cry.

    December 30, 2010 at 8:28 am

  6. Prathima

    Very well put, Sumanya.

    Maybe I should have watched the show beginning to end. Was irritated with swapan and switched off.

    I do think you should publish it – will clarify many people’s thoughts.
    Most people keep quiet and let things go because they are not ‘awfully sure’ what is happening.

    January 3, 2011 at 4:34 am

  7. sumanyav

    Thanks, P’ma. Perhaps, I will try and send it some places to see if it gets published.

    and can i say how happy I am to see you here, following my blog.

    January 3, 2011 at 5:21 am

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