Dr. Binayak Sen: "Everybody has the right to Peacefully Retaliate"

Binayak Sen has been released on bail on April 15, 2011. It is time to celebrate. India ultimately paid attention to its activists, its intellectuals and the common men who voiced in favor of the doctor. The world’s largest democracy has taken note of national and international pressures. Let’s rejoice! But before, let’s pause and think. It is, indeed, remarkable when a man such as Binayak Sen is released, albeit on bail. But for one man such as Binayak, how many silent victims of India’s outburst of violence and lawlessness? In the interview he gave to Video Volunteers, Binayak Sen reminds us that in India’s heartland, many are waging a silent war against the state and its corporate allies. They will rarely receive any support, and their cries will rarely be echoed when they are crushed by the state. Above all, their grieves and struggle will rarely be heard by the urban, middle class, educated India. “The Information on and awareness of the issues of the poor is very little and limited. Especially, the educated people, who are influenced by the media need to have more information regarding the basic issues of India”. And Indeed, Binayak Sen did all he can to bridge the divide between these two facets of the country, through his work, and in every of his declarations to the press. Repeatedly, he opposed the personalization that was happening in this affair. He always resisted being portrayed as a hero or a martyr, constantly trying to re-connect his own fate to what was happening in far off rural areas. His arrest and trial cannot be viewed in disconnect to the harsh realities of India’s remote corners, and to the injustice towards adivasis and impoverished farmers. Hence, Binayak Sen’s release cannot be celebrated as a major democratic victory. Democracy does not consist in the leniency of the state towards one man. It cannot be a gift. Rather it is the conditions under which rights of all, beyond distinction of caste, race, class, gender, are granted. But in many corners of India, basic rights of livelihoods are denied. As Sen points out in his interview: “The basic resources that are needed by people to survive are being forcefully snatched away. This process gives birth to widespread structural violence. And, in response to this structural violence, the resistance of the public is their right. Everyone has the right to peacefully retaliate against structural violence.” And Indeed, in Jagatsinghpur district, Orissa, over 4000 families under the threat of being forcefully evicted from their lands have been courageously resisting. Peasants and tribal people, living off small scale cultivations and forest products have opposed the grabbing of their land for the setting up of the POSCO project, a massive steel plant, that risk to devastate lives and the environment. This is a striking example of the structural violence inflicted on many. The acquisition of land would render these people homeless, and in many cases the compensation offered by the government is less than one year income. Thousands of villagers, mostly women and children, are protesting against the project, and have vowed to fight for their land until the end. They faced fierce repression, being repeatedly charged by the police force, despite the presence of women and children. India’s National Human Rights Commission has asked for a detailed report on violation committed against the protestors since the month of June this year. This unquestionably constitutes a modest rampart against the violence inflicted on the protesters. But it does not alleviate the structural violence these villagers are falling victims of, as Sen refers to. So, yes, we should rejoice for Binayak Sen’s release. But more than anything else, we should use the occasion to listen to his words, and to pay attention to the experience of a man whose life mission is to fight poverty in the most backward area of the country. Binayak Sen testifies of the callous side of the world largest democracy, a side that we should not afford to forget. - Sarah Chauvin (pictures from binayaksen.net & socialism.in)
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