Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
The Supreme Court Bench comprising Justice H.S.Bedi and Justice K.C.Prasad will be remembered for having granted bail on April 15, 2011 to Dr. Binayak Sen, the legendary victim of Plutocratic terrorism, who was, by Chhatishgarh government, thrown into rigorous life imprisonment under charges of sedition for alleged possession of Maoist literature as well as for harboring and /or helping them.
Dr. Sen has expressed happiness over the Apex Court’s order; but, after being released he has told PTI, “the case against me is still going on and I have to fight it with all the means at my disposal”.
All the patriots framed up by exploitative State under charges of sedition are not attracting global attention and Supreme Court consideration as Dr. Sen could do. They are, as under-trial criminals: majority in jails and a rare few enlarged on bails, perishing for no fault of theirs.
Dr. Sen’s case is an instance of how easy has it become for administration to clamp sedition charges on persons that have humanitarian sympathy for the suffering masses. They are being branded as or sympathizers of the Maoists to face prosecution under charges of sedition.
Orissa is an enormous storehouse of instances of this mischief.
Even the journalists, who are dutifully reporting on the plight of the people, are being charged with sedition. I give below two sample instances:
One: Keertichandra Sahu, reporter of Anupam Bharat, having exposed the Utkal Alumina Plant of the Aditya Birla group over the havoc it plays on the environment as well as the life of innocent and ignorant tribals and workers kept as casual workers sans any service condition, was arrested on 14 February 2004 by the police at Kashipur of Kalahandi under charges of sedition and since then is perishing under the framed up case.
Two: NGOs such as Sajag and Sahabhagi Vikash Abhiyan had shown, unemployment problem along with the condition of starvation and semi-starvation among the Kamar families was growing day by day. This had prompted two freelancing TV reporters of Nuapada District, Puturam Sunani and Meghanad Kharsel to keep a watch on Nangalghat in Sinapalli Block, as it was a hamlet of Kamar caste people. And in course of time, information reached them that under stark starvation the helpless ones in that hamlet were eating limestone, locally known as jhikiri. Initially unable to believe, they reached Nangalghat on 25.5.2007 and found that the starved people were really eating the stones. They took video recording of one Baru Singh Pahadia while eating stone and sent the same to their respective medias including OTV for further action. OTV telecasted the horrifying scene at 7 P.M. of 31 May 2007. Immediately thereafter, bags of rice were put in the houses of the villagers, job-cards pushed into families, a tube-well was dug overnight and both the reporters were arrested under charges of sedition, as, to the authorities, their reports were designed to destabilize the government. Revenue Minister Man Mohan Samal (as then he was) condemned both of the journalists in rudest possible terms while informing the Orissa Legislative Assembly the next day on June 01, 2007 of the “criminal cases” instituted against them. He had not even hesitated to mislead the House with false and manufactured reports on availability of job to Nangalghat villagers and their, including Baru Singh’s, food stability. The mischief was exposed in these pages. And, soon the Center for Environment and Food Security (CEFS) come out with details of “hunger, poverty and deprivation” prevalent in the region and observed, “the scenario looks worse than Sub-Saharan Africa”. Yet, both the TV reporters had to face prosecution under sedition charges for having shown to the society this terrible fact.
When these are instances of journalists framed up to face charges of sedition because of their reporting on plights of the people, there are journalists in Orissa that are charged for sedition simply because their reports went against certain members of the police force. One example:
Orissa’s highest editional Sambad has its man in Laxman Choudhury at Mohana. He has been subjected to charges of sedition simply because he exposed the nexus between the area Inspector of Police and the marijuana mafia. The Inspector contrived a method to teach him a lesson and accordingly clamped a case of sedition against him on concocted allegation that a packet of Maoist leaflets was seized from a private bus conductor who, he claimed, informed him that the packet was meant for Chaudhury. Later the said Inspector was caught redhanded by the Vigilance Police while receiving his share of profit from the marijuana mafia; but despite repeated requests from Media Unity for Freedom of Press, the false case of sedition that the corrupt Inspector had cooked up against him has not yet been withdrawn.
From the records of agreement between the State Government of Orissa and the mediators during the course of negotiation for release of Malkangiri district collector R Vineel Krishna and junior engineer Pabitra Mohan Majhi from Maoist hostage, it transpires that, as many as 600 illiterate tribals are perishing in prisons under sedition charges, because, misusers of power wanted them prosecuted that way for their supposed links with the Maoists.
In Dr. Sen’s case, Mr. Justice Bedi told the lawyer of the prosecuting State that if it was real that some materials on Maoist ideology were found in his possession, that does not make out a case of sedition.
“We are a democratic country. He may be a sympathizer. That does not make him guilty of sedition”, said the Judge.
His judicial wisdom made him ask the state lawyer, “If Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography is found in somebody’s place, is he a Gandhian? No case of sedition is made out on the basis of materials in possession unless you show that he was actively helping or harboring them [Maoists].”
And, thus, Dr. Sen’s enlargement on bail was shaped.
But here is how justice failed to fully blossom.
While saying that possession of Maoist materials does not make one a Maoist, the Apex Court should simultaneously have determined if Maoism is an act of sedition.
That could have expedited the end of Dr. Sen’s turmoil as well as of the massive number of Indians perishing under charges of sedition, framed up as Maoists or their supporters / helper /harborers. Even the persons in whose support the Maoists raise their voice, are being projected as Maoists like the tribals / forest-dwellers / landless laborers of Orissa – as the 600 persons mentioned supra – and being tried under charges of sedition. It has become easiest for the exploitative state to project any antagonist to economic inequality / exploitation / corruption / maladministration as Maoist and torture him / her under charges of sedition.
If, for judicial decision on right to liberty, the Constitution of India provides the base, it is pertinent to revisit the Constituent Assembly debates, specifically of the concluding session where Dr. Ambedkar, whom we regard as the creator of the Constitution, had to answer to the last debates, before it was adopted.
In reply to the debates on third reading of the draft Constitution, he had said, “ On 26th January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradiction. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic rights we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man and one vote, one value. In our social and economic rights we shall by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny one man one value…We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this Assembly has so laboriously built up”. (Constituent Assembly Debates, Vol.XI, p.979).
Are these words of Dr. Ambedkar’s anxiety and warning capable of being interpreted as expression of sedition? If not, no amount of antagonism expressed against economic and social inequality, even if the antagonists project themselves as Maoists, can be termed as sedition.
And, what is Maoism? It is a political ism opposed to capitalism.
The country can run on only two political economies. It is either political economy of capitalism or political economy of socialism. Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh stands for the former and the Maoists for the later.
Mixed economy propounded and practiced by Nehru has been experienced as a path-paver for peaceful transformation of democracy to plutocracy and a silent killer of socialism in support of capitalism. So, either capitalism or socialism is relevant.
When India, running under capitalism, is experiencing all out corruption in every sphere of administration, has become a land of starvation deaths, has become a land of farmers’ suicide, a land of distress sale of babies by starving mothers, a land of distress sale of paddies by loan-ravaged farmers, a land of unemployment for the unprivileged, a land of inequality in scope of education, a land of inequality in availing healthcare, a land of turmoil for the majority of citizens, a land of parliamentary manipulation, land of cash-for-question parliament, a land of cash-for-confidence vote, a land of nonchalant bureaucracy, a land of no-land-to-landless, a land of displacement of tillers for benefit of private trade operators, a land of religious revivalism and acrimonious communalism, a land of commission agents’ supremacism, a land of State-terror and all sorts of mass-harassing methods and lastly has become a grazing ground of profit-seeking foreigners that have started dictating terms, the people who want India extricated from this mess, will certainly oppose capitalism and hence they will want the country to change its course to political economy of socialism, which also is enshrined in its constitution as its resolve.
Maoism is a sort of expression of determination to lead the country to socialism.
It encourages oppressed people to revolt against the capitalist state so that India can extricate herself from the labyrinth of social and economic inequalities, which, unless done, would, as Dr. Ambedkar apprehended, “blow up the structure of political democracy” that the Constituent Assembly had “so laboriously built up”. (cited supra).
Revolt against a capitalist (exploitative) State is not revolt against the State that the people of India in their Constitution had resolved to have.
Hence Maoism cannot be same as sedition.
The Supreme Court should have appreciated this in putting a complete look into Dr. Sen’s case and saved the country of innumerable litigations over wrong interpretation of Maoism as manner of sedition by the crafty perpetrators of plutocratic terrorism and thereby could have saved the people from perishing under charges of sedition without having ever acted seditious.
But as nice hopes cannot die, one hopes, a day will come, when a Bench of the Supreme Court to come, will cogitate upon this issue and settle the matter for ever.