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A Moralistic Doublespeak Of Man Mohan Singh

By Anand Teltumbde

04 May, 2009

On May 2, Dr. Man Mohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India came out in defence of the CBI’s decision to withdraw a 12 year old Red Corner Notice to Interpol against Ottavio Quattrocchi in the Bofor case. On 28 April, in the midst of general election and when barely three weeks were left for the term of the UPA-government to end, CBI opened the floodgates for media to launch a sterile debate over Quattrocchi, by its controversial decision. The Congress apologetically sang a song of CBI’s autonomy, knowing fully well that it cannot find perhaps a single buyer for it. The opposition rightly smelt a rat. It however failed to sound clearer. The decision smacked of the Congress being not sure to come to power. When the Congress spokesmen had done a good job of raising a smokescreen of judicial process to cover up the CBI decision, the intervention of Dr. Singh justifying it on moral grounds came as a pleasant surprise. He said in an interview with CNN-IBN, “It is not a good reflection on the Indian legal system that we harass people while the world says we have no case.” Indeed, it does not behove the country of India’s stature to ignore world opinion!

But one is suddenly reminded of India persistently ignoring the world opinion in the case of an Indian doctor. Unlike Dr. Singh’s abstract world, here there has been a concrete world of Human Rights activists, the world of medical fraternity and the world of greatest living brains, the 22 Nobel laureates, pointing to the government of a serious moral lapse and pleading to free Dr. Binayak Sen as it did not have a case. Dr. Sen is languishing in the Raipur jail for nearly two years for a cooked up charge of being a carrier of letters from a naxalite leader, incarcerated in the Raipur jail, for which the government could not produce even a shred of evidence whatsoever. Leave apart moral outrage, he is not being given medical treatment for his heart ailment, something basic that anybody is legally due.

Binayak Sen, a gold medalist from the prestigious Vellore Medical College, one who ignored all lures of luxurious life and joined Shankar Guha Niyogi to set up Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha’s Shaheed Hospital for tribals and workers, the cofounder of Rupantar, a community-based NGO that trained community health workers in villages, a celebrated authority on community health, and the General Secretary of one of the respected civil rights organization- PUCL, Chhattisgarh, was arrested under one of India’s most draconian laws, the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act on 14 May 2007. His bail application was dismissed twice, both times at the very outset, by the High Court of Chhattisgarh and by the Supreme Court of India, without ever considering the merits of the case.

His trial commenced on 30 April 2008. Not one of the 64 witnesses examined by the Prosecution has provided any legally admissible evidence to support the accusations in the charge-sheet. Even the jail officials, the Superintendent and the Jailer, who were called as witnesses by the Prosecution, have ruled out the possibility of Dr. Sen carrying letters from Narayan Sanyal, a senior Maoist leader, out of the high security Raipur Jail. Recently, Binayak Sen, with a history of heart ailment, was examined by a doctor appointed by the court, who recommended that Sen should be sent to CMC Vellore for heart treatment. A nationwide campaign to save his life was carried out but it failed to get Sen required medical aid. From 16 March, prominent people from all over the country began offering satyagraha on every Monday at the Raipur Jail for Dr. Sen’s release. The State coolly arrests the satyagrahis but does not budge on the issue of his release.

It is by now clear that the government punished Sen for speaking out against the Salwa Judum, the State sponsored peoples’ militia that has killed thousands of poor tribal, ostensibly to clear the forest lands to be given to the corporates. Salwa Judum stands exposed today as the dark spot on our constitutional working. If anyone needs to be punished for this crime against the Constitution, it is the State government and people who mooted this evil idea.

There have been continuous agitations, numerous petitions over the last two years, by distinguished individuals as well as collectives, sent to the President, Prime Minister and other constitutional authorities against unjust incarceration of Binayak Sen. But it has failed to produce even a slightest sense of guilt or moral outrage that Quattrocchi’s case did in any of them.

One would argue that these cases are not comparable. Obviously, they are not. The first is the case of a saintly doctor, who dedicatedly served and spoke for the poorest of our countrymen for over last three decades. The second is the case of a highly connected jet setting Italian businessman who was sought for criminal charges for acting as a conduit for Rs. 64 crores bribes in the Bofors scandal. As it stands, there is no case against Dr. Sen. The government still resists every attempt to grant him a bail or even a medical treatment. In Quattrocchi’s case there is a reasonable evidence in the form of two bank accounts unearthed by Interpol bearing nos. 5A5151516M and 5A5151516L, held by Quattrocchi and his wife Maria with the BSI AG bank, London, containing Euros 3 million and $1 million, which was considered to be “curiously large savings for a salaried executive.” There is a history of government acting with some kind of vendetta against Dr. Sen. Whereas the history of the Bofors case reveals firstly the reluctance of the government to book Quattrocchi and thereafter deliberate mishandling of the case by its agencies. The contrast is indeed endless.

No body needs to grudge a clean chit being given to Quattrocchi. After all, Bofors, as Congress described it, is a dead horse. It has only served to fool the people over two decades at their own cost. It had better be given a happy burial than spending money on all pretentious pursuit. We do not have dearth of scandals to demonstrate our investigative and judicial prowess. But why this moralistic doublespeak of invoking the world opinion to save a foreigner accused of taking away our money and ignoring it when it comes to your own man, just because he chose to speak for the poor and oppressed?

Binayak Sen’s case ought to nibble at our national conscience for long time to come!

Dr. Anand Teltumbde is a Mumbai based Rights activist, writer and political analyst Email:


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