Barely a fortnight after the Planning Commission endorsed an advisory role for Dr Binayak Sen, a study conducted at the UK’s Cambridge University termed his arrest symptomatic of the problems faced by tribals in India.
Sen, 61, criticised for his links with Naxals, was convicted by a Chhattisgarh court on sedition charges and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2007. He was released on bail recently by the Supreme Court.
The research — funded by UK Economic and Social Research Council — criticised India for continuing with the sedition laws introduced by the British in 1870. “The tribals suffered first at hands of the Raj and more recently through exploitation by the Indian state and big business,” said the study, which appeared in the social science journal “Social Science and Medicine” on Tuesday.
The paper — titled “Understanding the conviction of Binayak Sen” — is by Lawrence King, a reader at department of sociology and Jonathan Kennedy, an Economic and Social Research Council funded PhD student at Cambridge.
The research was carried out between 2008 and 2010 in central India. The authors are of the opinion that the pediatrician was targeted for his commendable work of three decades among tribals.
In an e-mail response to HT, Kennedy said: “His (Sen’s) arrest illustrates the state cares more about minerals lying below the ground than the adivasis living above it.”
Sen to battle land, sedition laws
Rights activist Binayak Sen will now fight for amending the existing sedition and land acquisition laws.
At a felicitation ceremony by the Free Binayak Sen Doctors in Solidarity on Tuesday, Sen said: “About 50% of adults from the Scheduled Tribes have a Body Mass Index below 18.5. We are walking through time with famine on our side.”
As far as sedition laws are concerned, Sen said: “We are collecting 1 million signatures to ask for the repeal of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code.”
(With inputs from Kolkata)