The best way to know the self is feeling oneself at the moments of reckoning. The feeling of being alone, just with your senses, may lead you to think more consciously. More and more of such moments may sensitize ‘you towards you’, towards others. We become regular with introspection and retrospection. We get ‘the’ gradual connect to the higher self we may name Spirituality or God or just a Humane Conscious. We tend to get a rhythm again in life. We need to learn the art of being lonely in crowd while being part of the crowd. A multitude of loneliness in mosaic of relations! One needs to feel it severally, with conscience, before making it a way of life. One needs to live several such lonely moments. One needs to live severallyalone.

Monday 27 December 2010


“Prisoner of voice of conscience” - Why can’t India accommodate voices like Binayak Sen?

It was not so long ago when the government had decided not to pursue tough legal course of action against Arundhati Roy and SAS Geelani on their separatist remarks on Kashmir. (Recent legal activities in the matter is just court directed)

It was not so long ago when we thought to think that we could, too, have  a healthy debate kind of thing on ‘limits’ of freedom of expression when it came to issues like ‘patriotism’ and ‘sedition’. (Though dismissing voices of dissent to render them insignificant was the underlying concern)

It was not a long ago when the highest court of the land had observed about the evidence being made a reason to incarcerate Dr Sen grating him bail. (How jubilant we were!)

It was not a long ago when we all became mute spectators of the savagery of the state machinery as the ‘Vanavasi Chetna Ashram’ was brought to rubble. (And, except some carriers like Tehelka, the voice was not given its due)

And, so, what happened on December 24, when Dr Sen was sentenced to life-imprisonment, was again a humiliating reminder of how an organized society (with all its constituting pillars) in this part of the world works.

A last weekday, a national news channel was discussing ‘whether being an achiever is no more about celebrityhood’ based on outcome of its personality of the year award in different categories that it said was populated well by silent achievers. And, what it meant by silent achiever: someone working to bring change irrespective of any return, even name.

So sacred it seems, and indeed it is. Yes, it is the sort of debate that may go on and on with subjective reasoning and circumstantial explanations. But, here, in this context, it may foretell some important things.

There are activists and opinion leaders, very dear, to the media eyes, trying to fill up the content void of the carriers. There are activists and opinion leaders, very dear to the media eyes, making them available to the carriers as and when the need arises. There are activists and opinion leaders, who, usually, do not resort to the platform that media may provide them to raise the voice as the cause they are working on, doesn’t fit in the mould, that media of the day is cast-of.

Your daily dose of intellectual expertise is supplanted by activists and opinion leaders of the first category (though the impact is as debatable as credibility of the whole news media in India has become now). Likes of Medha Patkar, Arundhari Roy hop the second category and they are justifiably right in doing so. And then there are silent crusaders like Binayak Sen, Himanshu Kumar, Sandeep Pandey, who know doing work at grassroots, in the hinterland, has no relevance for the mainstream media.

And, so, when the state decides to ignore separatist remarks of Arundhati Roy and some other Kashmiri leaders, and at the same time, incarcerate someone like Dr Sen; it puts a big question mark on operability of the whole system. No such debate is raised. The day when the development took place it is all around in English media but what about follow-up. What has been the follow-up since Sen was released on bail last year?

And, lo, this is not just it, on the contrary, this operability gets converted into grilling polarizability of the ruling elite and, behold, here, every fine line that separates political creatures gets blurred. So we never hear a political statement though Chhattisgarh is a BJP ruled state and Congress is sitting very comfortably at the centre (see the level of coordination here within the federal structure of the world’s largest democracy!). Chidambaram is running a crusade sort of operation against Maoists (though we never feel the need to redefine the terms like Naxal or Maoism in present context), agreed, but what happens to the likes of Mani Shankar Aiyar or Digvijay Singh, who put the hole Naxal policy in the dock. Why can’t they say something? They will not.

And, so, we see a wide range of dispensation of justice!

It takes a year for CBI to question A Raja; it takes many brickbats by the courts to the law enforcing agencies to go probing the likes of Kalmadi; removal of a ‘so tainted Raja’ puts the whole government in jeopardy (speculations about Lok Sabha arithmetic); a ‘so controversial BSY’ continues in the government, but, we see a ‘never seen’ promptness when it comes to crushing of voices like Dr Sen or Himanshu Kumar or jailing a TN public servant after being found guilty of accepting Rs 100 bribe.

What else can we say?

I have privilege of talking to Dr Sen. I, still, do not have the privilege of meeting him in person. But, I expect to meet him soon whether I get or do not get permission to shoot part of my documentary featuring him. Someone, like Dr Sen, who doesn’t carry a laptop and accesses the online world while at home or at static points of access, for him, mainstream media access cannot be too high on the priority list.

Like many silent achievers, he is just one and probably he likes it to be like that. Thanks to the human conscience that still prevails somewhere, and thanks to the technological advances, Dr Sen has now a concerned following that works irrespective of the duration of media attention, and is getting wider. Yes, the legal recourse, by its very nature in this country, presents before us a long battle to be fought again. And, yes, it is something, that, we can hope for logical outcome by higher courts.

Dr Sen symbolizes the ‘voice of conscience’, for he acts on behalf of millions who cannot be adventurous enough to speak even for their basic rights. We need to take the moment and the movement to the level when the government would see Dr Sen on par with likes of Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy and would accommodate the ‘voices of dissent’ more as ‘voices pinpointing anomalies in the system’.

The hope lies somewhere here:

The Bench ignored the plea of senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Chhattisgarh government, opposing bail on the ground that trial was about to be completed. Justice Katju told counsel: “We know the facts of this case. He has been in jail for two years. We are granting him bail.” "Thank you, please sit down," the bench remarked twice when Rohtagi tried to oppose bail.
(Supreme Court on May 25, 2009)

Till then ‘arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached”. Like Mahatma Gandhi, Vivekananda, too, can never be irrelevant.

Meanwhile, we can wish only if the state doesn’t go the China way in silencing voices of dissent like the Middle Kingdom has done with Liu Xiaobo.