Friday, January 07, 2011

The case of Dr. Sen is a sad and alarming one. However, this Outlook article ( is a substandard analysis.

> The disproportionate sentence passed on Dr Binayak Sen
> suggests India is waging war against its own people.

This appears to be hyperbole, unless by "India" is meant the Central Government of that country acting in concert with the local state government of Chhattisgarh. That would further imply that the Congress (I) (in power at the Centre, and in the Opposition in the province) and the BJP (in power in the province, and in the Opposition at the Centre) are acting in tandem.

Neither the central nor the state government, furthermore, is responsible for sentencing. That prerogative rests with the courts, from the local to the Apex.

And, of course, unless the case of Dr. Sen is shown to be typical, it has hard to see how extrapolation to the entire state machinery and the entire citizenry is a valid one.

> That Dr Binayak Sen should have been subject to such
> immoderate punishment, when his calling is the relief
> of suffering among the most dispossessed, hints at the
> insecurity of those who know how fragile the trumpeted
> economic success of India is, how promiscuously
> distributed its rewards, and how estranged large
> segments of the population remain from the
> international hyperbole.

Excellent use of the English language, a pleasure to read. Except, of course, for the leap in logic which seems to suggest that all doctors, artists, firemen and bringers-of-food-packs-to-those-stricken-by-floods etc. are to be absolved of any crimes as long as they bring relief to those at the bottom of the pyramid, during their day jobs. Am happy to agree that there is economic inequality and varied access to education and health-care in India. That, however, in this particular context, is irrelevant. Very relevant and pressing in other contexts, of course.

> So India today is represented, not by its excluded and
> impoverished majority, but by the showy lifestyle of a
> middle class which fills the malls and hypermarkets of
> the cities, seeking the meaning of life in a technology
> of its own creation.

Fascinating. But, one may ask, "represented" where? In Parliament? In the Polo Club? In the slums of Calcutta? In the malls? Yes, the middle class which fills the malls is certainly represented in the malls. One wonders whether journalism ought not just to be about learning the language but also a basic grounding in the norms of debate and the basics of logical reasoning.

> It is a great pity that government should have believed
> the blandishments of all the new East
> India Companies,which have come in such smart modern
> garb, sharp suits and battalions of security personnel
> with dark eyeshades and fast guns, bringing the more
> advanced trinkets of the hour, to cozen the people of
> India out of whatever they can be persuaded to part with.

This appears to have been written by an adolescent. The good-prose part of the article is over. Advanced trinkets for whatever they part with - sounds like a bargain.

> Hence the offence of sedition, a gift, if not of the
> gods, at least of imperialists who behaved like gods.

The writer appears to be unaware of the irony of writing in the language of the imperialists. Of something else too - that parliamentary democracy did not exactly thrive in India for the thousands of years before John Bull (this is presumably how the writer would describe the British, perhaps wearing fashionable sunglasses, though) showed up. And that the Indian parliament has lots of democratically elected Indians in it, empowered to change the Word of God.

A more intelligent critique of the case is to be found at

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