ByÂ Abhishyant Kidangoor:
The Gandhi Peace Award is bestowed upon individuals (or organizations), who have contributed to the promotion of international peace and goodwill, but who have received little recognition in doing so. Since its establishment in 1998, this award has been given to 10 individuals/organizations till date. The Gandhi Foundation, which sponsors this award, has selected Binayak Sen and Bulu Imam as the ‘unsung heroes’ of 2011, and the awards were given away on the 12th June 2012.
This firebrand activist is a pediatrician and public health specialist as well. The National Vice President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Sen started working as a pediatrician, extending health care to the poverty stricken people from the rural areas of Chhattisgarh. During his stint in the state, he doubled up as a human rights activist. He criticized and opposed the government for the human rights violation during the Anti-Naxalites operation and recommended non-violent methods instead. In the summer of 2007, he was accused of having connections with the Naxalites and arrested on charges of sedition. He was granted bail only in 2009, by the Supreme Court. The letter, which was evidence to his alleged links with the Maoists, was never found during the raids and hence his arrest was based on bogus evidence. His later arrest in 2010 was also highly criticized as being ‘politically motivated’.
An office bearer in one of the finest civil rights organization, Sen had always tried to change the state of affairs. He is known to have taken consistent and sincere efforts for the eradication of poverty and hunger. Often questioning the moves of the government, Sen raised his voice, not to overthrow the government, but for the betterment of the society. Obviously, this didn’t go well with the other side which is nothing but obsessed with power. This clearly explains the situation.
The award bestowed upon Sen, is indeed a great achievement for him but this has put the Indian government in a fix. Earlier in 2008, when the Jonathan Mann award was given to Sen, the government, which had him under custody, refused to let him go to Washington D.C to collect the award, in spite of large number of his supporters demanding to let him go. In the end, his wife collected the award on his behalf. However, on the occasion of the Gandhi Awards, it is important for Indian Government to grant Sen the passport to travel to London, in order to avoid negative media publicity worldwide. Not only would it put the country in a bad light, but would also question its democracy.
‘Maoism’ is indeed a threat to the security of the country and one may or may not support its activities; but to scrutinize someone as being a criminal, just for giving his thought is highly unfair, especially someone with an impeccable career record. It all boils down to the high levels of corruption and inefficiency of the Indian government. In spite of having done it out of the fear of putting the Indian government in a bad light, the decision to grant Sen permission to go to London is highly appreciated. The development of such a mentality is positive.
A hero idolized and admired abroad. Yet considered a nuisance in his own country. Ironical indeed! Binayak Sen had been persecuted for thinking out loud. Each and every one of us has a certain point of view and opinion for almost every subject under the sun. Here is a man who was charged of sedition, for the non-violent expression of his beliefs and thoughts. One may or may not support Naxalism but that is completely off the topic here. The courage of a leader to express his thoughts and at the same time propagate non violence is commendable. But the activities of the government to bring down someone, who speaks out his thoughts and works for it, are unwelcome. After all, what does democracy stand for?