The Doctor Who Took The Hippocratic Oath To Heart
Before reading this book, one should understand the situation in Chhattisgarh and the neighbouring Naxalite-affected states where the red army is running a parallel government, with routine killings of suspected informers, security personnel, government officials and innocent villagers.
In The Curious Case of Binayak Sen, author Dilip D’Souza examines the events that led to the arrest of Sen and then goes on to deconstruct the sedition case against him. He has conducted a thorough postmortem of whole affair. The main premise of the book is that the charges of sedition against Sen are false, this is what the author sets out to prove, and is successful in proving.
This book also covers what Binayak has been doing after he was released on bail by the Supreme Court of India’s direction in April last year. The author notes, “Since his release on bail, Sen has spoken often about another kind of connection: between malnutrition and secession” and “there’s an articulation of the same concern with human rights—indeed, with the human condition”.
It is true that the flimsy and fabricated case against Binayak was a miscarriage of justice. By digging into the chargesheets and reading out from the judgment of the trial court, which convicted him with life imprisonment, the author raises certain pertinent questions not only about the Chhattisgarh government and its police, but is also a grim reminder of the state of the judicial system in our country, especially in the Naxalite-affected states.
There are many instances when the author wanders from the subject of the book, he writes about the severe health and infrastructure issues that plague rural Chhattisgarh. The book presents Sen as a man of social concern, particularly for the deprived sections of society, who raised the issues of health, hunger or displacement. For this there was a price to pay. Why was he targeted in the first place? Was it because he refused to toe the line of the state government ? Was it because he spoke against the Salwa Judum? Or was it just a case of being at the wrong place at wrong time?
In the very first chapter, the author firmly declares that the aim of his book is not to put the doctor on a pedestal or attempt a biography, but on reading the remaining sixteen chapters, the reader is convinced that the book is a hagiography on Dr Binayak Sen. D’Souza has tried to put a halo around Sen’s head. In the book Sen has said: “I am not a political person and never have sought a political ideology.” This has to be taken with a pinch of salt, as Sen all along has been vocal on his stand on Maoist outfits and the Salwa Judum. As the general secretary of the Chhattisgarh PUCL chapter, he had demanded that the state government should take steps to initiate unconditional talks with the PWG and the Maoist Communist Centre. He wanted the CRPF to be withdrawn immediately from the Maoist-affected areas, a stop on encounter killings and withdrawal of all POTA-like laws.
There would have been an even balance in the book if the atrocities of the Maoists too would have been highlighted. The author fails to mention the ‘secret’ behind the unprecedented support Sen received both inside and outside the country. I personally think that this was one doctor who took the Hippocratic Oath to heart, but in the course of his actions forget the basic dictum of “first—do no harm”. When one finishes reading the book, the halo around Binayak Sen has slipped.
Dr Sen, in many ways, is no ordinary citizen. He had the backing of a 24/7 media and the outrage of human rights and citizens’ groups from across the globe. In the jails of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand, there are many Binayak Sens. India and the world are silent to the plight of these Sens. An immensely readable book, recommended for all who want to know more about India’s continuing internal war.