Ilina Sen, wife of Binayak Sen, was reported (Jan 4) to have talked about seeking asylum in a more “liberal and democratic” place. She has refuted it in today’s issue (Jan 8):
“Had it been a plan, I would have left India 20 years back. Binayak and I need no certificate of patriotism.”
20 years ago, there was no slur; Binayak Sen was doing his work among the tribals. Her asylum comment was made when she was speaking at a meeting organised by the PUCL that has painstakingly recorded every detail of the trial and judgement and what it means and the loopholes. Is she saying that she did not make those statements? Then must she not pull up the press for misreporting? Why has no one from PUCL clarified on her behalf, if she was possibly in a disturbed frame of mind? She has refuted the asylum comment – no one mentioned emigration, as has been reported now – at a conference organised by the Indian Association for Women’s Studies. Is she saying that she had not used words like “democratic and liberal” society for wherever she thought she might want to go?
If the earlier report was erroneous, she has reiterated, “My phones are tapped.” So, what parts were misrepresented/misreported? Again, she was hoping that the High Court, where Binayak Sen has filed an appeal, will acquit him. However, she stated:
“But what if one spends 20 years and comes out clean. Who’ll compensate for 20 years of agony and blot?”
Is she expecting the acquittal to come after 20 years? There are such cases, cases that remain hidden from public view. But they are not prominent people and they might not even be contributing much to society, so no one gets to know. The reason Binayak Sen has got this support is because there is intellectual backing for his cause, and his cause as many see it is working among the people. It is not an ivory tower concern.
At least for some of us, that is an important factor. I had ended my piece Should Binayak Sen's Wife Seek Asylum? with:
By now a lot has been written about the absolutely shaky pretext on which he has been charged; some of the concerned people have come forth to say that because of their support for him they too should be jailed. This is an utter mockery of what he has stood for – he was not shouting from the podium and writing reams against the state; he incited no one to take to violence. One cannot even say that his dissent was intellectual. It was more for social equitability, and all he did to make this possible was to use himself rather than words; he lived by the Hippocratic Oath rather than hyperbole.
In times of exaggeration when you have to be a Tarantino scream to get noticed, Binayak and Ilina Sen have gone way beyond the schisms created by superficially-sanctified ‘isms’. Their fight is not to prove their innocence but the guilt of the state. It can only be done within the shores of their own country and among the people whose lives they sought to make better. (emphasis added now)
This is an issue of public concern because it has come into the public domain. There will be opinions and some will take the discussion beyond the ‘case’. It is about India, about Indian justice, about sedition and how it is viewed, and about dissent; it is all within the shores of the country. If we support Binayak Sen, it is a genuine support for all the factors that go with his sentence and the attendant clauses and causes. Therefore, it was indeed disappointing to read about his wife contemplating political asylum, as reported, and while it is fine that there are those who are ‘pillars of strength’ and ‘ideologically in tune’, there will also be valid posers about what we believe in. It probably does not fit in with the static nature of ‘support’, but if one cannot put one’s own beliefs under scrutiny then it limits its scope.
No one is giving a certificate of patriotism to the Sens, for patriotism itself has several layers. Perhaps Ilina Sen already knows that there are people who by the mere fact of having certain kinds of names are constantly having to prove not just their nationalism but their nationality.
I do not know why Ms. Sen has reacted the way she has, but it has upset me since my support is not buffered by any group allegiance. I continue to back Binayak Sen and want him released so that he can do what he so painstakingly worked towards. It is this that stood out among the caucus.
It is precious that when I have questioned this lady’s modus operandi – and I will not repeat about my earlier support for her ; it does not matter because you have to caw with the caucus at all times – a bunch of supporters would descend on me. This itself is evidence that there is a parallel mainstream. I was told that the anger against her by the mainstream (where she gets published) reveals ingrained misogyny. Sure, and when I am accused of “female jealousy” if I happen to disagree with her, then obviously this does not reveal any sort of misogyny. Am I a hijra or what?
The media finds these moderate mullahs who talk about peace and other nice things and because they are scholars of Islam it makes their position legitimate. It is, but only where the faith is concerned. Not the Constitution.
Only because Swami Agnivesh talks the accepted liberal talk it does not mean he has to be coddled for his views on everything, from Maoism to media lobbying.
Incidentally, I am still waiting for the big ‘liberals’ to come out and say something about the latter.
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Signing petitions was something I was wary of and as I said recently I have done it about six times; the last was for Binayak Sen. It is the last. No more petition-signing. Not even for the ostrich to take its head out of the sand. Who knows? There just might be an oasis somewhere down there.