Satya Sivaraman is an independent journalist, filmmaker and human rights activist based in
In your article "The Mistrial of Dr. Binayak Sen" you write, "Anyone trying to figure out, after the recent Mumbai attacks, whether
Dr. Binayak Sen is a medical doctor who has been working in the
So he went there and he helped set up the Shaheed (Martyrs) Hospital, which became the first hospital run by a trade union in this country. It was low-cost health care for the first time affordable to a lot of people, not just workers but the whole area around the hospital. Shankar Guha Niyogi, the leader of the trade union movement was the visionary behind this whole idea of integrating health care into trade union activities. Health care as in direct intervention in health care; not just demanding that the government give them medical facilities but also actually doing somebody about it hands on. Niyogi was assassinated in 1991 by goons allegedly hired by the owners of the Simplex Group of companies.
So sometime after that Binayak and his wife, Ilina Sen, who is a sociologist, decided to set up their own organization to do work among rural poor, particularly the indigenous tribal communities. Chhattisgarh province was carved out of Madhya Pradesh in the year 2000, largely because it has a significant indigenous community as part of the population. The idea was that it should be sort of a state where special attention is paid to them. The reality is that the politics of Chhattisgarh is dominated by non-tribals who are migrants from other parts of
And these indigenous people are called Adivasi.
Yes. To complete what I was saying, Binayak Sen spent maybe over a decade or more running this clinic in a place called Bagrumnala in Raipur district in Chhattisgarh, which is largely a forested area with a large tribal population, and where there is hardly any kind of health care available to the people. He and his colleagues have been running this clinic there and doing some outstanding public health work, because in a country like
It was in the course of this work that he got involved with a variety of other issues, which may or may not seem to be directly related to public health, but in a developing-country situation, or for that matter anywhere, health is not just about human bodies, not just about doctors and hospitals and medicine; it’s ultimately about what kind of society you are. It’s about the politics of your society. It’s about the distribution of resources. It’s about the environmental conditions in which you live. And so many other socioeconomic factors. Dr. Sen obviously figured that out very early.
Bastar district in particular of Chhattisgarh also became the hotbed of rebellion what is called Naxalite or Maoist. The Communist Party of India-Maoist is a far-left organization which believes in armed struggle. It had a bit of strength in that area, which grew in the early part of this decade. They stepped up their activities and immediately came into conflict with a huge range of state and non-state vested interests in that region.
The forest areas of Bastar, like forest areas elsewhere in