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Mainsteam, Vol XLIX, No 12, March 12, 2011

Understanding Binayak Sen’s Victimhood

Wednesday 16 March 2011, by Arup Kumar Sen

Dr Binayak Sen was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Raipur Sessions Court in Chhattisgarh for sedition on December 24, 2010. He was convicted under various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005. It should be mentioned here that respected members of the Indian judicial system condemned the judgment. Justice (retired) Rajinder Sachar termed the judgment as “ridiculous and unacceptable”. Reacting to the judgment, senior Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhusan said: “The Supreme Court has held that the charge of sedition can be upheld only if the prosecution can prove that the accused attempted to incite violence or public disorder. It is clear that this case doesn’t meet that standard.”

In fact, Binayak Sen’s conviction is an exemplary case of “legal civil war”, which is characterised by the eminent political philosopher, Giorgio Agamben, as the outcome of “state of exception”. According to Agamben, the state of exception “tends increasingly to appear as the dominant paradigm of government in contemporary politics” and it is closely related to “civil war, insurrection, and resistance”. The biopolitical significance of the state of exception, argued Agamben, is that “law encompasses living beings by means of its own suspension”. The power effect of the state of exception is “a legal civil war that allows for the physical elimination not only of political adversaries but of entire categories of citizens who for some reason cannot be integrated into the political system”. (Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception, The University of Chicago Press, 2005)

Binayak Sen is the victim of the Indian state’s war on Maoism.

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