The latest edition of The Lancet medical journal has said civil liberties activist Binayak Sen’s documentation of the brutality of a counter-insurgent militia supported by the State put him in direct opposition to the neo-colonial state, laying the ground for his persecution.

In a letter written by Jonathan Kennedy and Lawrence King, the two have pointed out that since 1981, Mr. Binayak Sen worked to improve public health in tribal areas, and his activities have encompassed social and political-economic issues. ``In 2005, Sen documented the brutality of a counter-insurgent militia that was supported by the state and had strong links to mining corporations. This put him in direct opposition to the neo-colonial state, laying the ground for his persecution.’’

The health of one group, Scheduled Tribes, is significantly worse than that of any other—including Scheduled Castes. In 2005—06, the under-5 mortality rate was 74·3 per 1000 for the general population, 88·1 per 1000 for SCs, and 95·7 per 1000 for tribal people; the proportions of undernourished children were 42·5 per cent, 47·9 per cent, and 54·5 per cent, respectively; and the proportions of women with anaemia 55·3, 58·3, and 68·5 per cent, respectively.

This situation can largely be understood in the context of political and economic forces. For the past two centuries, the state has been very active in extracting natural resources from tribal homelands, but more-or-less inactive in providing benevolent functions. The Maoist insurgents expanded their support base in this context, protecting tribal people from the rapacious state and providing basic services, the letter said.

Mr. Binayak Sen, who had been charged with sedition by the Chhattisgarh High Court, was on Friday granted bail by the Supreme Court which also observed that there was no case of sedition against him just for being a sympathiser of the naxals.

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