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Famine, War, and Genocide in India

Binayak Sen: . . .  [A body mass index] below 18.5 is regarded as chronic subnutrition.  33% of our adult population, one third of the country, have a body mass index below 18.5.  For me this is a shocking figure. . . .  We find that, in the scheduled tribes, more than 50% of the people have a body mass index below 18.5.  Among the scheduled castes, more than 60% of our people have a body mass index below 18.5.  The World Health Organization says that if in any community more than 40% of the people have a body mass index of below 18.5, that community can justifiably be regarded as being in a state of famine. . . .  From 1991 to 2005, grain consumption declined, so that a family of five, who had a grain consumption per year of 880 kilograms, roughly, in 2005 had a grain consumption of 770 kilograms, which is a decline of 110 kilograms. . . . .  In this situation, resistance with guns is a strategy for staying alive. . . .  You have to resist if you don’t want to perish.  That you will surely understand. . . .  [T]here is a war on people, which is displacing a large number of them, from the villages, from the kind of tenuous hold over the ecology which is enabling them to stay alive.  In Dantewada, to take one example, with the population of around 7 lakh of people, 3.5 lakh, roughly half the population, are displaced from their villages. . . .   We are working for peace. . . .  As human rights workers, we believe that that is our role: to work for peace. . . .  But that peace cannot be the peace of the graveyard.  The peace cannot be a peace in which we give effect to a kinder, gentler genocide, a genocide without bullets. . . .  We have to have a peace in which the populations are enabled to live with dignity and with safety in the places where they have lived for generations. . . .

Binayak Sen is a pediatrician, public health specialist, and national Vice-President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties based in Chhattisgarh, India.  This speech was delivered at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India, on 14 December 2009.  The text above is an edited partial transcript of the videos.

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