I THINK I GRASPED THE FULL IMPORT of the case against Binayak Sen on one shadowless March day, as I walked through the "new" village of Bokrakachhar, in a remote corner of Chhattisgarh, while the noonday sun beat mercilessly down. From one end, I looked along two ruler-straight rows of identical pista-green blocks that made up the village, searching for a tree, or even a large bush, that could give me some shade. There was not one to be found—and that's when the case hit home for me.
Bokrakachhar, home to 36 families of Baiga tribals, used to be deep inside the Achanakmar Wildlife Sanctuary. In 2009, Achanakmar was declared part of Project Tiger—the nearly 40-year-old Government of India initiative "to ensure a viable population of tiger in India for scientific, economic, aesthetic, cultural and ecological values", as their website puts it. That meant Bokrakachhar and a few other villages had to move out of the "core zone" of the sanctuary.
Hence the creation of "new", or resettled, Bokrakachhar, comprising 36 government-built, concrete-block homes and zero trees. It is actually one of three new villages that exist side by side, a treeless total of about 100 concrete-block structures. This development has been held up as a model, in fact, and other Baiga are brought here to see what they will get when they agree to move.