Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hang his Body, Not your Conscience.


Faridkot, a small, nondescript, sleepy village is located near Depalpur. It neither boasts of agriculture, nor industry, as its primary occupation. Being considerably impoverished, most people are either forced to find jobs in faraway towns or are indulged in local vending activities. One such vendor, Amir, has been living in consistent poverty for generations. He begins his day by preparing his cart for selling dahi-puri, travels miles in search of customers and comes back home with whatever meager amount he can manage. Within the bounds of this money, he has to cater to an ailing wife, arrange for the education of a young son and yet save enough to get his daughter married. Food, in this family, is a welcome exception. Whenever the father can get hold of vegetables, he fetches them home. Otherwise, onion or tomato coupled with Roti serve as the sole nourishing meals.
It was the Eid of 2005. Despite the auspiciousness of the occasion, Amir ,this time, could not make both ends meet. His 17-year old son, however, demanded better food and clothes. In a fit of anger, Amir slapped him and asked him to get these luxuries by earning money himself. The son left home and Amir never saw him again. That, until a fateful morning in 2008. A group of press reporters landed outside his mud house and showed him a TV grab of a young man. Amir instantly recognized his son. Three years had not changed him much. He still had the same baby-face, though he had become a little taller and muscular. However, this was not the son Amir remembered. His shy, quiet and gentle son was brandishing a rifle in this picture, carrying grenades in his backpack. The reporters told him that his son, had been responsible for killing over 170 people mercilessly. Amir could not believe his eyes. Yet, the truth poked him. It stared him in the face.

Ajmal Amir Kasab, his son, was now a Terrorist.

Now consider an alternative situation.

Amir, despite his poverty, was able to successfully establish an entrepreneurial enterprise with the state's help. It was a small business, yet, it was sufficient to cater to his everyday needs. His son was admitted to a decent school and was provided a proper education. He grew up to assist his father in his business and with the passage of time became an influential corporate honcho. This could have been a different Ajmal Amir Kasab. A Kasab we didn't know. A Kasab we didn't give an opportunity to be. A Kasab, who was not a Terrorist.

None of what I have said or am about to say is in defense of Kasab. The war he waged was as baseless as merciless. His deeds were totally condemnable and extreme. But were they worthy of the punishment that he finally received? I certainly have my doubts about that. To analyze the issue in its entirety, here are a few questions worth consideration-

Q1. Was he REALLY the culprit?

A1. Yes and No. If a hunter shoots a tiger with a gun, you blame the hunter- not the gun. That's exactly what Kasab was. A weapon. With lucrative offers of everyday food and provisions of money for his family, a poor man would probably have had no option. During his Narco-analysis test, he admitted to have been approached by a 'Chacha' who promised him money and food. He was then enrolled into a terror camp at Muzzafarabad where he underwent psychological, combat and commando training. This is where he was made aware of the 'Indian atrocities' and was asked to embark on a mission to seek revenge. His fault? He got manipulated. He let himself be used. He chose the wrong direction. But honestly, can you blame a 21 year old youth for taking an incorrect step? Sorry. I blame the state. And in my eyes, the culprit is entirely our neighborhood dispensation. Had they provided what 'Chacha' did, Kasab might have turned out to be a completely different character. The reason why Pakistan is a hotbed for terrorism is not clandestine. It escapes me as to how a country can be completely unaware of the terror-mongers it harbors. They strike before the state can, ultimately, taking away millions of innocent lives and nipping many in the bud. Unless the masterminds are caught, booked and brought to justice, the blame can not squarely be laid on the shoulders of Kasab.



Q2. Is Death penalty the answer?

A2. Yes and No. I am not one of those who would rant about how taking life away is in the hands of 'God' and thus capital punishment is unjustified. As provided for by the Supreme Court of India, in 'rarest of rare' cases, death penalty is absolutely justified. What alternative system of deterrence do we have? If tomorrow, we get hold of the instructors of 26/11, can we afford to let them live forever in Indian jails? Can we afford to waste away the taxpayer's money in feeding, clothing and securing them? The answer is a straight no. However, weapons like Kasab could be treated differently. This is where the system of restorative justice comes in. Every criminal harbors an ideology of community disruption. What could be better than having the criminal morally, financially and physically compensate for community healing? Here is what we need to understand about this concept-

http://www.cscsb.org/restorative_justice/retribution_vs_restoration.html

There has to be a gradual shift from retributive to restorative justice while trying to strike an effective balance between the two. Death penalty may not be abolished altogether but its use must be guided by specifically defined principles of 'rarity'. Kasab came to India on a suicide mission. With a 4 year delay, we served it to him on a golden platter.

Q3. Was our response apt?

A3. Yes and No. Apart from the media coverage that quite literally helped the attackers and the shoddy response by the Maharashtra police, the retaliation of the Aam Aadmi has gone from bad to worse. Unfortunately, Indian citizens failed to show maturity. The media objectified Kasab and we pegged all our hopes of ending terror on him. He became a political-cum-moral football, liable to be kicked at every post. Only the public lynching didn't happen (which was vociferously suggested by a self-proclaimed Gandhian). While the agencies were interrogating him about his possible trans-border links, the Indian citizenry was busy cribbing about the food he ate and the clothes he wore. While the law was taking its course, our fellow citizens wanted to hear no defense and hang him ASAP. This call was further flamed by opposition parties who have made popular emotions a game of chess. Light the flame, get the fire going and then blame the Government. When he was finally hanged, appreciation flew in selectively. Questions were raised about when would the next hanging take place! Gosh! What are we? The death penalty capital of the world? Strangely, I understand the feeling. But I don't understand the hurry. I understand the resentment. But I don't understand the hatred.


With Kasab a life has gone. He was not a Mahatama. He was not a Gandhi. He was a killer. A man who murdered in cold blood. Yet, he was human and he ought to have been treated like one. On the contrary, we made a monster out of him, completely forgetting those, within our country, who have been responsible for bigger massacres which have permanently wounded this nation's psyche. I believe Maya Kodnani's crime was way bigger than Kasab's. He killed because he was asked to. She killed because she wanted to. However, we weigh them on different scales. Isn't this hypocrisy in the name of patriotism?

If we are to claim the greatness of religion, spirituality and democracy that India has always stood for, we can NOT hang our conscience along with Kasab's body.

P.S.- I still am a proud patriot and I still feel the horror of 26/11.














16 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. You're welcome Zahirul. For what, if I may ask?

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  2. Very nice blog....Thanks for sharing....

    Did you get a chance to check the website www.ezedcal.com/ta to manage editorial calendar easily for your blog and show your editorial calendar in your blog easily (optional)
    Thanks & Regards
    Malar

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  3. Finally a voice of sanity among the sea of insanity and obscured stupid thinking!!! Thank god you are a Hindu had you been from a major minority community I can only imagine what this article would have been subjected to..
    Anyways, a well written and thought provoking article. Nice to know some rational thinkers still exist

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    1. Thank you for the appreciation. Minorities in this nation have been subjected to just two things- terror and appeasement. It has almost become a cycle now- a vicious one at that. I do hope people are able to retain their humanity that transcends much above any religion, creed or class.

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  4. While I more or less agree with you on your thoughts, I believe the actions taken by the government well more or less very efficient in dealing with Kasab. Its true that many young people throughout the world are led astray by anti social elements as is clearly evident in Kasab's case but that does not mean that we should sit back like sissies and let them run amok feeling sorry for their background or the injustices meted out to them by the system. That would lead to absolute anarchy.

    It was all the more important for India to respond to Kasab in the way that it did. We have garnered a strong reputation when it comes down to doing absolutely nothing to fight terror. Yes, we will fight them in Kashmir and catch the odd bomb blast conspirator but our legal system provides such scum with too much leeway resulting in many of them going either scot free or just with a slap on the wrist. The hanging of Kasab was iconic of the fact that India will not take such terror sitting down as it generally does.

    As comes to the part of being humane to such people, I am completely against it. Yes, there is a left leaning liberal attitude in this country at large about treating people humanely and giving them a chance to improve and all that. But, I strongly feel that we just need to be outright ruthless in dealing with terrorists like Kasab. Too much liberalism and leniency will lead us nowhere except in dire straits as being evidenced in dealing too leniently with Kashmiri separatists, Pakistan and China.

    What we need today is a strong internal terror fighting framework which sends a message to the world at large that India is a "nice guy" but not to be "messed with". We are an emerging economic and military power and no doubt the South Asian superpower. Its about time we started showing that to our neighbours with a no nonsense terror fighting policy. Israel is a model state when it comes to fighting terror. We should emulate them in this specific case.

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    1. I agree with the intent of what you put across Mitul, but not with the process. India needs to display a no-nonsense attitude but what would a hanging prove when we stay on the back-foot in many other cases? We don't respond to Chinese overtures and map distortions. We choose to merely 'take up the matter' with countries which treat Indian citizens like a third-grade being. We opt to remain silent on issues of national interest being discussed internationally. The problem is not with the government or the policy, the problem is with its interpretation and implementation. Yes, we need to be much stronger on fighting terror and honestly, just exchaning dossiers with the neighbour won't help. On other points, I second your opinion.

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  5. A PERFECT blend of Emotions and Rationality...Great Work for bringing the various dark sides of our system into light and that also at such a crucial and sensitive juncture....Hats off to u Akil!!! P.S was most essential to comprehend the soul of the article. Hope this thoughtful piece of writing awake the conscience of many :)

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  6. Thank you for the appreciation Daisy :) Thanks a ton.

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  7. The Point is sensibly taken. First, Justice is served to the 170 innocent lives by hanging Kasab. Justified. But what about the justice for the thousands of Kasabs or even more than that. They were also innocent before their conscience is brutally murdered. Secondly, taking actions on the loss already done is just not enough. Is India still not equally vulnerable that it was before such merciless and inhuman intentions being successfully implemented? Are we actually doing our part to uproot this evil? I Doubt!

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    1. Well said Priyanka. That's where the evil lies. We need to look, choose- both inside and outside- and then determine how we plan to uproot this evil. It is high time that actions were taken and justice, in its true sense, delivered.

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  8. Dhinchakkk…kya mast likha he aapne…if my ma’am wouldn’t have forced me to read your blog I would have missed sumthng amazing … great work..keep it up..:)

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Nainy. Convey my regards to your teacher for her graciousness :)

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