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Are We An Intolerant And Blood Thirsty Country? – OpEd

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Capital punishment or death penalty has been abolished completely in 103 countries, 50 countries have not used it for the past 10 years or more or they practice a moratorium. In modern times the public opinion against death penalty around the world is increasing. As we progress into a civilized world, we need to give up cruel practices and become more humane.

According to Amnesty International, 37 countries had the death penalty in 1994, compared with 22 today. In Europe and Latin America, the practice has essentially been entirely banished and an increasing number of African countries are reviewing their lawsi. In recent times after the execution two victims one from USA and another from China were found to be innocent. Can the state give back their lives?

India, the world’s largest democracy shamelessly continues to apply death penalty. On Sunday the famous Bollywood hunk Salman Khan had tweeted against the death penalty of Yakub Memom, accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts case and sentenced to death, which is to be carried out on the 30th of July 2015. Immediately after the tweet, he received support from former Bollywood star and present BJP Member of Parliament Shatrugan Sinha.

What followed was a shame on to the rich heritage of India as a tolerant and non violent country. Goons from the BJP and Shiv Sena gathered in large numbers and protested in front of Salman Khan’s house. The actor had to withdraw and apologize for his tweetsii.

Without going into the merits of the case, one needs to understand that the state is meant to protect its subjects, not necessarily by killing those who have caused harm to fellow subjects of the state. If revenge is the answer, the state need not exist, Hammurabi’s code of laws have been discarded as draconian ages ago.

There is no greater glory to the state than showing mercy and compassion to its offenders.

The death penalty has been there since time immemorial and the argument is that it acts as a deterrent to those who may think of committing to gory crime, but has it been successful over the thousands of years? One who has made up his mind to terrorize and kill innocents will never be bothered about the consequences and punishment he would get.

In Yakub Memmon’s case, his child has never lived with him for the past 20 years. His daughter and wife have suffered immensely over the years. Yakub and his family for sure would know the pains of separation from their loved ones. Even if Yakub is guilty, I am sure he would have understood the pains of the 250 family members who lost their loved ones and would certainly reform as he would like to be a good father to his daughter than a terrorist father.

What the Indian public needs to understand is, terrorism is not the biggest killer in India, poverty, misguided government policies (especially in the case of farmer suicides which have killed more than 300,000 farmers since independence in 1947. There was a 26% increase in farmer suicide in 2014 aloneiii), diseases, unsafe roads and railways are the biggest killers and the state is in no mood to highlight these issues as there are no political gains.

More than 200 eminent people of India have sought clemency for Yakub Memoniv. By killing Yakub Memom, will the 250 victims of the 1993 blasts come alive, or would it bring solace to the families of those victims?

What has happened to this country of Mahavira, Buddha, Ashoka the Great? World over we Indians are respected for the Gandhian ideals of truth and ahimsa (non violence). We were the torch bearers of Human Rights around the world. Would the hanging of Yakub Memom satisfy our collective thirst for blood? Here I am reminded of the few lines of George Orwell‘s essay, A Hanging

It is curious, but till that moment I had never realized what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we were alive. All the organs of his body were working –bowels digesting food, skin renewing itself, nails growing, tissues forming–all toiling away in solemn foolery. His nails would still be growing when he stood on the drop, when he was falling through the air with a tenth of a second to live. His eyes saw the yellow gravel and the grey walls, and his brain still remembered, foresaw, reasoned–reasoned even about puddles. He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone–one mind less, one world lessv.

The greatest pleasure one can get is in forgiving and not seeking revenge. Forgiveness would surely elevate India as a morally powerful country ready to take up the leadership of the countries that are victims of terrorism.

Notes:
i. http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_world_/2014/04/04/gang_rapists_sentenced_to_death_in_india_is_capital_punishment_starting.html
ii. http://zeenews.india.com/entertainment/celebrity/salman-khan-issues-unconditional-apology-after-opposing-yakub-memons-death-sentence_1636567.html
iii. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/farmers-suicide-cases-rise-26-percent-to-1109-in-2014/
iv. http://www.deccanherald.com/content/491696/eminent-people-seek-clemency.html
v. http://www.george-orwell.org/A_Hanging/0.html

Dr. Paul Newman

Dr. Paul Newman

Dr. Paul Newman holds a Doctorate of Philosophy on ‘Internal Displacement and Human Rights situation in Northern Sri Lanka’ from Bangalore University. He was one of the four public speakers at the Permanent People’s Tribunal on War Crimes against Sri Lanka. He also the Coauthor of ‘Unfettered Genocide in Tamil Eelam’, published by Karnataka State Open University, Mysore, India in November 2014. He is also a Member of the Forum Against Death Penalty, Chennai

2 thoughts on “Are We An Intolerant And Blood Thirsty Country? – OpEd

  • Avatar
    July 28, 2015 at 1:54 am
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    Very good article, which would shake the consience of any human being if one has it.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    July 29, 2015 at 11:01 am
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    Yes, What Dr Paul says in his article is very much true. But the tragedy is a majority of people out there, politicians, media, general public etc., are ready only ready to be carried away by emotions and come out with questions like’What would you do if a member of your own family had been killed in a terror-strike’ It is unfortunate that we are not ready to consider the question beyond an individual’s plight and treat the issue as social involving deeper questions. Still one need not lose hope, some time in future the nation will see reason and will be one of those countries which have removed capital punishment from their books of law and be a civilised nation like others.

    Reply

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