I am personally against killing anyone, in rationality. However, there are times when I am in a kind of rage, due to emotional trespassing by an individual, because of heinous crimes committed by them against humanity that I feel like twisting the individual’s throat, in my imagination. I am sure many of us go through such rage in our minds, none of us actually acting upon them ever.
There is a huge debate raging in the nation for the last few days on the hanging of the terrorist, Yakub Memon, for the Mumbai bombings in 1993, who has been lodged in the Maharashtra jail for the last 21 years. There are two schools of thought, those who believe that death penalty should be upheld, and another group, who feels that it should be commuted to life imprisonment.
I have listening to all the arguments, changing my personal stance a few times. Why am I changing my stance? Because I am not sure, if I totally believe in the capital punishment. Although, I believe that only God has the right to take life, I am a Krishna devotee, and read His message to Arjun in Bhagavad Gita often, where He urged Arjun to perform his duty as a warrior and fight for the injustice.
People arguing against the death penalty are referring to an unpublished article by former RAW officer, Late B Raman. B Raman believed in leniency for Memon on account of his corporation with the investigating agencies, and bringing his family back from Pakistan. Some are arguing that if Raman struck a secret deal with Yakub, then it should be honoured otherwise, it may close doors for others who may have been lured into radical groups but want to turn back.
Another argument is that death penalty around the world has not proven to be a deterrent, and life sentence has worked better. Some also argue that India is not a state where we give a knee-jerk reaction to every act against the state and go around be-heading people on the lines of radical governments. Also, India is moving towards abolishing the capital punishment.
The people arguing in favour of the hanging believe that there should be justice for the 257 innocent lives that were lost in the bomb blast. Some are terming it partial justice, as main architects of this blast are still at large. In reply to the secret understanding between Raman and Yakub, today’s report on TOI site states the following: Shantanu Sen, who led the CBI investigation into the 1993 Mumbai blasts, said no secret deal had been struck, although he said the agency used its contacts in Pakistan to “induce the Memons to believe that their safety lay in India”.
Agreed that India does not believe in a reactive decision, hence, it took 21 years, and as many petitions and court proceedings. The human rights of the terrorist were preserved and an able lawyer fought his case. All chances were accorded to him. His parents were given bail, his two brothers were given life imprisonment, and out of 11 family members, only four have been convicted. It is also true that India is moving away from death penalty. However, we sentence an individual to the gallows in the rarest of rare cases, and it may seem like a similar case.
Another hearing by the honourable Supreme Court today, a day before the hanging, and another mercy petitions sent to the governor and the President, are the clear indications of the law of the state taking its full course, and no hasty decisions are being made. Interestingly, a lawyer did point out that the decisions in courts are not made on the facts alone, but on the interpretation of the facts and their arguments. Hence, different courts have differing opinions.
A friend pointed out the most important reason for the hanging. She said that life sentence is easy, but what about the reactions of the terrorist groups who will kidnap some prominent personality or their family members, or hijack a plane, and hold everyone to ransom in return for Yakub’s freedom. Have we not had similar instances before? Remember the 24 December 1999 plane hijack, or 1989 kidnapping of Rubaiya Sayeed. Add to the list various bomb attacks in India by the terrorist groups. Are we willing to take this risk of spending taxpayer’s money on keeping a terrorist in jail for another few decades, not knowing when the brother and the Don decide to strike again to free him?
All those supporting life sentence over the death penalty are doing so with good intent. None of them are anti-nationals, and I believe in freedom to think independently, without any sway holding your decisions. People demanding the supporters’ heads are being reactive. We are a democracy and we have the right to think independently and bring forth our arguments. None has the right to judge or think that they are wiser than the others.
We take certain decisions weighing the pros and the cons of the presented situation with the information accessible to us, to the best of our limited capacity. The day we start to believe that our beliefs are the ultimate truth, we become radicals. India is not a radical state, and a difference of opinion is everyone’s right. In the end, we abide by the law of the state, and should place our trust in it. I am still not sure if I support death penalty; however, I agree to make my peace with the court’s decision.
||Sarvam Sri Krishna Arpanamastu||