The anatomy of a rapist

December 19th, 2012

There has been calls for death penalty for rapists in the Delhi gang rape case. There is also a demand for enforcing law and order, having more police men posted and so on. And it is a fact that no girl is safe walking on the streets of Delhi or surrounding areas.

But will additional cops on the streets alone help? It would certainly help to   create a fear of crime. And since the offenders in this case are slum dwellers, it would enhance a feeling of suspicion of the poor, thus widening further the already wide gulf between the rich and poor.

Crime is not just a result of lack of policing but also the accumulated result of social and psychological causes that could have been prevented.  The lack of respect for other persons, the victims in this case, could be the result of the offenders being deprived of respect and attention themselves.

What can provide the necessary emotional and mental nourishment in young men and women to prevent them from behaving like children from a dysfunctional family, or a dysfunctional society in this case?

The society in which the offenders in the recent case of Delhi gang rape live is brutalized, dysfunctional. The urban slums they live in is symbolic of their rejection from society, from all the glitter that surrounds them and also from the feeling of security, of importance, dignity and honour.

In the tiny one room houses, children grow up seeing  sexual abuse all around them. There has been countless surveys and studies in Delhi alone showing the extent of the problem of childhood sexual abuse.  The other problems of society, equally prevalent in rich and poor, (like domestic violence-verbal and physical, alcoholism, ) exhibit themselves more openly and more frequently in slums where little separates one hutment from the other, making it an unbroken fabric of violence , bitterness and insensibility.

In a milieu where life holds little value and honour, men are likely to exhibit a similar disrespect for fellow beings, men or women, besides a hatred and bitterness coming out of their own sense of deprivation.

Having a police post in bus stands and in every slum would help. But what would also help is a move by Government to reach out to each and every young man, reach out to every migrant settling down in the squalid homes  in and around Delhi. The reach out programme should be a continuous one that hand holds people in finding housing, access to health care, and financial saving and credit programmes. It could also direct them to skilling programmes and other benefits that are available. It should provide round the clock crèches in every community of say 1000 people, so that every child is taken care of..

These creches could be community centres which should also have counselors who could be  students  , or volunteers , who could visit every family at least once a month and hear out their problems.

Even if there are no free grains or cash transfers or ration cards or any of the fancy subsidies the Government prides itself in doling out, if the Government along with the civil society which is feeling  outraged over the rape, could provide basic hand holding and showed some sign of compassion and concern to the poor in Delhi, maybe such aberrations of behavior would be seen less often.

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Hang the gallows?

November 21st, 2012

While the life of Ajmal Kasab was a revelation on the brutalities human beings can stoop to, his hanging was a revelation of another kind.

There was an air of morbid cheer reeking through the messages visible on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook ever since 7:30 in the morning on the day he was hanged. There were joyous messages about the relief caused by the hanging of Kasab and how the next in line should be Afzal Guru, who was convicted for masterminding the blast in Parliament.

Soon after the hanging some reported on Twitter that, “There’s a feel good feeling!” Some felt that it was not enough. And the next in line Afzal Guru should be hanged at the earliest if justice was to be done, and so on.

One felt like a  participant of a medieval public execution where people were at liberty to stone the offender to death.

Should people be hanged at all is a question that needs to be asked, despite the fact that not many would believe that men who shoot down 160 people in cold blood deserve compassion.

Would things change if Osama bin Laden or people like him were never murdered for their crimes? Imagine a world with Osama in a jail or a reformatory where he must spend all his life tending to fruit trees, or weaving carpets.

The spirit of the man who kills another is certainly in disrepair. But what about those who want it paid back in the same coin? Is it in any better shape? Some of the tweets by eminent citizens  fill one with a sense of shame at what people probably in absolute innocence end up wishing and thinking.

Do these celebrations go well with the learning of love and oneness of spirit that has been passed on by Mahatma Gandhi, Buddha, Christ, Sufis, and others? Or is it too old-fashioned and stupid to have compassion even for the worst criminal?
The best thing that the Government of India did in the given circumstances was the quiet way it did the unpleasant job that law demanded. It allowed him a trial and even offered to pass on the body to his relatives. These are gestures that reassure you that the Dark Ages have not returned.

India now has more than 400 people on death row. The government has been slow in carrying out death sentences with the last one being in 2004 when a  man was hanged for rape and murder of a girl in Kolkata.

Amnesty International, which has condemned the execution of Kasab said that it is a blow to India’s movement away from death penalties since 2004. Hanging, it says, is the ultimate denial of human rights. But even without the jargon of human rights activists, it is plain sense that killing another person does not end crime or reduce your own pain. And forgiveness has, on the other hand, been recommended down the ages as the ultimate therapy  for both the killer and the victim.

Mahatma Gandhi considered a death sentence as an act of violence and believed that a murderer’s place was in a reformatory. But Indian Government after freedom opted to go for capital punishment though limiting its application. In fact, two days ago two-thirds of the countries in the world with the exclusion of India, China, United States and few others voted for a moratorium on executions in the United General Assembly.

As for United States, it did not even bother to arrest or try  Osama bin Laden but straightaway captured him and eliminated him where he was  …. But has that ended terrorism?

Since Kasab was the cause of pain to so many families and the collective conscience of the nation, may be this was also an opportunity to appeal to this collective conscience for amnesty for this man. Since that did not happen, would any government in the future have the courage to change the law and put an end to hanging for ever?

If that were to happen and a criminal conduct as that of Kasab were to repeat itself, what would a future government do with the person?

Would it confine him to an orchard for the rest of his life to grow fruits or make baskets of cane ? Would any country have the courage to do that?

Imagine if Kasab had been just handed over to Pakistan, would that have meant that more Kasabs would have been born? Or would that have reduced the dark feelings on the two sides of the border?

No one would even try these. Some say that if a government were to follow a policy of forgiveness, then it would fall in the next election. Would a government dare to do the right thing even at the risk of falling in the next election? Such a loss would be a victory still.

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The deserted village

July 26th, 2011

Why are women from rural Bengal migrating so rapidly?  Recently Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh was talking about states which deserve a lot of attention in terms of development funds and he left out Bengal, which prompted a  journalist to ask why it was left out from the group of other eastern states.  The matter ended in banter. But it doesn’t seem like an issue that should not be discussed any further,  especially when women are vying with men to flee the state in a migration rush, which is unprecedented.

Migration is today the magic wand for the poorest women and men in any part of the country. It most often improves their lot but the failures never come to light.  What it  also underlines is the failure of rural development programmes to keep at least poverty stricken and helpless women from almost forced migration.

Spending Rs 40,000 crore on national rural employment guarantee scheme for instance every year has not meant a thing for a divorcee like Jyotsna, a woman who has been rejected by her thrice-married husband for being unable to bear children.  She has never even heard of the programme that promises 100 days of employment.

Women don’t go and work in fields in our villages, not to speak of manual labour, says Saraswati her neighbour in the village of Jalangi from Murshidabad.  We may go to the extent of plucking chillies or working on ‘pat’ jute. But we won’t go dig by the road side, she says. NREGA offers no choice in terms of work, to the extent of making it anti women in states where there are cultural constraints for women to do manual labour.

The only work it offers is manual labour.

Another programme grandly called rural livelihood mission which offers assistance to take up income earning activity has not taken off yet in most villages in the country.

Jyoysna came to Delhi ten days ago in the hope of standing on her feet after the ignominious deal she got from her husband and the rejection by her parents. She is a waif, homeless and weak, without the strength to even shut a door.

I want to make money and get myself treated, she says. Though her husband has given her a divorce, she still wears her traditional white and red bangles, a red mark in the parting in her hair…My husband says that I should continue to do this as he is still alive. She is too timid and simple to defy such logic..

Now in Delhi she finds herself unable to find a foothold in any home as she cannot understand Hindi, cannot read or write , has not seen any modern gadget not even a knife, used only to peeling potatoes and cutting vegetables and fish with a `boti’ a curved  iron implement .

She is an instance of how totally untouched she is by the millions of rupees the government spends on development. There is no literacy programme, no livelihood programme, no food programme, no shelter programme….that has reached her.

There is no identifiable centre in the country where such people can just walk in and get help.

She was part of the consignment of women   from Murshidabad brought by a domestic workers agency in Delhi last fortnight.

Now with no training facilities, Jyotsna’s fate is to stumble from one house to another till she finally learns to survive, or returns home with broken dreams.

Meanwhile in her village of Jalangi in Murshidabad, the job cards of villagers show hardly any work done this year, and very little in the previous years.

Wasn’t NREGA supposed to stop migration?

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