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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