Tuesday, August 07, 2007

An Eye for an Eye Makes the World Blind

An Eye for an Eye Makes the World Blind

Although the above statement is an evident truth and therefore must not be desirable, the saga of the Mumbai bomb blast trial is an endorsement of this philosophy. Where do we begin and where do we end? Some may say Babri Masjid demolition, some the December riots, some the January riots. In all the hype of the media over one man we forget that the issues involved are far more complex. In an imperfect society we are both victims and perpetrators of heinous crimes against our own brethren. According to me we have all failed in our duties.

While civil society to tackle the menace of terrorism, must have legal mechanisms, they should be humane and such that we see a decline in terrorism. The intransigence of the fundamentalist leadership of the Muslim community over a virtual non-issue of the origin of a piece of land enabled the right wing Hindu leadership to polarize opinions. The Babri Masjid a defunct unused mosque became a live issue and became a cause of a Hindu Muslim divide. The role of our politicians right, left and center has been reprehensible and in this politics of retribution and hate we have forgotten the essential unity of all religions. No religion asks for the blood of innocent victims neither to secure the birthplace of the Lord nor to avenge the deaths of their co-religionists.

It is in this situation that we must have the state playing a constructive and bridging role. In 1993, in the aftermath of the demolition in the face of inflamed passions, the state instead of dealing with a firm and even hand with the rioters Muslims and Hindus alike allowed the cycle of retribution selectively. After initial provocation by a few Muslim elements the state turned a blind eye and allowed marauding mobs to kill and destroy properties of Muslims. A pogrom was initiated by the right wing parties and the so called secular forces looked away. If we want to live in civil society we need the rule of law to protect ordinary citizens. If this fails then the common man has nowhere to go. He has no choice but to become an instrument in the hands of terrorists. State terrorism is in my view far worse than individual or communal terrorism. The Hindu and Muslim, the vast majority of the moderate ones have no role to play in this macabre orgy of hatred and retribution.

Coming to the question of judgment and punishment and what is the duty of society towards the terrorists, I have an opinion to put forth. Each one of us is a victim of circumstance and all of us are essentially the divine creations of God deserving forgiveness and an opportunity to reform and atone for our misdeeds. If we take this view we cannot have laws which permit the death penalty. An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind. The contrary view is that civil society must put away for some time elements dangerous to society to enable them to reform. Even as I see some of the Mumbai blast case convicts regretting their actions many of them in the court of the judge show indignation at perceived injustice and some even lack of remorse for their actions. The judge can only follow the law of the land and punish according to law based on the evidence provided to him and like all humans he too can make mistakes. Civil society must take a more humane view and do away with the death penalty and allow convicts the opportunity to do useful constructive work during their jail terms in an environment conducive to reform. On the other hand state terrorism for which police and politicians are responsible should be punished in a similar manner. In addition politicians and policemen guilty of such crimes should not be allowed in positions where they are responsible for the preservation of law and order and the leadership of the common man. Suspension from elections at all levels for at least a decade can be a strong enough punishment for the thugs in office. In this way we can begin to break away from the cycle of “I will kill because you killed first”.

Even as I wish to steer clear of the “munnabhai” factor, I cannot help but feel emotionally about the Sanjay Dutt. I am of the opinion that Sanjay Dutt got the punishment as per the law of the land and I do subscribe to the view that he has reformed and is not a danger to civil society. If he has to gain the respect of society and become a real hero he must accept the verdict gracefully and not even appeal against it. He has done a wrong and must atone for his mistake.

Violence in society is of two kinds, the overt and the covert. The overt is selectively punished depending on which side of the divide you are on, state sponsored mob killer or global jehadist, while the covert is glorified. A materialist consumerist society fostering greed, envy and exploitation is glorified as a rising shining society without realizing that it fosters violence towards the creation of the Lord. We would do well to search within ourselves in our daily lives and see the violence we indulge in while running in this mad race of acquisition. Our actions must be based on universal love, for all the creation living, non-living and human and animals as also mother earth. We must be the improvement we want to see in the world around us. When we reduce this covert violence we will have enough in this world for every mans needs. Do not for a moment underestimate the potential of an individual to affect this change. Having done this I am certain that we can usher in a society free from the curse of revenge and retribution.