Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Acid Test For Indian Society

A week back three youngsters in their budding twenties poured acid on two unsuspecting girls causing serious third degree burns in Warangal in Andhra Pradesh, India. The reason for this heinous crime was one of the girls had spurned the overtures of one of the culprits. Both the girls are battling for life with one girl, doctors say may lose vision permanently and both the girls, if survive, will need multiple plastic surgeries. It is no wonder that the entire town came out in rallies and expressed sympathy for the girls. However, what was surprising was every section of the society, including the students, demanding the police to catch the suspects and encounter them which meant shooting them to death. Instant justice in this instant world ! A day later the three suspects were caught, interrogated, confession extracted, paraded before the media in the late evening and Lo and behold ! all the three suspects end up dead in the middle of the night on the outskirts of the town. The official version was police had taken them to a location where the suspects said they hid a stolen motorcycle but when they reached the spot, the suspects tried to attack the police and so were promptly shot to death. This usually is the standard official version for most of the deaths in the police shootouts. As news spread, there were celebrations in the town, people praising the police for swift action and awed college students pestering the police officers for autographs. Even in state capital, the educated elite were openly praising the police for this instant justice delivered. To my horror, even the state government released a statement that indirectly meant that any such acts will invite similar response. A few sane voices and their feeble protest at this form of delivering instant justice were drowned out in the cacophony of jubilation. We have been witnessing similar jubilation and approval across the country whenever such incidents take place. In the wake of sympathy on the plight of the girls and the hatred on the perpetrators of the crime, we seem to have forgotten that we are in a civil society governed by the laws of the land and judiciary. While it is true that many of our laws do not reflect the modern realities and need to be comprehensively changed, it is as reprehensible as the crime itself to eulogize custodial deaths. Instead of bringing pressure on the governments to amend the laws to make the punishments more stringent and revamp the judicial process for quick trials, we seem to have taken the easier option of condoning and even demanding instant justice. We should not for a moment forget that this makes every individual policeman, the investigator, the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the executioner. Is any one person or a group capable of playing all these roles without bias.
Have we as a part of the civil society forgotten the brutal Bhagalpur blindings in 1980, where the police blinded about 30 undertrials with cycle spokes and then poured acid into the eyes. Most of them were petty thieves, waiting for the trial to commence. Can we condone the act in the name of instant justice since the case would have taken a long time to conclude in the usual process? Or for that matter, the police shooting of a business man to death last year in Delhi due to mistaken identity. It could be you and me tomorrow in the place of the businessman.
I ask those of you who have openly come out in support of the police shooting to death the three suspects, shall we as a society dispense with the judicial system altogether and give rights to the police to deliver instant justice. A thief can have his hands amputated, a person accused of murder can be hung to a lamp post and eve teasers stoned to death in public. There are societies where such forms of public punishments are in vogue. We call those states barbaric.
Despite the passing of the Protection of Human Rights Act in 1993 and establishing a National Human Rights Commission, incidents of police brutality continue to take place in various parts of the country. This is because of the silent approval of the public.
The acid test for the Indian society is whether in the near future it opts to pressurize governments to amend the laws and make punishments more stringent, revamp the judicial process for speedy trials, demand better policing methods and respect the Human Rights or continue to encourage models of instant justice. There will lie the answer to where as a nation we are headed.


RASHMI said...

can i have your email address please ??gmail ?

Ramana said...


Prasanth said...

I happen to read this today...

To be honest with you, i too felt happy when i first heard the news in TV...but after reading your post, i changed my mind (only for a while though)...i understand and agree your point, but i have my doubts about the feasibility of what you mentioned.

...like you said, we are living in an instant world...everyone want to live their life to the fullest...we don't have time to earn(deserve) the comforts we wish...the person next door or the other kid in the college has it so i too want it and want it now... Many of us are with this attitude. so every one to best of our abilities, try to get whatever we want, as early as possible (i mean NOW). In this process, some intelligent and bold people dare to bend the rules and some fools don't...some do it openly and some in disguise....

Before doing any thing, we make sure that whatever we do is in OUR best interest. We (i meant most of us, including me some times) don't, even for a second think about what if every one in the world do the same as i do? Because sooner or later everyone practices it (best example, not caring for the traffic signal). Then we understand the chaos that we are throwing the society (the definition of which is shrinking day by day) in. For me we already live in a society with full of chaos...luckily because of our rich tradition we are not spoilt to the core like some of our foreign counterparts.

I dont want to drag it anymore. Unless the basics of thinking process change in every individual, i don't think what you said is possible and i don't see this happening any sooner. Per me, it takes generations, for the thought process to change, for good. We always have GOD to save us in the meanwhile.

I don't support or condemn what the police did because
1) you were right in pointing it out that that is not right in the long run for the society
2) being a pessimist, i don't think the society(most of us) changes for good, if thats the case, what cops did is right
3) being an optimist, even if the society can changes for good in future, we have to protect it in the meanwhile. if we just hope and do nothing to protect it, we don't have any society at all. Since these kind of people don't understand any other language, you have to speak their language to make them understand that what they have done is wrong.