Friday, September 02, 2011

A Hangman's Quandary

Kudos to 'The Hindu' for publishing the famous article - A Hanging penned by the celebrated British journalist of yesteryear's - George Orwell. This piece of journalistic beauty meticulously chronicles the last thirty minutes of the life of a condemned man, before he is sent to the gallows. This essay is food for thought for people both For and Against capital punishment. It is true, that the nature of crime for which this punishment is rendered is so heinous that a death penalty seems to be the most fit punishment for the guilty. But this is also true, that how much right do we have to snuff out the life of a perfectly healthy person, when we cannot create life in the first place. If a person is alive, then we still get a chance to change him for the better. As George puts it, all the internal organs of a person walking towards the gallows are 'toiling away in fullary' trying to keep him alive, totally oblivious, that this person will be dead anyway after a few minutes.
Presently the country is debating on whether the people in death row in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, should be hanged or given life sentence. Recently many parts of Tamil Nadu, saw protests against the High Court (HC) decision to hang them, forcing HC to put a temporary stay. Students protested by doing what they do best, i.e. blocking roads, this time the jugular of Chennai - Anna Salai for over 2 hours causing huge traffic problems.There have been some extreme cases as well, for example a woman gave up her life by self-immolation while protesting the HC decision of hanging. However, the police is still investigating the actual reason why she took this step.

The last hanging which the country saw was in 2004 of the rape and murder convict Dhananjoy Chatterjee. At that time too, The Hindu, had raised this question about how effective the death penalty is, and whether it can be done away with? As a matter of fact, there are over a 100 countries that have presently decided against using the death penalty. Should India, who has taught the world the merits of non-violence also follow suit?
Well, but then, what about the 'Eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth' justice. How will we send a message to where it matters most, by hanging the Afzal's and Kasab's, and say that we are not a soft state, and we will not take matters lying down. But strangely, the only people who are caught in the net for the capital punishment are people who are extremely poor. Be it Dhananjay or Kasab! U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas remarked once: "One searches our chronicles in vain for the execution of any member of the affluent strata of society."