Saturday, December 22, 2012

An eye for an eye

While the US is struggling with the aftermath of a gruesome massacre at Sandy Hook school in Newtown, India deals with a horrific gangrape in a Delhi bus. In both cases, the responses from right-wingers are comparable. In the US, the National Rifle Association wants more guns in response to this violence. Meanwhile right-wing bloggers have tried to argue that guns don't kill people but everything else kills people. Except for a few professional ideologues, the right-wing (anywhere in the world) doesn't have a lot of intellect on its side, as exemplified by the statement of a seriously confused US congressman (posted by my friend Ajit Sanzgiri on Facebook):

Radio host: Congressman, what is the New Testament justification for carrying guns ?
Congressman: Do unto others as you would others do unto you.

This person did not pass any course in basic English or basic Logic.

Meanwhile, the loony right in India wants more violence in response to the rape. There are calls for capital punishment for the rapists. The parliamentarian Sushma Swaraj (never known for her rationality at the best of times) has said : "The 23-year-old girl was with a male friend and it was not too late either. It was 9:30 p.m. And if a woman is not safe even then, then it is a shame. If this girl survives, she will be a living dead. These people should be given capital punishment". This is full of subtext: had she not been with a male friend, or had it been 1 AM... somehow it would be OK??

In a truly thoughtful, and blunt, article in Mid-Day, Shilpa Phadke has exposed much of the subtext and immature thinking that goes into such raucous cries. She makes the point, so often missed, that "more stringent punishment has never meant more conviction". If you consider yourself a thinking Indian, please do read that article and reflect. When this rape case hit the news we all enjoyed shouting that the perpetrators must be hanged. But were we thinking of the future of society, or merely indulging our childish lust for revenge?

If you are unable to gain any perspective, try remembering what Gandhiji said: "An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind". And if that doesn't help, transfer your attention to the US and imagine schools of the future where every man, woman and child is carrying a gun. In that world, the type of kid with whom you had a friendly scuffle in your childhood would shoot you dead. Or the teacher would shoot you both dead. Or the security guard would shoot both of you, and the teacher, dead.

On these issues, the New Testament and Gandhiji are perfectly convergent and perfectly correct. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. If you oppose violence, don't support violence.


vbalki said...

Sunil: I have read your post, the article by Phadke, and a few short pieces by some others as well, on this topic of violence unleashed upon girls and women. I have also thought about what I have read. Your post and Phadke's are sober reminders that violence can never be the "final solution" to anything. since it feeds upion itself and spreads like fire. It has to be deprived of its root cause/source, just like a fire. One cannot agree with you more.

That said, I feel that none of these articles proposes any practicable solution or viable approach to eliminating or at least controlling the plague of rape that appearing to be raging now. A number of necessary (and certainly important) conditions have been stated by the more thoughtful writers: A speedier and stricter legal process to deliver justice as per the law of the land; education both at home and at schools and colleges to "change the mindset" of chauvinistic boys and men; and several other desirable conditions. All these things are fine, but they are necessary (and not sufficient) conditions for a proper resolution of the serious problem that seems to have assumed virtually epidemic proportions in our society. In this sense all the articles I have read (including, to be honest, your excellent post) leave me with a sense of helplessness, rather than reassurance that voices of reason can still be heard in the midst of the general hysteria.

I am no expert on jurisprudence to opine on the
desirability or otherwise of capital punishment. But it is my belief that we men can never REALLY understand the extent to which a woman's inner sore and spirit are destroyed by rape. Victims who have had the formidable spirit to retain their
perspective have said that it is far worse than outright death, and they should know. This particular crime, therefore, is clearly not on the same footing as all the other depradations that human beings visit upon one another, including murder. This crucial aspect, too, must be factored into the sober and reasoned arguments that are presented on this issue, and it must be given due weight. In my opinion, this has not been adequately done by analysts.

Sunil Mukhi said...

Balki: I completely agree with you that a methodology to improve the situation is still lacking, and my article certainly doesn't try to address this. I accept your premise that rape could be as bad as (or worse than) murder, but I believe that the death penalty is not right even for murder. That said, I won't be weeping for the rapists in this case even if they are finally hanged (as is fairly likely given that their victim has tragically passed away).

Changing the "mindset of chauvinistic boys and men" is absolutely essential. Sadly, the boys and men in question seem to include politicians of almost all parties, as well as our President's charming little boy...