Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Armed and dangerous

A huge Indian oil tanker is traveling past Italy. On board it has several naval guards from Kerala, two of whom are keeping guard on deck with automatic rifles in their hands. Just off the coast they spot a tiny Italian boat and quite naturally assume it's filled with pirates. In fact it's a couple of pescatori looking for something to grill with lemon and garlic. The Keralites proceed to shoot dead these two Italian fishermen. Later, they say it was a "mistake". The Indian government and populace rallies round them, saying anyone could have made the same mistake, and that the Italians are taking it all too personally. What happened was an "unfortunate incident which everyone regrets. Our marines never wanted this to happen, but unfortunately it took place". That should be the end of that, no? Apparently not. The Italians arrest the Malayali naval guards and absurdly insist on trying them in their own courts.

Cut to South Africa. Fashion model Reeva Steenkamp is visited regularly at her home by her suitor, athlete Oscar Pistorius. Reeva lives in a gated community and keeps a gun (or several) under her bed. Pistorius often stays over at her place and shares her bed. On one such night, she awakens and hears a noise in the bathroom. Assuming this to be a burglar, she walks over and fires several shots through a locked door. Turns out it was just Pistorius who had got up to take a leak, and now the poor guy is history. Oops, she says, I'm so sorry, it was just a mistake. She never wanted this to happen, but unfortunately etc.

For those who live on a different planet, the above two summaries are role-reversed versions of true stories. In one case Italian guards mistakenly shot Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast. In the other, athlete Pistorius mistakenly shot his girlfriend. I'm neither a lawyer nor a witness, so I can't comment on what really happened or how one has to proceed. But the fact that a defence like "they made a mistake"  appears to carry any credibility at all, is only because the killers - in both cases - were white males. Apparently this allows you to say "I'm heavily armed, I shoot when I feel like, and I apologise when I kill the wrong person. Get used to me, people".

I can't imagine what would have happened if the Pistorius story really happened in reverse, the way I described it above. "Dumb blonde shoots athlete boyfriend"? And how would the world react to unprovoked firing on fishermen in designer clothing by natives from the land of lungi? One can only wonder.

Yesterday the Italian killers (I call them this because they admit to having killed) have jumped bail despite a solemn assurance to the Indian Government by the Italian Ambassador that they would return to face trial. And recently the South African killer (again, he admits to being one) has been granted bail. We'll see whether he stands trial, scheduled for June. Whichever way the legalities turn out, it seems that even today all you need is the right race, the right gender and the right guns, and you can get away with murder -- or at least attract a lot of sympathy.


Ungrateful Alive said...

And here I was, along with millions of others, thinking that the whole purpose of not forcing the marines to vote from an embassy here, and the resulting escape and diplomatic standoff, is to preempt any chance of collaboration and cooperation between the law enforcement agencies in the two countries, which might have resulted in the chopper scam investigation getting completed with speed and competence!

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

I am surprised that people expected them to return. The last time they went for Christmas, they posted a bond of Rs. 6 crores. This time, they agreed to the assurance of a person who has diplomatic immunity and an incentive to lie. Why not a bond this time too. And as the comment above has said, all countries allow postal ballots.

I am sure this was the only way to get them out and the Government of India knew that such a plan will raise a few voices till the next scam and everyone will forget this issue.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post !

Sunil Mukhi said...

The mother of one of the killers says "justice has been done".. See The insensitivity of this statement is staggering and it makes my point even more clearly.

Anant said...

According to a news item, Italy demands a special court - urgent, quck, expedited. Would Italy say the same thing to, e.g., Saudi Arabia, USA?