These days, every now and then voices are getting louder for death penalty and right to recall. I don’t think death penalty is a ‘truck’ that any ‘driver’ can run over and escape without analysing the facts and realities behind the death penalty. Almost same is true for the right to recall as proposed by so called self proclaimed ‘honest society’ of few unrepresented people after murdering the democracy. In this article, I will analyse few facts and realities through a Dalit’s eyes on death penalty.
After Madras High Court’s order last week staying the execution of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s three killers has led to debate over should we eliminate death penalty or retain it? Court also asked the government to explain why it took 11 long years for president to reject the mercy plea? Doesn’t it show that our supreme power, president, is not as much capable of taking a decision or working under the pressure from the political parties? Now, those who say there must be death penalty in India, have they considered the 11 long years of suffering the families of these people? For them it might have been dying daily and so called governments murdered these families for 11 years!
Pro-death penalty give argument that ‘an eye for an eye’, but won’t it make the whole world blind? Suppose someone was hanged but later on courts found that the person was hanged wrongly, what can we do in that case? Death penalty is not a gear of a truck that a ‘truck driver’ can run over the person and then reverse the gear and escape by giving bribe or by unfair means. You can’t reverse the execution process and bring person back. Or would you surrender yourself in that case and say now take my life also? Do we have right to take someone’s life? We all have seen unfair trials and unethical practices in judiciary. Many such cases of unfair trials have been recorded by Amnesty International in countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Equatorial Guinea. One recent case of unfair trial is of 17 Punjabis, who were charged with the murder of a Pakistani nationalist in Sharjah over the alcohol trading conflict and all were sentenced to death. They were tortured – given electric shocks – to confess the crime and even Indian government was not informed about their arrest for long time. Later on, they were given a Sharjah lawyer, who was not able understand Punjabi (native language of 17 people under trial) and then court proceedings were translated from Arabic to Hindi even Hindi wasn’t understood by 17 arrested people under trial). All 17 Punjabis were sentenced to death by court; do you think it’s a fair enough trial? (No matter what, afterward many other people came to rescue these 17 people and saved their lives after paying ‘blood money’.) It has also been observed that in many countries where death penalty was given to the criminals, they weren’t even present in the courts. Even in India, we have seen the people influencing the judges and lawyers to mend the cases in their favour. All such incidents raise many questions on the credibility of courts and judges. We can’t afford to murder a single innocent person on the name of justice. If we can’t provide fair trials, we have no right to ask for death sentence of anyone. According to the National Crime Record, only 31 per cent criminal trials are completed in less than a year, and some cases take more than 10 years. Isn’t it a shame? When we can give someone life, do we have a right to take it either?In USA, for every eight people executed, one innocent person on death row has been identified and exonerated. (Death Penalty)
Supreme Court justice H.S. Bedi said on September, 2009 that, “We must say with the great emphasis that human beings are not chattel (slaves) and should not be used as pawns in furthering some larger political (goal) or government policy.”
I don’t believe in an eye for an eye. On the name of justice, governments are depriving people from their right to live as promised in article 3 of ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, it says:
“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
Another argument given by pro-death penalty section is – it will reduce the crime rate. This statement is completely wrong, vague and don’t have any merit. Take the cases of USA and Singapore where death penalty is in practice since long time, crimes have not reduced. One can look at the stats of USA that in the year 2007, 14 million people were arrested for all criminal infractions except traffic violations. If death penalty couldn’t bring down crimes to larger scale in USA, it would be foolishness to think that it will bring crimes down in India, where people don’t even follow simple rules of traffic.
Further, few people are saying that abolishing death penalty will make terrorists fearless and terrorist activities will rise. Do these people think terrorists are afraid of death? Many of the terrorists become suicide bombs, many of them commit their acts with the intension of dying, and death penalty won’t frighten them in any way. Or if the logic given by pro-death penalty people would have been so true, we wouldn’t have seen 9/11 or Mumbai attack or attack on parliament of India. I don’t see a clear correlation with the crimes and death penalty; rather than it has much more to do with person’s mentality, developed over the course of time, and how person is brought up.
One more argument given by pro-death penalty people is about saving the money that is spent on keeping such criminals alive. When we can feed millions of pandit-pujaris sitting in temples, doing nothing but misguiding innocent people, on the hard earned money of poor, I believe a country of 1.3 billion people can also afford to feed 250-300 such criminals than to hang up someone innocent. Can’t we? I’ve to ask few questions from the people shouting for saving money, have they ever tried to stop poor people donating money at temples? (The same money is siphoned off to carry out many riots later on!) Have they ever opposed lavish weddings, Hindu dowry system carried out by same people those are not shouting for death penalty? Isn’t all this a wastage of money? I don’t think one has any right to give such a fake logic in favour of death penalty.
Death Penalty: Dalits & Minorities
‘Why does the capital punishment confine only to the weaker sections of the Indian society?’ asked honourable ex-president Prof. Abdul Kalam.
In Maharashtra, Muslim population is about 10.6% but their share in total prison inmates is 32.4%; in Gujarat, Muslims count to about 9% but more than 25% in jail inmates; condition is worst in capital of India also, Muslims count to about 11.7% of the Delhi’s population but more than 29% in jail count. Does it mean upper caste people don’t commit any crime? (Remember Sadhavi Pragya Thakur, Lt Col Prasad Purohit, Swami Dayanand Pandey?) The only place where Muslims and Dalits can claim a share in proportion to their population is in prison! (Muslims convicts in India is 19.1%, while the number of under trials is 22.5%, which exceed their population ratio) The condition of Dalits is also the same; one might find more Dalits in jails than in schools or at any other service sector. Can you smell something fishy?
Former attorney Ramsey Clark who has the same opinion as the honourable President said, “It is the poor, the sick, the ignorant, the powerless, and the hated that are executed.”
In USA, most southern states have continued to condemn (death penalty) and execute large numbers of people, who disproportionately are poor and racial minorities. (Death Penalty)
While Blacks make up 12 percent of the U.S. population, they make up 48 percent of those on death row. The justice system is classist. This is made evident by the fact that there are no billionaires on death row, no millionaires on death row, and the number of those from the middle class on death row is marginal. So who are these people on death row? They are the poorest of the poor, the most powerless of the powerless. They are the product of the worst housing, the worst education, and the worst medicine. (Death Penalty is Racist and Targets the Poor, by Mark Ostaplak)
In India the situation is almost the same, what happened to the criminals of Gujarat riots, where thousands Muslims were murdered, what happened to the criminals of anti- Sikh riots of 1984, where thousands Sikhs were murdered, what happened to the criminals of Kandhamal (Orissa) riots, where thousands Dalit-Christians were murdered and are still living in forest camps, or what happened in the case of Khairlanji killings? Why it’s always Dalits and minority communities at loser end? Don’t all these incidents show that money, caste, class and abuse of power play much important role in decisions of courts?
My Final Thoughts
When more than hundred countries have abolished death penalty, it’s a high time for India also to abolish this extreme form of punishment. Punishment should such that criminals change, what would be more tough punishment for criminals than making them better human beings? Punishment should be for bringing the criminals on the righteous path not murdering them on the name of justice. For me death penalty is nothing but a cold blooded murder and I don’t support cold blooded murders or such an inhuman behaviour. I also do agree that we need the guidance of people from law and justice not the views or threats (ann shan) of some ‘truck driver’ on the death penalty. It’s a time to ‘kill death penalty’ and apply more humane approach in the country of Buddha – who preached no killing!
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