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Friday, 25 December 2015

Crime and punishment…

In March 2015, in the Eastern Indian city of Kolkata, a group of burglars ransacked a convent. There is nothing strange about the burglars breaking into other people’s property, because this is what burglars do. However, it turned out that they were not burglars, but rapists. While robbing the place, they gang raped a 75 year old nun.
These rapists elaborated a very disturbing fact. It turns out that in India rape is something like a supplementary activity. While people commit other crimes, they try to boost their adrenaline levels, by raping women. 
I don’t want to make it sound as if rape is a disease. No sir it is a conscious choice. Exactly 2 years and 3 months before this, on December 16, 2012, a group of drunken, partying friends, raped a young medical student in a public service bus, in the administrative and political heart of India - Delhi. They went to the extent of not only brutalizing her sexually, but extracting her insides through her private parts, using a metallic object.
India came out into the streets, following that act of brutality against the woman. The crime evolved into a more gruesome act, when Jyoti died in a hospital in Singapore, just a few days later. The government of India spent millions of rupees on curbing civil unrest. They staged a very good show of trying to make amends. A number of NGOs received huge foreign funds to fight the menace of sexual abuse, in India. Indian and international media fed on the evil news of brutalization of a human life. A lot was said, and supposedly done, but…
Since December 2012, there have been multiple cases of gang rape across India. In one of the more known cases, four women were sexually abused, and then hung to death. And then that rape of a 75 year old woman. The list is endless. But, my purpose is not to talk about the statistical impact of this heinous crime. I want to look into another aspect of social and administrative indifference.
Following Jyoti’s rape, and murder, the police very swiftly arrested the criminals. Among the five rapists, one was a juvenile (15 at the time). The Indian penal code, which is a remnant of the British penal code, does not allow the application of harsh punishments for juveniles. So at the end of the case 4 rapists were sentenced to death and the juvenile was sentenced to 3 years of imprisonment. One of the 4 adult criminals committed suicide in jail. The other 3 have filed appeals in the Supreme Court of India. They have a legal chance of escaping the noose. Alas, Jyoti had no chances, legal or medical.
Strangely enough the “boy” was grown-up enough to rape a girl, and participate in extracting her bowls, but was juvenile enough to be forgiven, and just being slapped on the wrist. In the current month of December, 2015, a convicted rapist has gone free, to enjoy the joys of life. 
I would also like to make it clear here that I don’t think that Indian men are sex hungry beasts. I don’t think that Indian women are provocative. I don’t think that rape is a minor crime. I don’t think that the Indian society at large endorses rape or any other kind of sexual abuse. However, rape plagues India, just like extremism plagues Pakistan.
Let me switch to Pakistan. It has been more than a year now, since the slaughter of around 150 innocent children and staff in a Peshawar school. A group of religious extremists entered the school and slaughtered children in dozens upon dozens. 
This proved to be a shocker. A nationwide alarm went off. It seemed as if the people of Pakistan had woken-up from their extended sleep. The law enforcement switched to emergency mode and it looked as if the extremists had called the God’s wrath upon themselves, and there was nothing to save them now.
However, within the last year, there have been multiple attacks on Imam Bargahs, including the attacks in Rawalpindi and Shikarpur, claiming tens of lives. Then we had attack on a Shiite mosque in Peshawar, a bomb blast in Chaman, bomb blast near police lines in Lahore, and a score of attacks on security check posts killing many civilians, and military personnel. 
On Sunday 15 March, 2015, two suicide bombers detonated themselves outside two churches in Lahore, claiming at least 15 lives. Following the bomb attacks the Christian community from the affected area, and across the country, came out on the streets and another kind of social reality was unveiled. The angry crowds burnt two people to death, because they suspected the persons in question to be related to the earlier bomb blasts near the church. 
Terrorist and his supporters
This administration of, the so-called, justice, by the mob, was not right at all. However, did they have any other alternative? 
Let us look at what has been going on in Pakistan following the Peshawar attack. There has been a lot of political and administrative turmoil, but believe me none of that has anything to do with you and me. The people in power, both civil and military, spent most of their energies on deciding, who is who. They implemented some law to initiate the working of military courts in the country, supposedly to hit extremism and terrorism, as hard as possible. But, during the last one year, what I have seen on the judicial front is the release, arrest and again release of Lakhvi. Grant of bail to Ishaq of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Softening of Mumtaz Qadri’s sentence, and re-citation of terrorism clause, and inability of Pakistani government to serve an arrest warrant, issued against Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid. 
During the hearing of Mumtaz Qadri’s case, in Islamabad High Court, the defence counsel, who happened to be a retired Higher Court judge, argued that Qadri did not commit any crime and that all charges against him should be dropped. Of course, the esteemed court did not comply with the demands, but did play its part in softening the charges. The point of the matter is not the motive of Qadri’s crime. I have no reasons to approve or disapprove his motives. But, since when does a citizen have the right to play police, court, judge and executioner, all in one?
Following the proceedings in the High Court, now Qadri launched appeal in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and after upholding of verdict, he launched an appeal of mercy to the President of Pakistan. He availed all legal chances of avoiding punishment, for his crime. But Salman Taseer was devoid of chances, by the same criminal, who was seeking pardon. 
I would like to ask the respected retired judge, and defence counsel, what he thought about the integrity of oath? Qadri did take an oath to serve honestly. And his service was to protect Salman Taseer. See, the judges also take oath to administer justice, and to uphold the law. However, if our courts are filled with judges, who think that oath has no value, then HELP US GOD!
Following the church bombings in Lahore, I noted another very shocking social fact. People, like leaders, and influential voices, issued their statements of condolences very readily. In countries like Pakistan, one always keeps such statements handy, because you never know when you might have to issue a statement to condole “loss of human life”. But, the shock did not come from the speed of issuance of statements. I was stunned to read and hear that everybody condoled the death of 15 Christians. They did not condole the death of 15 Pakistanis or 15 human beings. 
Mass produced religious extremists.
Nevertheless, why was I shocked? This was normal practice in our country. After attacks against Jamaat Ahmadiyya, in Lahore, we condoled the deaths of Ahmadis. After the attack on a mosque in Peshawar, we condoled the death of 19 Shiites. After the massacre of 85 people in Quetta, we condoled the killing of Hazaras, so on and so forth. We will keep on dying at the hands of the extremists, and anti-social elements, as long as we will not learn to value human life. Unless we accept everyone as Pakistani, above and beyond their ethnic or religious belonging, we will be vulnerable. 
As long as we will keep on finding justifications for crime, we will remain a target for criminals. I am not talking about such trivial things as theft. I am talking about capital crimes, like killing and rape. I have come to understand that in South Asia as a whole, we tend to close our eyes on crime for various reasons. 
We are too good at finding justifications. Even Confucius could not find any excuse for Jyoti’s rapists and murderers, but the defence lawyers in that case did. According to a TV interview of one of the lawyers, what happened to Jyoti was partially her fault, because she dared come out of her home after dark. According to that lawyer, Indian culture did not allow girls/women to leave home unless accompanied by their husbands, fathers or brothers. So according to that “servant of law” the convicted rapists and murderers were not at fault. It was Jyoti, who brought it upon herself.
Similarly, as I mentioned earlier, men of law in Pakistan also think that Qadri did not commit a crime. They think that Salman Taseer was wrong, because just like Jyoti, he brought it upon himself. To give you a broader understanding of the problem, I would just like to tell you that one of the Bangladeshi cricketers, who was part of the team playing in CWC2015 had an ongoing rape case against him in a Bangladeshi court. However, the court and the government of Bangladesh considered it suitable to close their eyes, about his sexual misdemeanour, because he was needed for the greater good. 
A friend of mine said today that unfortunately we have become so inhuman that the loss of 15-20 lives is nothing more than a running news strip for us. I agree with him, and I hope that people in the places would understand that every crime must entail punishment, regardless of motives.
Unfortunately many Pakistanis died on during 2015 and maybe, before these words will even make it to your monitor screen, a few more Pakistanis would lose their lives, somewhere in this country, which they call theirs.

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