“The nation needs to know…” it seems from the expectations for the sentencing of the convicted rapists. My aunt Whatsapps from Delhi to find out about the judgement because her cable was down!!! The Nirbhaya incident has taken more than its share of the media space for several reasons but the collective outpouring of anger and grief seems to be a little misplaced at least to me.
I am not for a moment saying that this incident did not deserve this outrage but I am disappointed that only this incident has got it. On a talk show a social activist said that over 90000 cases of rape are pending in court some for many years. Despite this outrage incidents of rape have not reduced or stopped and it does not like stopping either.
The reasons are varied and cannot be summarized so easily but the point remains that rape has always been and will be a sign of power and in the unequal distribution of power among people the weak will be pushed to submission by rape among other means and so it cannot be simply wished or regulated away.
This incident made me ponder a few things, one of which I have outlined above the others being: i) Is death the solution? ii) Why is this incident being called “rarest of rare”? iii) Will this sentencing be the end of this case?
The answer to the first question in my mind is NO. Death is not a solution but an escape route. Death will not give enough time for a convicted criminal to regret for the crime no matter how rare it may be, the maximum time being the delay between the sentencing and the execution. Lock the guilty away in solitary confinement and throw away the key. Isolation can be the biggest teacher and may give a better chance for the convict to reform while still alive. Death denies him that chance. The outrage may be justified but occasionally I feel that many are playing to the gallery.
The next question is very puzzling and I do not have an answer for it. There have been instances when women have been brutalized, mutilated, murdered and they have just been reduced to statistics. Children have suffered equally at the hands of some animals and every crime against a child is “rarest of the rare”, so why single out few cases like these? Women have been raped and burnt alive to conceal evidence if we discount them as not rare are we not stepping into very dangerous territory?
The third question can be answered as this is not the end but the beginning. The defence lawyer has gone on record of his intention to go on appeal to the High Court, this will proceed to the Supreme Court till a judgement that will be acceptable to them is obtained. From the general sentiment it would be anything lesser than the death sentence. In the event of a death sentence the next step it would seem is to approach the President for pardon. Our system seems to offer room for the guilty to escape either by waiting it out for the process to take its course or by getting an earlier decision overturned. So this may be just the start and by the time the final decision and sentencing happens the world may have simply moved on.
The outrage over the decision on the “juvenile” is completely justified and the danger is that this light punishment can embolden many more to do criminal acts knowing that their age will be on their side. It is simply incomprehensible that one is old enough to rape but is not old enough to get punished for the rape. Parents have to own up to the flawed progeny they have unleashed on the world, if the juvenile cannot be held accountable, they should bear at least a part of the blame. But that among other things will remain to be wishful thinking.
Makes you wonder if you should get to the root of the problem and cut it off with chemicals or otherwise…