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Juvenile justice

Published Nov 29, 2012 12:05am


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IN the terror nurseries straddling Pakistan and Afghanistan it is not uncommon, we are told reliably, to find boys much younger than Ajmal Kasab pleading with their trainers to be pushed up the queue for suicide missions as a divine favour.

How can we sensibly argue then that such motivated souls could be deterred by the hangman’s noose?

In the given equation, the outrage that transpired in Mumbai in November 2008 could only be avenged, not redressed. In the bargain the Indian state has done precisely that with Kasab — enacting barbarism disguised as justice.

Just a day before they hanged the young killer, India had voted at the UN against the abolition of the death penalty in the company of a few other bloody-minded states, including who else but Pakistan.

The Indian representative would have been more honest in accepting that capital punishment in India has proved to be neither a good prophylactic nor a reliable cure. There is no dearth of examples to illustrate the point.

Nathuram Godse was hanged for killing Gandhi. Today, he has a few million more followers, including the alleged bombers of the Samjhauta Express. Godse became an idol for the subversive lot.

However, another key suspect in Gandhi’s assassination plot was honoured by the Indian parliament recently. Savarkar’s statue was not only installed in the Indian parliament, a leading fellow Brahmin politician from Maharashtra threatened to leave the Congress party if the decision was revoked. It wasn’t.

Then there was this criminal duo simply known as Billa and Ranga in the late 1970s. As far as I can remember they were both taxi drivers in Delhi. They raped and killed the two children of a naval officer in a remote park. It was a heartrending act of brutality and the duo were duly hanged. Today, four decades later, Delhi has acquired the sobriquet as the rape capital of the country.

A cursory sociological analysis would show that a predominant segment of the offenders come from backgrounds that support the khap panchayats around Delhi, village kangaroo courts that dispense quick justice, chiefly against the social mixing of boys and girls from different castes.

The khap’s brand of widespread ‘honour killings’ closely resembles the practice favoured by the Taliban. Is there a study of Delhi policemen who support the khap panchayats, and who expectedly also blame women for inviting rape?

We hanged Satwant Singh for Indira Gandhi’s murder. His memory is worshipped in Punjab.

If the Gandhi family believes they have atoned for the assault on the Golden Temple and for all the injustices against the Sikh youth by placing high-visibility Sikh officials in government posts, they should hear the hiss of the Sikh taxi drivers when they remember 1984.

It’s almost three decades since the massacre of thousands of members of their faith. Not a single Congress politician has been convicted for leading the charge. The death toll was at least 50 times more than was inflicted by Kasab and his cohorts.

There was something arbitrary about Kasab’s hanging. A few years ago, a Kashmiri vegetable vendor was handed capital punishment on the basis of circumstantial evidence that he plotted the December 2001 armed attack on parliament.

The order said Afzal Guru should be hanged to assuage the collective conscience of society. Guru is still lingering in jail robbing the Indian society of its ghoulish salve. Kasab’s was an open and shut case by comparison.

However, there are several more death-row convicts awaiting justice for years. Why was he killed first? Was it the enormity of his crime? Is there a law to determine the order in which the convicts would be sent to the gallows? If it is a decision of the president alone, it only raises more questions.

Why was Kasab not given his right to seek a judicial review of the president’s decision? It is an inviolable legal right of a condemned prisoner. Did he know about it? Did he turn it down?

What if the president is a bleeding heart liberal (as we would like them to be) and he or she opposes capital punishment. Does the president impose his or her choice in the matter? Conversely, what if the head of state is a closet lover of the death sentence? Where is the impersonal, unbiased promise of justice?

Shortly after Kasab was executed in Pune, a spokesperson for the late Bal Thackeray’s party boasted to a TV channel that the Mumbai killer’s fate may have been sealed when the Shiv Sena chief committed his support for Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature as president of India. Kasab’s death was the biggest homage to the memory of Thackeray, Sanjay Raut proclaimed.

Thackeray had told Mr Mukherjee, who came to visit the Mumbai strongman for his crucial backing in the presidential contest, that he saw the veteran Congress man as an upright nationalist. He said he expected Mr Mukherjee to swiftly send the condemned man to the gallows.

How much Thackeray’s persistence weighed in with Mr Mukherjee’s final decision is a matter of conjecture and will probably never be known. But who can deny the larger, (though not very large) benefit the Congress expects to gain out of the sordid episode.

Kasab was reportedly humming Hindi movie songs during his long stay on death row, not fully aware of the enormity of his crime. Nor will his death stop another gun-toting delinquent from killing people senselessly, nor from smiling at his would-be executioners while still humming a juvenile song.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.


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The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (18) Closed

Verdict Nov 29, 2012 07:11am
Whatever be your topic, the Agenda is consciously clear Mr Naqvi.
Saty Nov 30, 2012 04:24am
So what does Jawed wants India to do with Kasab? send him back to Pakistan with a pack of sweets and gifts and help him unite with his family? In his entire article, he never mentioned what is the punishment that Kasab must be given? OR is he saying Kasab may be innocent and no fair trial was granted to him? Jawed please explain.
lalit bagai Nov 29, 2012 06:18pm
what would be the sentence based on sharia. or does this apply only to some and not others.
Mandeep Nov 29, 2012 03:51am
Mr Naqvi's arguments are only for academic debate and detached from reality. Kasab got a fair trial and if any law can not punish such a criminal whom the whole world saw on TV killing innocent people than it is time to wind-up all the courts. All his crime is recorded on camera. How much lethargic and lazy Mr Naqvi want India to be I dont understand. What a review of judicial process would done for Kasab? If hanging Godse gave him million followers, who hanged Bal Thackery to give him tens of million admirers ? Hanging does not make people heroes. There is nothing wrong in capital punishment once the proper legal excercise has found some one guilty. It doesn't matter whether or not it can prevent further attacks, we can not ignore what a convicted criminal did. Serving lesson is only one aspect of justice, the other is providing solace to families of victims.
Anshu Nov 29, 2012 09:30pm
What the author feels is Kasab, Guru and similar people should be granted special status in India and should be left to have full filling life. It's an usual trend in the author's article where he loads the article with english words which really mean nothing. He does not have an opinion. Mr Naqvi: If you have an opinion; just say it out rather than beating around the bush.
raghu Nov 29, 2012 05:58am
The author seems to be confused with himself and unable to decide which way to go on capital punishment. pakistan is the fort of islam and islam means pace further it cannot be equated with irreligious india.
abbastoronto Nov 29, 2012 03:01pm
Taking innocent lives is murder. The culprit deserves no compassion, the victims do. Osama Bin Ladin and Kasab are not my heroes. And that goes for Godse too who murdered a gentle soul who represented the finest of Hinduism.
ahmed41 Nov 29, 2012 04:27am
So Javed Naqvi sahib~~what is the conclusion ?
Hrleen Nov 29, 2012 04:17pm
Your reference to riots that followed Mrs Indira Gandhis' assassination seem to be a misfit in context of case you have tried to build against capital punishment. Riots happened a day or two after her assassination while Satwant Singh was hanged much later so there is no connection between riots and hanging. Also your argument about "placing high-visibility Sikh officials in government posts" is inappropriate, if not absurd. By stating so you are insulting these Sikh gentlemen holding these positions as if they got these positioins as some sort of compensation. I believe they got these positions based on their capabilties. Post of Prime Minister of India, Chief of Indian army, Chairman of Planning commission are not ceremonial positions by any means. I have repeatedly observed that you try to overplay certain things while underplaying others to discredit India and the values that it stands for. I am not saying it is perfect, but it is not as bad as you try to paint it. You have mentioned about Kasab "humming Hindi movie songs during his long stay on death row" but you choose to ignore how he pleaded asking for "muaf kar do fir galti nehi karoonga" just before execution. This is what we need to tell the misguided youth who want to follow Kasab's footsteps. Another reason for his execution could be that his masters could have done something like hijacking a plane to secure his release as they did in case of Maulana Masood Azhar. You writing skills are exceptionally good but you need to bring fairness in your thoughts.
yuppyindian Dec 03, 2012 04:50am
One of the most laughable articles of recent times! Mr Jawed , as usual with your excellent pen jargon you can amuse and hypnotise the reader without any conclusion. Please please for God's sake, enlighten me what is punishment under Sharia'a. Had Kasab been kept alive, would it have been apt for him ?
Rani Sharma Nov 29, 2012 02:21pm
It still was not right to execute him or anybody else.
Indian Nov 29, 2012 01:45pm
Only Jawed can question the Indian judiciary! Well Jawed why don't write about that young mentally challenged christian girl who was falsely implicated in Pakistan or atrocities being committed to minorities in Pakistan. Kasab was a devil incarnate and he should have been killed long time back. It is only in India that he was given a fair trial. Just see what your country did...did not even accept his dead body for burial despite the fact that your Government used him to commit such a henious crime!!!
abc Nov 29, 2012 01:28pm
The security arrangements for kasab were costing millions of rupees everyday from Indian taxpayers money. What is the point in those unnessary spendings. Anyway, i am a regular reader of Mr Jawed Neqvi's posts. He writes beautifully and he never misses the point that he wishes to bring about. Which is predominently his severely acute hate, intollarance and disregards towards a certain section/segment of Indian society. I would like to know if Mr Naqvi is a Pakistani national/journalist, who just happens to live in India for work, then he is doing a fantastic job. or is he an Indian, who hates his present state of being as a "default Indian", then i really feel sorry for his agony.
Aniket Nov 29, 2012 11:26am
Naqvi Sahab, I don't think this argument of yours against capital punishment holds much water. What option did the Government have in Godse's case other than executing him? The only one I can think of is life imprisonment. Do you think the multitude of followers that Godse today has would not have idolized him if he were life imprisoned? What difference would that have made? It was the act of committing that crime, the perceived ideological stance behind that act that appeals so much to the perverted sense of righteousness of his followers. What happened to him afterward is just a footnote in the context of the entire episode. He would still have been perceived to have attained 'Veergati' by his followers even if he were to die a much less dramatic death in a prison hospital, a much spent and older man. Just like Kasab would still have been considered a 'Shaheed' and idolized by the unfortunate brainwashed children of the terror nurseries had he been sentenced for life. There can be other arguments against capital punishment, but the one you have presented is a nobody's case.
Jagdish Nov 29, 2012 09:37am
Kasab killed 166 people, he was caught on CCTV and camera killing people, many witnesses identified him, he was given a fair trail and the Indian government spent Rs 50 crore for his security and trail. Kasab used to throw tantrums on not getting his quota of chicken biryani and showed no visible signs of remorse for the killings, for the shattered families, dreams he destroyed and orphans created. I think no right minded person will advocate that he did not get a fair trail. This writing is a disgrace and disservice to humanity. I strongly condemn it.
Akhlesh Nov 29, 2012 09:33am
Jawed Naqvi has questions only. No solutions flow from his pen.
Da'Greek Dec 02, 2012 06:59pm
Javed are a man of dangerous intellect. You have mastered the art of mixing truth with a lot of vile thoughts. Being an Indian I wont pick upon the many instances of wrong doing in Pakistan, instead I will limit myself to the topic on hand - Ajmal Kasab. Your article has one amount of legal deterrence/punishment results in total eradication of crime (you have quoted innumerable examples) - So the logical inference your readers should derive is there should be no legal punishments since criminals continue to exists!!! Just last week I was lamenting the loss of Ardeshir Cowasjee a columnist par excellence. There are many of your peers who I, along with other Indians regularly follow on Dawn. They too voice their opinions and point out their disagreement with the Indian viewpoint. They do so with a lot of clarity, fairness, accurate information and a very wise analysis. We might disagree as Indians but we appreciate the honesty and at times even agree with those views.
F Hyat Nov 30, 2012 01:48am
Punishment must fit the crime.