Home > Personal, Social Causes > People, Politics and Democracy

People, Politics and Democracy

I refrained from discussing the gang rape of the 23-year-old girl in Delhi that was responsible for outrage and protests. I did take part in a few discussions on Facebook but I was not keen on writing a post in anger that does not give logical methods of change and improvement.

The Real Issue

The real issue at hand is the society that is truly broken. We expect changes in one part of society but it’s really an integrated problem. Rape of a woman is heinous but we need to ask if this behaviour is unexpected from a country that still has cases of female foeticide. Is there any real difference in either case as both are violations of womanhood?

This post would be a multi-part post purely because it looks at flaws of all the concerned parties which includes:

The citizenry

The government, courts, police and lastly

The media

Suggestions to the citizenry

Stop protesting, Start Lobbying

Lobbying is a word that gave Wal-Mart a few sleepless nights but it’s a tool to push through an agenda. It’s not a bad word or a practice. We use it in daily life and business without knowing.

Use elections to force out promises and make it public and hold politicians accountable.

Provide solutions for effective punishment

We, in our urbanized existence have a limited understanding of legal and punishment systems. How many of us have visited a jail or seen how horrible the conditions in it are? Indian jails are overcrowded and we have no idea of what it does to criminals. We pack a petty criminal with hardened criminals and create more problems for us in the future.

We need to study segregated jailing for better punishment management.

In this particular case no one came out with effective jailing systems for the criminals. These are just the tip of the iceberg. There are far more violent crimes that go unreported or unnoticed.

I had once heard a story of a Nazi war criminal whose jail walls were lined with rubber such that the person did not bang his head against the wall and commit suicide. I am not sure how true the story is but if we are to punish violent crimes then we need to create different jailing systems.

Personally I believe that the rapists be allowed to live out their lives but in cellular jails like the ones in Andaman and Nicobar islands with no human or outside world contact and all amenities for basic living (a bed and bathroom) inside the cell. Food can be given through the door but no conversation between inmates and guards.

This is a far worse punishment than people think. Living out the rest of your natural life with no human contact in a limited space and no outlet is far more inhuman than a hanging which lasts about 30 to 60 minutes where the criminal would be dead in approximately 20 minutes or castration (chemical or physical). A person rightly pointed out that castration should not become an easy way out for criminals in rape cases.

This punishment system may sound inhuman but it’s an effective punishment. Solitary confinement is known to break humans and make them go insane.

Merely punishment and the systems to punish are not effective in changing society.

We need to document and study the punishment systems and publicize the horror stories in the jails. We may have movies made out of it but reality and make-believe is easily understood by human nature.

We need to make it mandatory for students to visit jails and see the squalor and living conditions in Indian jails.

We also need to make sure that punishments are adhered to for the rich class. Once it sticks for the rich class then there is a trickle-down effect.

The rapists in the Delhi rape case were confident of not being caught. This confidence is a direct result of the many getting away without punishment. Most of those had the capacity to hire good legal counsel but the picture that is portrayed is that the justice system is lax.

Courts can be slow but justice has to be delivered and punishments for all have to stick. The next time a rich person complains of chest pains inside a jail, it’s best if we have a hospital on premises where he or she is strapped to the bed for doctor safety than taking them to hospitals outside of jail premises.

Perhaps it’s time for an inhuman isolation of criminals that perpetrate violent crimes and celebrate and publicize the inhumanity of the punishment as much as we are disgusted with the criminal act itself.

Peaceful protesting is a right that we have but we must accept that there will be people in the crowd who have a violent agenda to derail the real issue at hand.

Many would argue that more violence and inhumanity is not the answer but to stop violence we need to be equipped to hand it back. I am reminded of the Latin saying Sic Vis Pacem Para Bellum. Translated it means, if you want peace, prepare for war. We want to see change in society but many of us are uncomfortable with brutal punishments that are not painful physically; but break the mental strength of the toughest of criminals.

Most of us profess that we can die for the country or family but the question that I ask is; can you sleep peacefully after killing someone who tries to hurt you or your family or country. Dying is easy if it’s quick but being a survivor knowing that there is a demon inside you who can kill takes effort as we have to control the demon and live and interact with people. When we say yes to harsh punishments, each one of us is responsible and a party to the inhumanity that has unfortunately become a necessity.

We are hurtling towards a society that celebrates inhumanity among the free to control the criminals. Tomorrow we could become a society that shrugs the birth of a Punisher (Frank Castle) like character among us and probably even celebrate it.

  1. December 29, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    As you said we need action now and we need to set strict rules to curb such problems.

  2. mimi makapela
    January 1, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    We need to act up on this. I’m still shocked. Such criminal activity disgust me. So inhuman.

    • January 1, 2013 at 2:01 pm

      Change is needed not just in laws but social attitudes. Hopefully it will get better now.

  3. January 10, 2013 at 3:12 am

    I am unsure what to think in situations like this. I tend to agree that there are times when death is too good and easy a punishment. But for a lot of people, life’s greatest fear is death. Wouldn’t putting someone to death for inhuman crimes cause other budding criminals to think twice? I somehow doubt that a criminal, knowing the punishment is death, would shrug it off and say the crime was worth it (unless they’re psychopaths, who obviously don’t care what happens to them as long as they get to cause some misery).

    I actually just read an op-ed in an extremely old copy of The Hindu about overcrowding in Indian jails. It got me wondering about what these men do all day. In the US, men in orange jumpsuits cleaning up roadside trash along the highways are a relatively common sight. In the excellent movie The Shawshank Redemption, the prisoners are made to do a lot of construction work that benefits the city – projects completed with free labour. Why don’t we have a system like this in India? Or do we? Do you know? I haven’t done any research on this yet, but I’m going to. It seems like this would be a great way to make prisoners pay for the evils they’ve contributed to society.

    • January 10, 2013 at 3:30 am

      If death is scary then brutal murders must have been eradicated but that is not so. From what I have observed, I can say with some measure of honesty that humans don’t fear a painless death. A life long punishment is worse than death itself.

      It is true that Indian jails are overcrowded and its not a picnic by any stretch of imagination but the system in US is a bit different. The jailing system is different with segregation between minimum and maximum security prisons. There have been instances where call center have been established inside the jails for inmates to work in as part of the rehabilitation program but that is contingent to the nature of the inmate’s behaviour and the nature of his crime.

      Also a lot of the jails are private businesses in US and they have government audit requirements when they introduce inmates to any sort of work.

      Here the entire jail and punishment system is run by the government and police and corruption too is high.

      The US jails have their own set of issues too with gang related violence dominating the scene on the street and inside the jails. Gangs such as the Aryan Brotherhood which is similar in many ways to the Ku Klux Klan is one that is spread across many jails in the US.

      Without a social structure in place, government cannot deploy the vast numbers for productive work outside and we need to invest heavily in the technological infrastructure that helps track the inmates.

      We can learn a lot from the US systems though.

      • January 10, 2013 at 3:43 am

        Brutal murders would be eradicated if murderers were afraid of other people dying. But why would they be? It affects them in absolutely no way. What I meant, actually, is that people are afraid of their own deaths. Anecdotal evidence: my great-grandfather, who died when he was 92, said very, very often that he was just sick of living, and hoped for the day that he could leave all this pain and infirmity behind. But one day, he woke up unable to breathe and with some pain in the chest. He was convinced that the end had come, and panicking, he cried out to be spared. I think the drive to live defines us as sentient species. That’s why a death sentence can be powerful – not necessarily because it is fair for someone who caused hours, perhaps years of misery to die quickly and painlessly, but because it could be a powerful deterrent.

        In the same manner, if we could convince people that lifelong isolation is a horrible fate, that can be an effective deterrent as well. But I wonder how many people spend time thinking about being isolated. We live in a world where human contact is constant; it’s practically unavoidable. Unless criminals know or realise that isolation will take away their humanity, they may not consider it a strong-enough deterrent.

      • January 10, 2013 at 4:09 am

        We have to understand that the old accept death as a part of their life more than the young and able but every old person I have known has had the same wish. They don’t mind dying but they do not want the suffering. I myself feel that infirmity is worse than death. Its more pronounced in modern life than at any other time.

        My own mom cannot get herself to use escalators and I have seen many older people avoid it but at the same time their knees are no longer strong to support climbing. As for the death sentence in India, we kill by hanging which is not at all an easy way to die but the fear of the punishment is not known because we as a society do not show how it plays out. As far as I know, once the executioner opens the trapdoor, all concerned leave the place and return after sometime.

        In the US we have the lethal injection that is shown as a event to people.

        The problem here is we have only seen the good side of a jail or the improved face of Tihar. There is a brilliant piece in the New Yorker about solitary confinement with statements from many inmates including John McCain who was a prisoner of war for 5 year during Vietnam war.

        In my last 2 posts on my other blog Game Theori, I listed that merely punishments and jails cant really change society but knowing what happens inside jails or what are effects of long term solitary confinement needs to be studied and publicized. It may seem barbaric but as you rightly said its a deterrent and could work.

        I got to know what isolation can do from a friend who has done the Vipassana course and after 10 days of silence it was difficult to find the voice. It’s a positive meditative concept to vent out catharsis but we need to make documentaries and publish studies on the effects of jails on inmate minds and solitary confinement.

        Globally there is a campaign that calls solitary confinement barbaric and many who oppose it call it worse than death because you slowly lose your mind inside the walls of a small cell. We need to implement that punishment but put it on public forum for debate and study and analysis. It has to percolate beyond the metros of India to the villages and for that we have to use studies and media and newspapers to bring about social change. It’s not overnight but a long road.

  4. Dagny
    April 6, 2013 at 5:20 am

    Your involvement with your readers is heartening to note. But I digress from what I really wanted to say here.

    You say the real issue is to have a more efficient system of punishment… something well known… something which would truly serve as a deterrent to those with a criminal bend of mind.

    Your idea of complete isolation has immense merit. I agree with you.

    But I have two point to raise here:

    1. As you said yourself, in the Delhi rape case, the rapists DID NOT EXPECT TO GET CAUGHT AT ALL. They even removed her uterus to leave no trace of semen. Not only were the rapists sure of not being caught, they knew they’d be able to hire a slick lawyer who will get them off the hook.

    2. Aren’t you surprised that brutal, inhuman rape is spurting all over the world almost simultaneously? I am sure you’ve read about the Sternville case in the US.

    To me, the main issue is not lack of robust law an ineffective judiciary. It is much deeper and a lot more terrible.

    To what level of inhumanity is mankind descending? Why? What’s triggering it? What are we doing wrong as a society to breed such brutality?

    To me, these are the issues. Legislation alone is not the answer. No matter how many laws are made, men will find ways of breaking them.

    The safety and security of any person should not be dependent on the presence or absence of a policeman. It would make me feel very insecure…

    Write on, I am reading. 🙂

    • April 6, 2013 at 9:37 am

      To answer, efficient punishment systems are just one part of the story. I also said we need to document and study punishments and jails. Presently we have an approximate 3 to 4 inmates in the space of one. Over crowded jails are a big problem and the real jails are not clean at all. It’s the epitome of hell and the Devil might just take pity on people stuck in Indian jails. I am not talking about 5 star inmates here who have amenities.

      The other part is we do not have studies on these jails nor do we have hard hitting documentaries. The reality of Indian jails will make the skin of human rights activists crawl but if we implement solitary confinement with recording for suicide watch then we would be able to document the slow deterioration of the inmates mentally.

      For the 2 points you raised, the first one is the mistake of the prosecution and the judiciary. Take a look at the case of the Italian Marines who went back to vote when they could do postal ballot but the argument presented was that they had to go to Italy to vote. That is primarily the error of the prosecution or government and judiciary. I hold the judiciary responsible here because we do not have a jury system and dependence of forensic evidence so the judge is equally responsible.

      The 2nd point about being surprised, I truthfully am not surprised about such instances anymore. I am also not surprised if the government screws up the investigation. Inhumanity is somehow celebrated. We call the rapists inhuman but we too are as inhuman. We just outsourced it to the police and called them encounter specialists. We have to use that same inhumanity to be able to stem the inhuman crime and criminal and for that we have to invest in systems that are as inhuman with the checks in place to stop the appointed person from losing his humanity fully.

      Legislation alone will not help and I agree with you. The idea should be that people are made aware of what do they mean by solitary confinement and other such punishments. That has to be documented in all the ways possible and shown to people to generate a righteous fear to abide by the law even if there is no oversight present.

      • Dagny
        April 6, 2013 at 1:29 pm

        My entire disagreement with you post is only on one point. In your comment also you have said it in the last para.

        Do you think ‘righteous fear’ is the only thing on which the safety of the rest of us should depend? If that is all, I would feel safe. But yes, that is certainly a starting point. Moreover, if we don’t have that, the situation would be worse!

        The focus on punishment AFTER A CRIME HAS BEEN COMMITTED is a solution with very limited scope. For full effectiveness, it must be supported by proactive measure, not only reactive. And for this, parents and educators need to pull up their socks and change the way kids are raised.


      • April 6, 2013 at 1:53 pm

        I agree with you but to say that in the future the situation will improve we need to change things today. You said it right that parents and educators need to pull up their socks and change the way kids are raised. Righteous fear is a present momentary thing. It can be given extended life but its not perpetual. It will lose its charm in some time.

        When I say righteous fear its when punishment sticks to rich and poor alike and there is no easy way out.

        You are right social change is the way to go but we have to look at the present broken system. We have also had the other extreme that I talked about in my post, about us celebrating a killer. In fact this has already happened http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/Patna/Bihar-woman-burns-her-rapist-to-death/Article1-1036745.aspx.

        Social change is slower process and emotional too. We need to push it but human nature is to resist change and more so when patriarchal systems are challenged.

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