I’ve a 4-year-old kid who is very proud of being 4 since 4 higher than 3. Anyway, so my 4 year old had this habit of plucking flowers. I would always ask him not to do so else I would put him in the dark room or stop his chocolate supply or sometimes I would scold him too. But despite warning and chiding, the goal was only half achieved. He would not do in front of me but would do it my absence. Then one day, I very softly asked him to come to me and listen what I say. He came, sat in my lap and I said, “look honey, these flowers are so pretty, aren’t they? And they are delicate too. If you pluck them, they will feel pain and eventually dry and die. And I am sure you don’t want it. You want to see flowers in all their prettiness, don’t you?” He nodded and promised me never to repeat it and he hasn’t done it so far.
Crime, Punishment and Criminality
Until 2012, December 16 was a day that I would remember only as my cousin’s birthday. Post that day that year, I think not only for me but for the rest of the India too the reason of the significance of that day has changed. In fact, all over the world people got affrighted and flabbergasted over the Delhi rape case 2012. The day next to when the news broke out on the BBC, I remember receiving a text from a friend of mine in London enquiring about my safety and well-being since he knew that I work in an MNC in New Delhi. I was proud that I had such a caring friend but I was ashamed of the reputation of my capital city.
Three years after the crime in question and three years after the sentence of the juvenile involved is over we still have the same questions unanswered. Has justice been delivered? This is despite the fact that today (22/12/15) the Rajya Sabha has passed the Juvenile Justice Bill that allows the trial of individuals between 16 and 18 years as adults for the commission of heinous crimes.
One section of society is content with the bill and considers it as one absolutely necessary step amongst the many steps that are needed to be taken towards women safety. Whereas, another section thinks that the bill was the result of all the human and media sentiments that got agitated the moment the Juvenile (in Nirbhaya case) walked out of the prison after completion of his three-year term, which, as per prevailing Indian law, was the maximum that could be imposed upon him. Three years in jail for taking someone’s dreams, aspirations, relations, happiness, breath…life is obviously way too less and unfair. However, if he was detained for some more years in jail would that too have delivered justice? Because a criminal is a threat to the society until and unless his heart is filled with remorse sans which he will exit jail as the same person who had stepped in, the number of years spent in jail be 3 or 13. What could be a bigger punishment than pangs of conscience that puts a criminal into the victim’s shoe?
Those who are in favour of the bill say that a (harsh) punishment act as a deterrent to committing a crime. It’s as if when students in school are told that they would be punished for talking in the class, do they stop talking? Or when we all know corruption is a punishable offence, has corruption stopped? Life is the most valuable thing for a living being and that’s why I guess whenever we talk about the highest level of punishment it’s involving life either life imprisonment or hanging. But unfortunately, for some people even the chances of losing life is not a reason enough not to commit a crime otherwise there would not have been suicide bombers. Recently, I read a report in TOI that talked about a person who witnessed his father’s murder at the age of 12, spent next 12 years of his life planning a revenge and finally at 24 killed his father’s murderer. He is caught and doesn’t have any regret. In fact, he is satisfied having avenged his father’s murder. On the contrary is the story of the renowned political figure of his times, Lalit Maken. Maken, along with his wife, was allegedly killed by Ranjit Singh Gill, ‘Kuki’ and some other persons. Kuki was detained for 17 years in jail. However, Avantika Maken, the daughter of Lalit Maken had appealed for his release and he was later released. Avantika did so to be at peace with herself. Indeed, it takes a lot courage for an aggrieved to forgive. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
Safety of Women
Having said that, I would also like to state that Nirbhaya’s case is nowhere similar to the above mentioned stories. Also, her case put in perspective the safety of women in our society. But safety from whom? Our own menfolk and not wolves in the jungle! Here I would also like to state that somewhere the question of safety is related to the respect for women or the lack of it. And till the time we don’t respect women we can’t save women from such crimes.
There are various ways in which women, be it from any strata of society, witness disrespect. They have to face eve teasing to an extent that it becomes a part of their lives and they are left with no other option but to ignore it. Even after more than 6 decades of independence, they have to fight for a respectable percentage of representation in jobs and politics. Being an IAS officer too does not give any immunity against harassment; take for example the Riju Bafna case.
It’s not only the Juvenile justice system that needs to be amended, it’s the entire society that needs to change the way it treats women. Men should be taught to behave well with women at the same length that they are taught to be macho and manly. It’s not only the responsibility of the police, courts and corrective homes to correct the incorrect character of criminals, but it’s our responsibility as well to bring up male children in the way they do not become a threat to the society.
Whereas we teach our girls to pursue hobbies and careers that are considered manly like wrestling or professional driving, we should also encourage our boys to do things that are considered feminine like helping out in household chores and cooking. This will help both the genders in understanding each other’s sensibilities. Boys should also be encouraged to be more expressive. It’s observed that boys tend to hide their feelings or do not express themselves as much as girls do and these pent up feelings when explode could be dangerous. Boys are even laughed or mocked at if they cry because crying is supposedly a feminine trait. At this juncture, I would like to bring up the reference of the lord Shiva. Lord Shiva is also called ‘Ardhnarishwar,’ which literally means having the characteristics of a male and a female.
We have to go to the root causes of such crimes if we want to root them out and it’s a long and continuous process. Till that time, I hope ‘harsh’ punishments help reduce crimes.