This cinematic moment has been replaying itself in my head over and over again ever since the drama around Kasab’s punishment erupted in the Indian media space. It would be worthwhile for us to examine this issue of capital punishment for Kasab from the doubts that Robert has in
The loss of our collective souls and the loss of the humanity of the Indian nation-state is what we stand to loose through the State killing Kasab. The Indian judicial system assures us that capital punishment is to be awarded only in the ‘rarest of rare cases’. This may in fact be true, where a higher court may hold that a decision granted by a lower court was irresponsible and overturn the sentence of capital punishment. But this is not the point. The point is what does the presence of the death punishment do to us as a people of the legal system.
The Kasab case is a wonderful example of what is being done to us. No one will deny that we have been turned into an audience in this particular case.And the audience in this particular case has been turned into a blood thirsty mob, crying and screaming for the blood of this man. This audience is presented with actors, such as the prosecutor in the case, Ujjwal Nikam, who argues, contrary to the supposed ‘rarest of rare cases’ principle, that all terrorists should be given the death penalty. In the environment that has been generated in this particular drama event, what has been done is to convince so many Indians that indeed terrorists should be given the death penalty. What we do not realize though, is while in Kasab’s case it can be proven that he was stomping around
Further, a situation where we start baying for blood and believe that all terrorists should be given the death penalty allows for State killings outside the law. Take for example the case of the Batla House ‘encounter’. We know now that the boys killed in the Batla House shootout, were innocents, and victims of a fake encounter. Fake encounters are a fact of life in
What we should constantly keep reminding ourselves is that Kasab is not the point in the debate that is emerging. The point is the soul of the Indian population. The point is not what we can or will do to Kasab, or what he deserves. The point is what will become of us after he is gone. The attempt of the criminal mastermind is to breed bad blood between peoples. Thus either Kasab, or the forces that sent Kasab on his mission, intended that there be tension and escalating violence between the people of
It is true that we have to deal with Kasab one way or the other. The way the system operates is to punish him. If one is thinking of punishment, and the inclination is towards death, then allow me a suggestion. The suggestion is that of social death. Let his name be struck from the records and his name never be spoken again. The violence he wreaked will not be mentioned, his efforts will have been in vain. At the same time, let us reach out to those who have been impacted by the violence he and his colleagues effected. In doing so we will strengthen the bonds of loving brotherhood that reputedly make
The Jews have constructed a history of thousands of years of suffering. And yet, as the Robert of the film
(First published in the Gomantak Times, 12 May 2010)