The unthinking and emotional Indian

Published: September 21, 2013
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The writer is a columnist. He is also a former editor of the Mumbai-based English newspaper Mid Day and the Gujarati paper Divya Bhaskar 
aakar.patel@tribune.com.pk

The writer is a columnist. He is also a former editor of the Mumbai-based English newspaper Mid Day and the Gujarati paper Divya Bhaskar aakar.patel@tribune.com.pk

In India, the demand for death to convicts ensues from a desire for vengeance, not justice. This is a sign of a primitive society and we must accept that educated Indians are not exempt from the feeling. It would not be incorrect to say that some of the more savage solutions for curbing crime originate from them.

In our part of the world, lynching is not uncommon and it is acceptable by the public to wound or kill those who offend by stealing or misbehaviour. This is also a product of that same desire for vengeance and the emotion is felt strongly and collectively.

The crowd takes offence even when it is not the victim and feels entitled to join in handing out punishment. Mobs form dangerously quickly in the subcontinent and carry with them a primitive like-mindedness which makes them lethal.

This attitude extends to politicians and political parties who legislate law against such behaviour but are helpless before their emotions. An example is the incident in 2005 when a former minister, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Ravishankar Prasad, was shot in the arm by a man, Munna Rai, on a stage during a rally. The BJP men on the stage battered Rai, who died from his injuries.

The BJP is generally a good representative of India’s unthinking and angry middle class. It believes in and reflects the position of the mob and its leaders from LK Advani to Sushma Swaraj have long insisted on the death penalty for rapists. Crime can be solved by the state’s killing of as many criminals as possible in this view and the desire to want criminals killed comes from that sense of feeling personally wounded.

A parallel phenomenon is the coming together of middle-class groups who show up at protests against violent crime. These are not identified as being mobs, because they are immediately less violent, but they actually remain equally savage in their intent. Their demands are things such as hanging and castration.

After the conviction of those accused in the infamous case of rape and murder in Delhi, CNN reported: “The same crowd outside the courthouse that cheered the death sentence for the four adults turned their ire on the juvenile. The crowd chanted, ‘Hang the juvenile.’”

My beat as reporter was in the sessions court and I can say from experience that judges are drawn from society and feel its prejudices and emotions. We have a strange qualifier for the death penalty. It is only to be invoked in cases that are ‘rarest of rare’. But it is difficult to explain or understand what this means and why one murder is different from another. Writing in Mint, my friend the abolitionist Yug Mohit Chaudhry, wrote: “In the Bachan Singh case (1980), five judges of the Indian Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty. At the same time, they severely limited its use and held that the death sentence can only be given in the rarest of rare case where the alternative option of life imprisonment was ‘unquestionably foreclosed’, where there are no mitigating circumstances and where evidence on record eliminates the possibility of the convicts’ reformation. Youth, a quintessential indicator of the potential for change and reform, was recognised as a mitigating circumstance and the court explicitly stipulated that, “If the accused is young or old, he shall not be sentenced to death.” He continues: “What purpose does the death penalty serve? There is no evidence that it deters murder more than imprisonment for life. In fact, evidence shows the contrary. Hanging a few rapists will not make the streets safer for women or make them more secure in their own homes. It will, however, camouflage governmental apathy and provide a much needed distraction from the core issues of women’s safety. It will allow politicians to say that they are tough on crime against women and get away without doing anything at all to address the causes of such crime. It will also allow us to vent out righteous indignation and then rest content with the misogyny around us. It is not surprising therefore that most feminists oppose the death penalty for crimes against women.”

This is true. It is the unthinking and emotional Indian who sees a solution in death.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2013.

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Reader Comments (23)

  • Ali
    Sep 22, 2013 - 12:35AM

    author only deserve to happy pakistani both are in the same page.

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  • LalaGee
    Sep 22, 2013 - 12:40AM

    India has woken up..It’s people have woken up…..The Indian Middle class dont want the KHAN-Gress or CON-gress in the next election…we are not emotional….but we will fight for betterment of country…we people want to be an example to rest of the world…..the point mr. aakar patel is that when common people come to roads…they can bring the govt on its knees…u will soon see the death of that juvenile and many more who commit crime in coming days….India is changing because its people are changing…we are not going to tolerate any kind of terrorism or ruthless crime committed by anyone…I ould urge paki’s also to stand against there govt for releasing terrorists as they may be a threat to pakis in future..Hope ET publishes…

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  • BlackJack
    Sep 22, 2013 - 1:05AM

    This unthinking and emotional Indian is also the frustrated and disappointed Indian. He/ she would not be standing on the streets baying for the blood of a juvenile if law and order were better managed. It is true that certainty of punishment serves as a much stronger deterrent to crime than merely increasing the penalty, but in today’s India (where terrorists walk out of custody – read yesterday’s papers), this is a pipe dream. Mr. Patel needs to try and understand why people are demanding extreme punishment – their bloodthirstiness is the symptom and not the disease. Also interesting to see how some obscure tale of violence from Ravi Shankar Prasad’s rally seems to stay top-of-mind, while the Congress party’s display of ahimsa from 1984 receives no mention.

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  • C. Nandkishore
    Sep 22, 2013 - 1:18AM

    I agree completely. We are unthinking and we are emotional. If you want proof read the comments in Times of India and The Economist. Both these papers have a policy of no moderation.
    We lynch because we have a herd mentality. We have a herd mentality because we are cowards. To be different requires courage. We do not have courage. We refuse to have courage. Example: A derivative of courage is responsibility. How many of us search for excuses to avoid taking responsibility.
    Participate in the following: ET carries opeds by a number of people. Adjectives indicate emotions. Just correlate the number of avoidable adjectives in a column and the depth of the column.

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  • manish rohera
    Sep 22, 2013 - 1:38AM

    for the first time i agree with aakar that death penalty is not an answer people celebrating somebody’s death is not uncommon(not all but some Pakistanis and Indians are prime example of this) it’s basic human nature of vengeance but the bigger question is of juvenile act even i believe that the mind of a criminal should be the real definition of juvenile but one has to understand the complexities this will lead to in other laws hence the definition should be restricted to gruesome crimes of rapes and murder and even i agree that death for these accused of these criminals was the right decision because of the sheer in-human nature of the crime but would like it to be kept for rarest of rare ones

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  • Parvez
    Sep 22, 2013 - 2:09AM

    …….the demand for death to convicts ensues from the desire for vengeance, not justice.
    Could it not ensue from the logic of the saying ‘ that justice must not only be done but must more importantly be seen to have been done ‘. In countries like ours where the credibility of the governing system is doubtful, can you in all honesty blame the people for this demand.
    My view is that the death penalty should stand and be used extremely carefully.

    I missed the need for linking of the topic at hand with the BJP……..it appeared forced and somewhat generalised.

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  • SanGuySri
    Sep 22, 2013 - 3:22AM

    For a change , AP has written a sensible article – one that makes the reader contemplate.

    I do however take exception to him charectirizing BJP as “good representative of India’s unthinking and angry middle class”. The rape of Nirbhaya was an highly reprehinsible act and death penalty in that case is justified. This was not an act under the influence of drugs but a pre-planned and deliberate act. I do not think psych eval and psychological treatment is needed for the perpetrators and DP should be awarded to them on the same lines of the Ranga/Bill murder case. Not only rapists but also mass murderers who commit acts of terrorism should be hanged after due process of law. Justice must be swift and exemplary. The notion that hanging the rapists would not deter other potential perpetrators in my view is fallacious. If people are made aware of serious penalty including life terms and death they would think thrice before commiting an act that attracts such a penalty.

    No Indian has asked for hanging of Sanjay Dutt but the perpetrators of Nirbhaya Rape and Bombay blasts/Parliament attack(Ajmal Kasab/Afzal Guru) should be hanged. So should naxalites who kill and maim innocent citizens.

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  • Arzoo
    Sep 22, 2013 - 3:37AM

    Philosophers, critical thinkers, and sometimes writers, by their views on societal norms and trends, serve as a magnifying mirror in which we can see ourselves; warts and all. In this article Mr. Patel has touched on an aspect of our South Asian psyche that needs a closer introspection.

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  • Arzoo
    Sep 22, 2013 - 3:43AM

    I feel the necessity to add to my earlier comment that Aaker Patel’s comments will draw the ire of the usual suspects who would read unintended motives in his views in this article; but represent a courageous stand on his part nonetheless.

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  • Water Bottle
    Sep 22, 2013 - 5:36AM

    “In India, the demand for death to convicts ensues from a desire for vengeance, not justice. This is a sign of a primitive society and we must accept that educated Indians are not exempt from the feeling.”

    Well said. Agree and I will go one step further to say that we don’t have a right to imprison a fellow human being also. But my question to you is, who decides what is right and what is wrong?

    When Katju said, Indians are idiots, we rose against him. Indians are indeed idiots.

    I was in Delhi during the peak of Anna Hazare movement. On a intersection that joins Janpath with Connaught place, a gang of activists(?!) on motor cycle had to stop for signal. They shouted slogans while I looked on. They got angry that I was not shouting their slogan in their nonsensical activism.

    These are the people who would bribe their way out of difficult situations. These are the people who cheat on taxes. Yet they have the gall to shout anti-corruption slogans. They anger against me was just rubbish.

    When it comes to punishing the rapists, we have to consider the fact that perhaps imprisoning a person is worse than killing him. If we argue that we have no right to kill a human being, we also have to argue that we have no right to imprison a human being. If you take away morality and just look at from Indian law’s POV, then both are perfectly valid. Or should a rape convict be raped in return?

    If you know a definite answer to these questions, then you are liar.

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  • Anusha
    Sep 22, 2013 - 6:29AM

    i think our supreme court should consult MR..Aakar patel ,,,when giving punishments for the perpetrators!!!,,it is better for u to join in the congress,,,and i hope u will reach the top 2nd position with ur congress loyalty,,bcoz first position is for gandhi dynasty!!!!so all the best for ur career!!!!! (it is from angry young indian middle class lady)!!!

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  • vasan
    Sep 22, 2013 - 6:56AM

    I beg to differ Mr Patel. The death penalty in the Delhi case is not for rape but for the brutality and murder, I think it is more of cleansing the society. I agree that the society in its entirety is not going to change to holy cows by one death penalty. But even if the death sentence deters 10, 5, 3 or even one murderer/brutal animal, (I am sure it does) it is worth the punishment. Dont you think that mothers of young children will take some more care in their upbringing to some extend atleast by the publicity and punishment,. Dont u think that is worth it. What are the alternatives? Passing laws endlessly and fighting aimlessly in Indian courts for a lesser punishment to see that the rapists come out on bail and threaten the victims ? Dont u see many examples all around including the ex DGP showing victory sign after coming out of prison/trial.

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  • ModiFied
    Sep 22, 2013 - 7:41AM

    Will author suggest the punishment for rapists and murderers? If not death penalty then what ? How about chopping off the genitals of rapists under full anesthesia? “Na Rahega Baans, na bajegi bansuri.”.. What do you say? How come human rights of rapists become so dear to many pseudo ;liberals and not of the victims ?

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  • mahakaalchakra
    Sep 22, 2013 - 7:44AM

    In principle I agree with Akar Ahmed Patel. However one has to see the nature and viciousness of crime.

    According to the police charge sheet, the Juvenile (whose nick-name did not reflect his religion) had subjected the 23 year old victim to rape twice, once even when she was unconscious. He extracted her intestine with his bare hands, inserted iron rods in her private parts and suggested she be thrown off the moving vehicle devoid of her clothes.

    This bast*rd has been declared by Indian justice system as juvenile. He is 17 and half years old. He is capable of raping and murdering, an adult-crime but not able to face the charges as adult. He is most likely to set free in 2 years in a juvenile court and come out to rape another woman. Where is the justice? Castration is not a bad idea for such criminals.

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  • Gratgy
    Sep 22, 2013 - 9:26AM

    Perhaps the best example of mob mentality was the 1984 Delhi anti sikh riots conducted by congress goons

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  • Shiv
    Sep 22, 2013 - 11:09AM

    Indians could be more emotional than rational; this is not new. The whole sub continent suffers from this malady. However, how the BJP became a repository of such irrational characteristics beats me. Statistically, this grain has to be evenly spread in a large population. Even the author suffers from this characterictic and he is not from the BJP.

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  • Genius
    Sep 22, 2013 - 12:07PM

    Here is what a journalist wrote about “The unthinking and emotional.”
    It was a time when people were out in the streets in major towns and cities of both the East and West Pakistan expressing their dissatisfaction against the continued dictatorial and oppressive rule of Ayyub Khan.
    The journalist was a roadside observer of such a procession in Dhakah. He heard people chanting “Cholbay nai, cholbay nai” (will not work, will not work). In West Pakistan the people would chant “Laathee dunday key sirkar naheen chulaygee” (the oppressive rule will not work).
    The journalist being a bit perplexed got hold of one person out of the Dhakah crowd and asked him “Key cholbay nai ?” (what will not work?).
    That unthinking and emotional person replied ” I do not know what will not work. I am raising the slogan just because others are doing the same.”

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  • Naveen
    Sep 22, 2013 - 12:29PM

    The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser men so full of doubts- Bertrand Russell

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  • manishj
    Sep 22, 2013 - 12:59PM

    Its a very common argument against death penalty that there is no clinching evidence that it stops crimes. But at the same time can we say that tying to reform these criminals will lead to reduction in crime? If this was the case, why do we see many criminals going back to their old ways after serving their sentence for previous crimes. There are enough and more attempts are made to reform criminals in Jails but they don’t seem to work.

    Although the death penalty does not guarantee reduction in crime directly, but if the punishment is accorded swiftly it can set a precedence and may deter others from committing such crimes.

    Another arguments is that severe and swift punishment does help in controlling crime. Two examples are there for everyone to see. Militancy in Punjab reduced to non existent levels when Police became harsh in dealing with criminals. Many hardcore terrorists were gunned down mercilessly and that helped. another example is that of Mumbai, where the underworld was kept in check by eliminating the hangs ruthlessly. I know its not the right way but it worked.

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  • harkol
    Sep 22, 2013 - 3:27PM

    Mr Patel:

    What purpose does the death penalty serve?

    Just one – It eliminates the possibility that as a tax payer I keep paying for the food and welfare of a murderer/terrorist.

    I don’t mind my tax money being used for correcting an individual who accidentally committed a crime (like man-slaughter in anger or negligence etc). Or those who committed a crime that isn’t heinous.

    But, to expect mercy for folks who didn’t show mercy to others or to habitual offenders is to put a burden on society. It is best that society eliminates them.

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  • Sam
    Sep 22, 2013 - 10:27PM

    India’s unthinking and angry middle class – to which class does this Author belong to? Is he the Uneducated, mentally imbalanced, carrying hatred, cannot see reason, prejudiced, gets attention only because he is anti Modi? The fact that he cannot write even 1 positive for Modi, shows his real class.

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  • Lalit
    Sep 23, 2013 - 7:04PM

    some people have made a living out of Modi bashing,and the author is one among those.is’nt it strange that a master administrator like Modi provides employment to his not so wellwishers.

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  • antanu
    Sep 23, 2013 - 10:35PM

    @Ali:
    Where does [Pakistan comes into this…its an article about the contradictions in our society…..but you feel to be so obsessed with pakistan that bring it into everything…and i thought only pakistanis were obsessed by india.

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