Monday, 30 January 2017

Capital punishment: Meant for the poorest of poor?

While I'm happy for Rajiv Gandhi killers getting a reprieve, however short it may be, I feel sorry for Dhananjay Chatterjee, the 55th convict to be hanged in independent India on August 14, 2004. If inordinate delay is a valid reason for the commutation of death sentence, why wasn't it applied in the case of poor Dhananjay? As a security guard in Calcutta, he brutally raped and killed a 14-year-old girl Hetal Parikh in 1991. But he'd to wait agonisingly for 13 years to be executed at Alipore gaol. Why? The simple reason being his abject poverty. Here in the case of these three killers, the government of Tamil Nadu is with them bolstered by public and organizational support. 

But no one cared for Dhananjay, who was hanged on circumstantial evidence, not based on DNA tests. It's now almost confirmed that humane President Abdul Kalam hesitated to send him to the gallows, but for the then Attorney General of India, the late Milon Banerjee, who insisted that Dhananjay must be hanged. Dhanjay's painful wait in a condemned cell for 13 years didn't melt anyone's heart but the 'plight' of these three convicts, whose involvement in Rajiv's assassination is beyond doubt, is moving the hearts of all human rights activists and Tamils. This is sheer double standard and blatant discrimination. Why there're different rules for different people? Why only those who're poor have to kiss the ' hampen rope' (the rope used to hang a convict)? 

If you study the documented backgrounds of 19 executed convicts (there're no records of other hanged prisoners) in India since 1949 when Nathuram Godse and N D Apte were hanged at Ambala gaol, one finds that most of them were very poor and illiterate. The legendary Chief Justice of India Muhammad Karim Chhagla admitted in his autobiography, ' Roses in December ' that, ' Capital punishment in India is often meant for the poorest of poor.' Death rap itself is judicial retribution and a flagrant disregard of human dignity and the delayed implementation of it adds to the agony. In the countries, where capital punishment hasn't yet been abolished, the process from trial to execution is very rapid. Waiting's always a psychological torture, whether it's the waiting for one's beloved or for death. It's inhuman to keep someone on the tenterhooks for an indefinite period. Afzal Guru has been cooling his heels waiting to be hanged any day. There're so many on death row, who've been counting their days.

 Why doesn't India abolish capital punishment like most of the advanced and civilised European countries? Why're we still  so collectively hellbent upon punishing a person by eliminating him ? What pervert  pleasure do we all  get by killing a man at the wee hours in the presence of  a few macabre jail officials and a doctor, who confirms that the man's indeed dead by feeling his pulse and removing his hood? The whole thing's seriously disgusting. Isn't it sadistic, barbaric and a reminder of our pre-historic existence? No sane and sensible person can ever approve of capital punishment.         
                                            ----Sumit Paul 


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