Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mischievous Forwards

I got many forwards after the attack on Christians began in Orissa. The immediate forwards emphatically talked about how tolerant and secular Hindu India is, how tolerant India is ‘cos Indian culture is Hindu culture. They pointed out that India has had Muslim Presidents, Christian Defence Ministers, a Muslim on the board of trustees of a Hindu temple, Muslim chief ministers, that post Godhra riots are blown out of proportion while Hindu pundits predicament in J&K is soft pedaled, that subsidy is given to Haj pilgrims while none to Sabarimala pilgrims, that Muezzin calls are permitted, and how 85% of Indians – the majority population- craves for what 15% gets. This and more. Much more. I don’t contest any of these. In fact, I agree with every claim and am proud to belong to a model secular state.

But I did not forward these forwards as requested. I deleted them instantly.

And then another set of forwards started burdening my inbox. This time they listed out the number of Christian Churches destroyed, details of people who lost lives and property in the anti Christian riots; they pointed out that there is no relief organized for xians in refugee camps and that xians organizations are not allowed relief operations while they were most active & effective during the Orissa floods; they highlighted how 15 million students of all castes and creeds pass thru xian educational institution every year-but the percentage of conversion is nil. They talked of how there are laws in place against fraudulent conversion, but no cases of false & fraudulent conversion were filed or proved. This and more. Much more. I don’t contest any of these. In fact, I agree with every claim and am proud to belong to the Christian community.

But I did not forward these forwards as requested.I deleted them instantly

For I believe that the net should not be used to polarize the nation. It amounts to serious misuse.

Speaking the truth but not the whole truth, then interpreting them to inflame passions – that’s mischievous. I do not want to be a party to this virtual propaganda which is doing no good to this beautiful nation that is mine.

Let's use the cyber space in a responsible manner.

Jai Hind.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

How Come My Face Remained Intact

I remember it was a Saturday during the Gulf war ‘cos my brother and I were discussing over breakfast how permitting the US warplanes to refuel in India amounted to a shift in India’s Foreign Policy and might tempt Saddam Hussein to direct his Scud missiles towards India. After breakfast, my brother retired to the guest room which was a level lower than rest of the apartment, and I went into the kitchen to cook for the week.

The maid came in and went straightaway to the narrow space in the far end of the kitchen to do the dishes while I put the pressure pan on the stove with moong dal in it. Then I thought I’ll watch the morning movie for a few minutes and settled down in the reclining chair. I must have remained there for fifteen to twenty minutes when it suddenly struck me that the pressure pan hadn’t whistled. So I got up quickly and went into the kitchen. What I saw then was one of the strangest sights I’d ever seen.

The pressure pan was shaking like a space rocket about to take off. And then, it really did take off!! It raised itself up slowly from the gas stove, went up a couple of feet ever so slowly and then took a right turn. By now it was out of the kitchen platform.

If I had any sense in my head, I’d have run for my life, for I’ve always been told that a pressure cooker or pan which indulges in strange behaviour is the most dangerous thing on earth. But this strange inexplicable phenomenon fascinated me and I went forward towards it, spell bound by the pan suspended in the air and shaking and moving as though it had a life of its own. And my maid – strange woman that she is – was blissfully unaware of the phenomenal event that was happening next to her. She kept at the dishes, singing the latest Malayalam hit song out of tune.

And then it happened. The weight of the pressure cooker came off the nozzle like a bullet and whizzed past my head (it missed my head by the skin of the teeth), crashed into the wall, bringing down a huge chunk of the plaster off the wall. The minute the weight left the pressure pan, the dal in the pan (thoroughly cooked) started spurting out at the speed of light, at my face and head through the nozzle; and the pan crashed to the floor with a deafening explosive sound. The pressure pan then started spinning like a top at full speed on the floor while I looked down at it with fascination, and continued to be sprayed with the yellow cooked dal.

The maid, in the meanwhile, had run to the end of the kitchen and clung to the wall, her song turning into a wail. The pressure pan rotating at high speed on the ground, soon began to slow down while, like an idiot totally devoid of common sense, I stood over it, fascinated - and continued to be sprayed with dal coming out of its nozzle. Hearing a sound, I turned my head to the entrance of the kitchen and saw my brother standing there, eyes popping out of his face (like Jim Carey’s in Mask. 0ops! forgive the anachronism) and his jaw dropping incredibly low ( like Carey’s again but without its manipulative power). He had rushed to the kitchen to grab me and run out of the house. He thought Saddam’s scud missile had targeted Kochin! That was when he saw me with the yellow stuff plastered on my face and head, and simply couldn’t make out what had happened.

Soon the neighbours from the ground floor and the adjacent houses started shouting out to us from the compound, wanting to know what had happened. None of them had the courage to come up to find out for themselves. They later told us that they thought that the gas cylinder had exploded and were looking out for fire and smoke and panicky screams.

Ok. Once I came to my senses, I found my own solution to the mystery of the pressure pan taking off as though it had a will of its own. I knew enough physics to know that the pressure trapped in the pan and which was trying to escape weighed more than the pan itself. They say this can happen when you cook dal in a pressure pan.

But how come my face did not have burn injuries? With all that cooked liquid dal spraying at my face straight from the pan at boiling point? Unless someone gives me an explanation, I shall continue to believe that it had everything to do with this habit of mine for years, of waking up in the morning with the words: “God, protect my near and dear ones and me from all dangers, diseases and evil”

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Globalisation Of Higher Education

(Leafing through an old College Magazine, I came across this article I'd contributed. Thought I'll post it , 'cos I still hold the same views. Read on, if you have the patience. It's long, I warn you)

Some time back I attended a seminar on Higher Education vis a vis Globalization. A premier educational institution in the state had hosted it. The two-day seminar proved to be a very disturbing experience. It was revelation of how rhetoric can take a right about turn before our very eyes without us noticing it.

The meeting began with chief convener’s introductory speech on the ‘higher education Sector’. Yes, like public sector, private sector, energy sector, heavy vehicle sector, we now have higher education sector! Like all “sectors”, we have the producer, the stakeholder, the consumer, the commodity, profit and loss, and the eye ever straying to the bottom line!

During the entire course of the two-day seminar, no one spoke the social problems thrown up by globalization. No one spoke of the implications of globalization in a developing country like India. No one spoke of marginalization as an inevitable fall out of globalization. Not a word about formulating a Higher Education policy with the agenda to deal with the inevitable creation of a section of humanity that is likely to fall by the way side in the new order. No one had anything to say about redefining the function of higher education in India against the backdrop of the mammoth human crisis thrown up by the implementation of the triple slogan of liberalization, privatization and globalization.

But discuaaions revovled around the possibility of churning out youngsters capable of starting off with six-figure salary. God, when did this reduction of Higher Education to an industry take place? Needless to say, one does often see the product selling style of marketing education in the newspapers and at educational exhibitions. But this seminar was a platform provided by an institution which once took pride in giving leadership in inculcating social values though education; and to hear education being discussed in the language of trade and commerce alone, in paper after paper, by speaker after speaker – well , it came as something of a shock; it becomes hard to digest the fact that within the hallowed portals of this institution, all those noble thoughts associated with higher education were conspicuous by their absence, and education was allowed to be equated to mere technical expertise!

The modus operandi was interesting. Politicians and bureaucrats with their own axes to grind stole the show with their grand eloquence. While the minister waxed eloquent on his grand plan of transforming Kerala into an IT savvy state which can throw up that much valued human commodity for export, one bureaucrat spat fire and brimstones, and in high astounding terms spoke of the magnificent castles in the air that children should be taught to build, because in this cyber age these castles need no longer remain airy ones.

The outcome of the two-day programme was the ratification of the theory that mass production of highly competent professionals was the ultimate aim of higher education. All the teachers from the various colleges who came to attend the seminar were mesmerized by the sight and sound of the celebrities. No protests were raised from dissenting quarters for fear of being branded or ridiculed. Creation of individuals sensitive to human issues, social responsibilities of education -I shudder to think of the ripples of merriment that the very suggestion of these concepts would have generated in that charged atmosphere.

The papers presented by participating teachers dealt with the nature of higher education, the methods of teaching in the context of the IT revolution, globalization etc, etc. Excellently researched papers and well presented. But no one had anything to say of steering education, both higher and lower into a direction that would take the students in to the heart of terrible human issues that India of this century is bound to be beleaguered with on account of the inevitable course of liberalization that she had to take. No effort was made to enlighten this elite gathering of intellectuals on the danger of the chosen mode of development. No one drew attention to the deliberate and systematic attempts by the consortium of global corporates, to condition tastes and norms in order to successfully commodify cultures, women, poverty, everything. No mention of the need for a game plan to create a discerning mind in the younger generation in order to enable them to see through the discourse that assaults them from all sides. No word of caution against neo colonialism. Instead, all such fears were dismissed with celestial contempt as quixotic shadow boxing.

The seminar was a terrifying experience. If guardians of the high values of education speak this language and discard the other, it is time for genuine worry as to where civilization is headed. At that seminar, a silent consensus was arrived at on the definition of higher education as a tool for creation of human commodities for survival in the new order where many are bound to go under. After all isn’t that the law of nature, the survival of the fittest ? And social values are man made not nature’s or God’s, aren’t they?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Delhi Blasts - On Treating the Disease

I know a group of people whose refrain after each series of bomb blasts is “Narendra Modi - that’s what the country needs”.

I strongly disagree with them. The effectiveness of every action should be judged by its long term results. Did the state engineered post- Godhra riots rid Gujarat of terror attacks? Most certainly not. In fact Gujarat, unfortunately, seems to figure on the hit list of terrorists, if one is to go by the turn of events since Godhra.

There was a time when I seriously thought that if BJP could discard communal politics, it would be a welcome change from the Congress which has grown into an effete political force on account of compulsions of coalition politics and appeasement policies. But after the communal riots in Orissa and now Karnataka (BJP ruled states), BJP at the centre is an absolute no no. The BJP ruled states believe in denying space to non majority groups. That denial, it appears, is to be achieved by elimination in installments. Hardly an ideal situation in a pluralistic democracy like India. One does not cease to be an Indian simply because she/he is a Christian or Muslim.

I suppose, in this context, it is necessary to talk about the code of conduct of minorities in a secular political set up. If conversion by allurements by Christian missionaries is practiced, it should be stopped. Gurumurthy recently wrote a piece in The New Indian Express on the Orissa riots, laying all the blame at the door of Christian missionaries who converted the Panas(an SC community) and turned them against the Kandas ( a Scheduled Tribe community) who did not get converted to Christianity. Now, how much of truth there is in this claim is a matter of dispute, for, Gurumurthy has a remarkable capacity of twisting facts and figures out of shape to rationalize his Hindutva agenda ( . But if we are to give credence to the proverbial wisdom that there is no smoke without fire, this matter needs to be investigated. If there is some truth in what Gurumurthy says – that conversion is setting tribes against each other – the issue needs to be taken seriously and addressed. And addressed by Christian groups who must take a decision not to indulge in unethical conversions by dangling attractive compensations for conversion. So also the Muslim community. The leaders should do some serious thinking on how Islam could be fitted harmoniously into the Indian cultural setting. But, most importantly, the minority groups should not indulge in anything that offends the sensibilities of the majority group. I think the former owes that much to the latter who have been infinitely tolerant of differences. The Minority Rights should not to exercised in any way that is detrimental to the peace and harmony of a secular society

I look back with nostalgia at the days when one did not have to be apologetic about belonging to a minority religion. I’m not talking of some remote past but a past in Kerala, very much present in my memory. On several occasions, I have been embarrassed by my friends whom I knew as my classmates in the seventies, telling me that I survive in India with no rights denied cause of the goodness of Hindus. I do not question this but there was a time when we took each other for granted, never saw ourselves as Hindus or Christians or Muslims but as friends and Indians.

Is it possible to recapture those days? A disease can be rooted out and cured only if the diagnosis is proper. It is imperative that representatives from all creeds in India sit together, admit mistakes, make earnest promises to change and take a solemn oath that “we are Indians first”.

Or India will be broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Women's Liberation - Kudumbashree Shows the Way

Saw an interesting picture in the newspaper today – a women’s pancharimelam team from a Kudumbasbsree unit welcoming the Health Minister Ms P. K. Sreemathi to the Tourism and Trade Fair.

It was an extremely pleasing sight. So different from the usual thalapoli walk comprising ladies dolled up in traditional Kerala sarees, looking pretty and walking ‘gracefully’, thereby endorsing the age old image of woman as an ornament, a seductress, the creature whose very rationale for existence is to bring joy and fulfillment to the man, the family and society – the frames into which are fitted the devadasi, the gazal dancer, the courtesan.

I don’t think these entrenched images have changed fundamentally in any part of the world. I was disappointed to see Michelle Obama dancing - for the white female electorate, was it? I would have liked to see her doing something more relevant to the role of the would–be consort to the most powerful man in the world – it’d appear that dancing and charming are only the roles that suit her, the woman. A President’s wife or a janitor’s wife, the story is the same.

Surely women are capable of less frilly roles too. The kudumbasree is a superb example of that. The cities of Kochin and Trivandrum would stink and be a breeding a ground for life threatening microbes if not for the fantastic service rendered by the kudumbasree in waste removal. Where the corporation and the municipality have failed, the kudumbashree has stepped in. It is the awakening and experience of the women power – sthree sakthi - that is seen in this picture where the kudambasree women chose to welcome the minister, not with thalapoli but with drums that are always associated with the strong, male of high utility value.

It’s time that women from the more privileged classes too made conscious efforts to break themselves free from these controlling images brewed long years back in the cauldron of patriarchal values. That liberation can come only when they experience the self esteem that the kudumbashree enjoys, a self esteem that is born of a realization that women can address and tackle not only women’s social and economic problems as they do, but also those of the society. The innovative self help banking system that they follow, their success in turning society’s problems into opportunities for themselves and service to the society, have enhanced their sense of independence and self esteem.

Which, I guess is why they didn’t line up in the Kerala kasavu sarees, holding thalipolis and walking seductively.

This reminds me to a function I attended in Florida sometime back. The Malayalee teenaged girls donned the kasavu saree, loaded their heads with jasmine flowers and walked up the aisle with the talapolis. What struck me was the most ‘unladylike’ movement of these young girls who had spent all their lives in Levis and Bermuda shorts. It looked awkward to me at first, particularly when one of them, impatient with the saree getting in the way, kept on hitching it up! But, as I watched them, I felt a certain sense of relief rising from deep within me. That ‘graceful’, seductive, annnanada(swan walk) is not something a woman is born with. It is imbibed from the air she breathes. Yes. No one is born a woman; she is made one.

I am not trying to say that these young teenagers are a liberated lot. Only, they have not been influenced by the Kerala concept of “how to be a lady” –at least, at that superficial level. As they weren’t trapped and trained in the ‘womanizing’ clothes, they hadn’t fallen victim to the images that control and shape the mind through the agency of the traditional attire.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Black Coffee and Milk - The Nazrani Obsession with Colour

I have always hesitated to write on the colour issue. But a comment from Silverine to my last post emboldened me. These youngsters, they are very courageous and often point out to you the road to be taken!

It was in the early seventies. I was, once, waiting for my friend in the parlour of a college hostel. Three ladies – all above fifty – came in and asked for Susan.
“Which Susan?” asked the parlour maid.
“A fair girl. Very fair”
The parlour maid nodded and disappeared.
One of the ladies recognized me.
“Aren’t you so & so’s daughter”
“What course are you doing?”
I told her. All of them got excited.
“Hey! Susan also is doing the same course, same year. Do you know her?’
They looked at each other, and then all of them, in unison. moved forward to the edges of their chairs and, in a conspiratorial tone, one asked. ”Is Susan beautiful?”
I remained silent. ‘Cos Susan was not my idea of beautiful.
“But I heard that she is very, very fair?”
“Yes. She’s milk white. That’s what we were told”. That in an accusing tone.
“Yes. She is milk white”, I agreed.
All of them looked relieved.
“So she must be beautiful”. Just then, in walked Susan and I saw all the three faces of the visitors go radiant with joy. Apparently they had come to take a peek at the girl proposed for a relative's son.

This Nazrani obsession with colour is inexplicable, particularly since there are some very very dark Nazranis too. And the similes used to describe colour are uniform across the tribe -”as dark as ebony” for the very dark, ‘milk white’ for the extremely fair. A husband wife team with one extremely fair & the other very dark is referred to as “black coffee and milk”. In the Trichur region, beauty is equated with skin colour. You can have a snub nose, thick oversized lips, buck teeth, mere slits for eyes but yet be beautiful if you are milk white. On the other hand, you can have finely chiseled features of a classic beauty and yet be “not really desirable for my son”.

In the seventies, when I was branded as belonging to the “incorrigible younger generation”, my group of friends (we considered ourselves modern & more enlightened than the rest of mankind) rebelled – in our private debates - against this colour obsession. The very fair was derogatively called ‘vella paatta” (white cockroach). Our relatives from Trichur, in their typical blunt manner dismissed this as a “sour grapes” approach.

I don’t think things have changed much even today. Each time parents inform us about the marriage of their sons, the first information is about the colour. And a light skinned girl always lends a lilt to the voice of the prospective in-laws. We often hear such statements as “she is so fair, yet they are demanding a fat dowry –and that too for that karamban”!

A couple of years back, I attended a social function in Trichur. I was caught in a group which was very excitedly discussing the effectiveness of Chakolas Fairness cream. How serious they were!
”You know Champaka? I saw her yesterday. She has changed a lot. Become soooooooo beautiful (read fair). I asked her what she did to herself. She is using Chackolas fairness cream”
“Really (four voices in unison-high pitched with excitement)
“Yeeeees. Pearl. Why don’t you ask your daughter to use it? After all she is of the marriageable age”
“As if my daughter isn’t fair enough”. Pearl indignantly.
“Don’t get me wrong Pearl. Of Course your daughter diamond is fair (Pearl smiles), but if she uses Chakola fairness cream, she will become fairer. If it has made Champaka fairer, it'll do miracles with Diamond?

Pearl looks happy. “Shall write to her immediately – Actually Bangalore has darkened her complexion - and these young girls, they are so careless about their colour. They are always in the sun. I ask her to carry an umbrella. She won’t. She says her friends will call her a mallu and tease her. But I have sent a sunscreen with 60%SPF and remind her every day to use it when she goes out. She is coming next week. Wonder (looks anxious) if she has become dark”.
“Yes, yes. These youngsters. They don’t realize that if they become dark, everything is over for them”.

That was when I realized that I better move out of that group before they ask me to try out Chakola’s Fairness Cream.

Shall conclude with a chota episode about my efforts to lighten my complexion. Succumbing to pressure from my dear ones, I went to a beauty parlour to get a facial done on the day before I was to attend a wedding in Trichur. I took my 5 year old son along as there was no one at home to baby sit. Not wanting to leave him alone in the lobby of the parlour, I took him along inside. Before the facial began, I talked to the beautician at length about the safety of using bleach on the face. She was a good talker and convinced me that bleaching is a must and will not harm my facial skin.

The next day, during the reception, I was making light conversation in the company of a large number of relatives when out of the blue, with no provocation whatsoever, my son announced loud and clear, for all the world to hear, that I'd put bleaching powder on my face the day before. Numb with horror, I kept mum. “Bleaching powder?” someone asked. “Yes, bleaching powder. I saw it, I saw it, I saw it, I saw her do it”. Then, angry that someone should question the veracity of his statement, he turned to me, and pointing his index finger at me, asked “Isn’t it true, amma? Am I not speaking the truth?”

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Nazrani Conundrum

Who are these Syrian Christians of Kerala. also known as Nazranis? Where did they come from? Who converted them?

A sudden identity crisis, it’d appear. But no. No crisis or loss of identity as far as I am concerned. It hardly matters to me whether my ancestors were Namboodiris, or Arabs or Red Indians or apes. I care two hoots about who converted my ancestors 20 centuries ago. It has no relevance to my existence today. And I think this holds true for most Nazranis.

Then why these queries?

I was casually going thru a book on Kerala history. A chapter titled “Kerala Polity and Life of the 16th & 17th Centuries” has a section on the Syrian Christians of Kerala, where it is stated that Christians were - - -well, read for yourself: 'The vast majority among them were vegetarians; rice, curry and milk being their main items of food. Beef eating had not come into vogue !!!!!!!!! (Exclamation marks mine).The Christians as a class were also not addicted to drinks during this period' !!!!!???? (Exclamation and question marks mine). You could have knocked me down with a feather! It is not just a common joke but also a practice that the Nazrani rushes to the meat shop after the Sunday mass. There is also some truth in the saying that he chooses the church which has a meat shop in the vicinity. And to think that he descended from vegetarian stock!

Ok. This bit of information drove me to the net to find out more about the “vegetarian” Syrian Christian. And there I came across a riot of contradictory opinions, views, theories. Most of them were presented with intense heat. The controversy revolves round the questions of the original caste of the Syrian Christians and about St. Thomas, the apostle having come to Kerala at all. The meat eating habit of the Syrian Christians was used as evidence for both groups to prove their points. I shall, for convenience, call these warring netizen groups the Naboothiri Origin Group (NOG) and the Non Namboothiri Origin Group (NNOG).

The NOG were less vociferous- either they did not feel the need to prove anything to anybody or they didn’t have evidence that’d hold water.

The NNOG -they go livid a t the very suggestions that Nazranis have Namboothiri (Kerala Brahmins) origins. Their proofs:
Brahmins migrated to Kerala only after the 4 century AD. How then could St. Thomas convert them in 1st century AD? How can a nonexistent group be converted? Mmmm. They have a point there.

The NOG counter this argument with a quote from A. Sreedara Menon that ‘the first batch of Brahmin immigrants came to Kerala in the 3rd century BC itself, immediately following the advent of the Jains and the Buddhists. It may be recalled that the period coincided with the Mauryan age in the history of North India when a conscious policy of acculturation or dissemination of “the superior material culture of the Gangetic basin” was pursued by the Mauryan State’. Well, there the NOG has a walking stick to lean on. When ST. Thomas came, the Brahmins were around to be converted.

But the NNOG swear that the Christians were beef eaters and Namboodiris, the Brahmins of Kerala who came from North India where the cow was worshipped did not eat beef. In fact, they claim, the beef eating communities in Kerala were ostracized by the Namboothris. Pre-empting the theory of western influence after the Portuguese efforts at latinization of Syrian Church in Kerala, NNOG vow that a centuries old cultural habit of beef abstinence cannot be changed overnight by laitinization.

Now, the NOG won’t take this lying down. Again they quote A. Sreedhara Menon that ‘The advent of the Aryan immigrants (post 4th century) brought about other significant social changes as well. There was a change in the dietary habits of the people. The use of beef and liquor which was common even among the Brahmins in the early Sangam Age now came to be looked upon as taboo. Those who used beef had now some social stigma attached to their class. The continued use of beef by the panes was perhaps one of the factors which brought about the decline of their social status’. So the NOG aver that the Brahmins too ate beef before the second wave of Brahmin migration, after which they gave it up while the Nazranis continued, as they were already Christians and there was no taboo attached to beef eating in the Christian way of life.

But NNOG insists that this is the clearest proof that the Nazranis are Panas converted and not Brahmin (Namboothiri)converts.

And thus the controversy rages on - --

While the Nazrani continues to eat beef. After all pedigree is no substitute for beef.

And so back to the questions: Who are these Syrian Christians? Where did they come from? Who converted them?

A humble simble group whose paternity cannot be traced?

Some of them, particularly from certain parts of Kerala, are a shade lighter in complexion than the average Malayalee. And so the plot thickens and adds substance to the theory or (oral tradition?) that the Nazranis have decended from the by blows of the Christian traders from Middle East or Rome or Greece.

If that is true, what a fall is there my dear fellow Nazranis. You and I and all of us fall down while theories and theories flourish over us!

My posts on Nazrani:;

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Death Penalty in a Civilised Society?

Amidst all the gloomy headlines that greet us everyday, was one with a difference. It went thus: IRAN TO SCRAP DEATH BY STONING. (The new Indian Express, Aug 7, 2008)

That was good news. Countries associated with draconian, hideous, ‘savage’ laws and penal measures are beginning to look at them from a humanitarian angle. But this set me thinking. Who or what is to decide what mode of execution is brutal enough to warrant the epithet “inhuman” or acceptable enough to earn the label ‘civilised”? Why is it that stoning to death creates a moral revulsion in us, the inhabitants of the so called modern, civilised, progressive, liberal society?

Public hanging, public beheading, crucifixion and stoning to death must have had, at the outset, an exemplary purpose, and as such are specifically devised to terrorise the onlookers into deterring them from committing similar crimes. The more brutal, the more it strikes terror in the hearts of the onlooker. For the victim of public execution, there is a denial of dignity in death which can be as painful as the pain of execution. Of these, perhaps stoning and crucifixion are a degree more cruel in terms of the duration of suffering involved in the slow death of the victim. In its actual modus operandi, being stoned in public and by the public is akin to lynching. The faceless fury of the mob adds an element of humiliation to the horror and pain of the punishment. Again, the right to dignity in death is denied.

To come to the query raised earlier, I guess it is the attitude to the criminal that forms the basis for branding the mode of administering capital punishment as human or inhuman. The traditional society(read non progressive, non liberal. noncivilized), holds the attitude that a person condemned to death, from whom has been stripped the right to existence, has no more claim to the rights enjoyed by the living men of the world he is about to leave behind. That world, it is believed, is under no obligation to respect the life and dignity of the condemned person. For, the criminal has forfeited all his rights as the member of the society the minute he commits a crime which warrants death penalty. He is like a dead man walking.

The modern state takes pride in respecting a person’s rights till the last living moment. Efforts are made to make death as painless as possible. The last wishes of the condemned person are respected and he is given a wholesome meal and access to religious solace before execution. But does all this make execution a pleasant experience, or the mode of administering the death penalty less brutal or primitive? Hanging or electric chair or lethal injection is no less obnoxious than the aforementioned methods. They do not enable the person to conquer the bitterness of death. Most certainly, we cannot use the term ‘civilized, to these modes of killing, or for that matter, any mode of killing. For killing – and that’s what Capital punishment is – is immoral, brutal and primitive. I would call all death penalty officialised/legitimized murder.

Capital Punishment is immoral and unethical. Who has a right to take away from another person his right to existence? No judge or jury or tribunal or court can appropriate the authority to condemn a human being to death. Period.

Death penalty is objectionable also on account of the flaws in the justice systems. No legal system is flawless. It is no impossible task to frame an innocent person with a crime deserving capital punishment. It can happen that the defence is unable to prove his innocence in the court of law. It is also possible that a guilty person can get away with murder in the existing system. In other words, the judicial systems of modern states are so ridden with loopholes that miscarriage of justice is a possible eventuality and a common enough happening. This being the case, the state must abolish capital punishment in order to obviate the possibility of an innocent person being deprived of life for a crime she/he did not commit.

Those who disagree can argue that capital punishment is a deterrent and is, therefore, necessary to reduce crimes. Well, I beg to disagree with that argument. From time immemorial, death penalty has been there - all over the world. But man has always killed and looted, and broken every commandment handed down to Moses – and he continues to do it.

Abolition of death penalty in every country in the world would be a major landmark in the human evolutionary process. For that would amount to the official abdication of the right of governments to violate the most fundamental of all human rights – man’s right to life and existence.

Have another post on this issue: