While India seethed with anger at the brutal rape, murder and burning of a veterinarian in Hyderabad, the police began its inquiry and caught the four men accused of this heinous, masochistic crime. It is understandable how the public sentiment and the plight of the affected family can move even the coldest of hearts; but the nation, albeit an allegorical mother figure, is a democratic entity and stands for justice, human rights, and observance of the due process of the law. When four days after this incident, the Hyderabad police suddenly became the apple of the nation’s eye, it was because in a subtle way it had ominously hinted at the downward trajectory of the virtues that define our nation. They took the accused to the crime scene which gave the latter an opportunity to seize police weapons and attack them with sticks and stones to weaken their alacrity. This supposed scuffle resulted in a chance encounter that erupted into nationwide applause for the bravado shown by these “scions of justice”. What actually happened remains buried with the accused and while Bollywood films have always celebrated such acts of heroism that dish out justice faster than pizza deliveries, the cheers sound the death knell of our well-structured justice system. Social media messages, post the macabre event, lauded the move comparing it with the brutality practised in Saudi Arabia. But this again circles us back to the fact that we are a democracy and every person has a right to justice and representation before the court of law. The worst of terrorists availed this right in our country and it does not project leniency, but simply an efficient use of the ability of discretion we have been bestowed as a result of evolution. We do not arbitrarily hang all accused criminals but provide them with a chance to prove their innocence and countless innocents have thanked their stars for being able to get this chance. While this system of hanging all rapists, paedophiles and other such criminals seem like a great way to purge society of all evil, numerous innocents also face the axe in the process. Every life, says our constitution, is important, but if a mobocracy that operates through lynching and immediate justice persist, can we ensure that karma strikes the right men and women?
The flip side of the coin can also not be overlooked. A staggering judiciary with internal conflicts and an unchecked problem of under-appointments cannot be held up to the challenge of restoring order in this milieu of declining moral and ethical standards. People will be scared and women will fear for their lives. The Middle East with its instant hangings and public amputations do seem like a cheerful thought when the anarchy harks us back to Hobbes’ rule of force and muscle (in this era, money), and we wish to catch a break. Delhi, Unnao, Hyderabad- North, south, east, west- every person of every lingual background cries for justice that nowadays has only reduced the afflicted families to migration of the “upholders of law”. It is important to understand what the public demands. It demands safety and the insurance that no other “daughter” of this nation shall suffer like those many brave yet hapless women did. They want justice to set such a strong example so as to deter the many perverts who might be unabashedly leching women even as the trials of many of these beasts are taking place in the nation. The demand for instant action is actually a call for “stringent” action because the trials have dragged on enough. The spirit is not wrong, it is simply clamouring desperately for whatever little rope of hope it can hold onto while the wall of the nation is crumbling around it. The spirit of the nation wants to be reassured that this “polity” still exists.
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The two sides of the coin are essential to chart out a process that shall lead to the prevention of such bestial acts in future. But at the same time, let us remember that we are merely brainstorming in the comfort of our homes and offices and voicing our fears, but the survivors and their families including that of the Hyderabad victim are experiencing reality. it is visceral for them and while we may debate and jostle on the law, we can never forget that no amount of empathy can begin to understand their plight. It will not be wrong to accept that it is justified for them to cheer this act. It gives them the slight satisfaction of revenge. The law doesn’t function on revenge, but the ones experiencing such dastardly acts of inhumanity are not above such a desire. The sooner we accept this, the better we shall become at countering and even altogether blocking the execution of such ineffable acts in the country. The secret lies in understanding while debating this with humanity.