Saturday, December 30, 2006

Postcards of the hanging...

... the circus is in town.

So Saddam has been executed. Various Indian politicians have slammed this, and the Indian government had previously opposed his execution.

Not on any principled grounds, mind you, but because it would obstruct the restoration of peace. But surely that's Iraq's internal affair?

The UK has every right to be upset: they abolished the death penalty long ago, and many people there are uncomfortable that Tony Blair was accessory to the execution, by being Bush's most consistent cheerleader. (Officially, it seems, the British Government was opposed to the execution but said it was a matter for the Iraqis.)

But what about India? We are not as noose-happy as the US or China, but nor have we renounced the death penalty. At this moment, Mohammed Afzal is awaiting execution for his role in the attack on parliament, and we are mired in a debate on whether he should be executed or not. The right wing says, yes, he deserves the ultimate penalty. Some on the left -- in particular, Arundhati Roy -- argue that his part was peripheral, much of the evidence was fabricated, and he had no proper legal representation. (Indeed, the courts dismissed the police's cases against two others, and reduced the sentence on a third, but were satisfied with the evidence against Afzal). Yet others, like Prem Shankar Jha, argue (as the Indian government and politicians now argue in Saddam's case) that Afzal's execution will worsen the Kashmir situation.

It seems to me that all of them are missing the larger question: should one support the death penalty or not? My opinion is clear: it's high time we got rid of it. Even in cases like Saddam's, where there's no doubt of his guilt, it would be useful to have him around simply because of what he knows. And in lesser cases, I don't think you have to be a believer in God to think that the accused's life is not yours to take away.

But if we in India want to retain the death penalty, and impose it in the case of Mohammed Afzal (and, earlier, Kehar Singh who was accused of nothing more than conspiracy), we have no grounds whatever to protest the hanging of Saddam, who was one of the worst killers of our times.

1 comment:

Space Bar said...

Agree with you: tie we got rid of the death penalty. And though it is always held in dubious taste to mention the word 'moral', I do believe we've no right to take away life. Not because it is sacred, but because if we oppose the taking away of human life, we should not be a party to it by institutionalising the meteing out of it.