Wednesday, August 29, 2012

In which she makes herself wildly unpopular

by refusing to participate in this revelry - so tasteless, so loud it hurts my eyes [can it, Baudelaire would know what I'm on about], ears and fingers - occasioned by the pronouncement upholding Kasab's death penalty. Let me state my position categorically, and then follow it up by trying to answer potential charges which might be levelled against anyone who, much like I do, holds these truths to be self-evident.

I don't hold with capital punishment. Sheesh, at this rate, this is going to be a damn tight, aphoristic little post (I've never done 'brief' well, as anyone who knows or has read me will know), so you're correct in assuming that there's more. Loads more. We still have to cover my incessant internal arguments - ah, the joys of having so many Harmonies to grapple with in this one lifetime - which see me alternatively baulk and physically cringe at injustices in every way, shape, and form; froth at the mouth with anger, despair and utter frustration at my own painfully obvious inability to 'fix' wrongs so much bigger than I, and dealing with the always conscious near-guilt of knowing that these things - losing someone in the attacks on Bombay or during the riots or the tsunami or insert-catastrophe-of-choice-here -  did not happen to me, which makes me analyse critically my  response to them and question whether I have the right to voice at all. I speak, therefore, for nobody but myself/selves, and dissociate from the wider debate on the politics of representation at play here. I try and put myself in those situations, and wonder if my - to some people's minds, perhaps - glib and self-righteous responses would not undergo a sea-change from pearl to bone, to reverse the bard's metaphor for time and what it can and cannot do to us, were I to be more, well, implicated, if you will. I can't, of course, give myself, or you as it happens, a definite answer on this front. I suspect the core of what I'm getting at - how I try and live my life - would mean that I'd still try and reconcile myself to this simple fact. Human life is arbitrary only in that it is something 'we' (and we only become 'we' post-facto, and can thus only formulate this in hindsight) didn't ask for. But we got it anyway. At which point, it is a moral imperative that we *not* - in no case. ever. - arbitrate that it be taken away. Also, what separates us, and this us~as~Indian State, from them (and you should know me well enough to know that this hated binary does NOT refer to any place or definite co-ordinate: it refers to the ideologies of hate that made certain people commit particular crimes)? They ravage. They destroy lives. Why can't we agree that this person, representative of these ideologies, is  heinous - indoctrinated/taken advantage of owing to his socio-economic position in the world's scheme of things though the case may be - but that we won't kill him, simultaneously? How can a country which came into being because an apostle of non-violence dreamed it - willed it, even - into existence still uphold a public and legislative morality which finds room in it for capital punishment?

And whence all this whooping and yelling for joy on bloody Facebook and other social media platforms, yo? The same jingoism you think is national spirit which leads you to post a "patriotic" song on Independence Day and then forget about your precious India for the rest of the year? If you don't live and breathe what it means to be a 'citizen' in the public sphere - whether it's on the roads, your local society, your ruddy university or workplace - every single minute of every single day, your creed is a hollow one, and I want none of it. What did you do when Bombay burned? How are you as invested as you seem to be in the death sentence passed on this idiot now?

You're going to say I'm callous. Or a left-wing-arm-chair-intellectual pontificating on something she hasn't 'experienced' and therefore does not have the right to talk about. Except, I do, you see. This, little, is my prerogative. I'm not keeping you here - I didn't bring you here either, you'll remember - so feel free to vent, be vituperative if you must, but really, just go away. Go celebrate. Leave me be to lament yet another wasted opportunity for us to show the world that we're more than the world's largest democracy; we're that much rarer and almost mythical beast, a humane one that values life. Even life lived badly.      


Anonymous said...

I don't agree to everything you've said here but there can be many schools of thoughts to the same thing, can't?

The narration is brilliant, and the last two paragraphs made me gasp ! why don't you pen down posts like these more often !

Harmony Siganporia said...

Of course. Many schools. Heck, not even all the Harmonies who live in my head agree with everything this composite 'I' says - they're constantly battling for control over my little brain. I'm glad you found something that resounded, though. I'd write more often if a) I felt I had something that needed saying, b) I weren't so dang lazy, and c)...erm, well. Yeah.

Mayank Chhaya said...

"How can a country which came into being because an apostle of non-violence dreamed it - willed it, even - into existence still uphold a public and legislative morality which finds room in it for capital punishment?"

That's a fair question but modern nation-states are built on exacting revenge as violently as individuals/ideologies, such as you do not name, provoke them to do by first inflicting violence.

The problem arises when one tries to make a distinction between individuals/ideologies and nation-states. More often than not, there is no difference.

Harmony Siganporia said...

Except there is. We might as well just roll over and play dead otherwise, because it's only a matter of time. And violence (large-scale) begetting violence (even in the end of one person) can't possibly be the answer. I didn't sign up for this.

Mathangi said...

I will not risk repeating everything you have said, and instead, just nod vigorously. I know what you mean and I wish I had more articulation at my disposal. But all I will say is this - history has given us numerous examples of the vengeance-like blood-thirsty instincts of individuals extending into the laws of State and we call this totalitarian/sovereign power. We can be allowed to beat our chests in anger, but we cannot ask our courts to become theaters of cruelty.

whitenoise said...

India has been criticised time and again for being soft. like we have had tons of attacks and what we have done is "NINDA", the hindi word which the politicians must get rid of soon becoz the aam janta doesnt believe in words anymore. So how do you save your citizens. maybe by killing terrorists when they are "about to kill someone". but if they are caught and prisoned then does killing them makes a lot of difference. In a way yes coz media wud cover it, people wud know the name of the terrorist, we will hype, etc. But if you leave them alive, its just an encouragement for further attacks. Its like giving an invite, "Hi, I am an indian jail. come attack my country and be my guest. The human rights would take care of u anyways and we will provide u accomodation." Why do i feel all the terrorists camped somewhere wud have a mighty laugh. Accept it terrorism knocks us down whenever it wishes to. "NINDA" is not the answer. I dont want to kill people. i am sure no one wants to. But its about telling the terrorists, we wont take u lightly.

newbie said...

I second Daaku's comment trumpeting your last two paragraphs, and, after pausing for a second - I even momentarily rejoice in the idea that we could have used this "opportunity" for us to show the world we're more than the world's largest democracy. But my mind suddenly switches from this idealistic standpoint to a practical, inevitable toll we must pay from being crushed under the weight of this mythical beast.
A nation or a national political party chugging along on coalition politics can leave no room for loose ends (and the “decision” to keep Kasab alive would have been a loose end, compared even to an “indecision” on this issue which would’ve been more acceptable by our janta). In addition to “modern nation-states...exacting revenge as violently as individuals/ideologies” as articulately stated by Mayank Chhaya, we have our caste, religion and internal politics exacting revenge on each other and the potential to spark a populist outrage towards those being soft on such enemies-of-the-state. Do we want our bloody-nosed, black-eyed, fatigued government to devote much more time on this loose end issue? Perhaps, if it “helps” their politics, but I don’t see it doing so.
Am I disagreeing with you? I certainly hope not – I found your internal argument engaging and touching…. And I wish we could live out your last two paragraphs. But let’s not expect an elephant to dance, but be delighted when it does…. Which brings me to “exceptions”. It is commendable, for India’s size and problems, that it rarely exercises the option of Capital punishment. Though most countries have done away with capital punishment, without referencing, I am willing to bet most of them have fairly homogenous populations and without religious dogma – India is at the opposite extreme. I am tempted to think that Indian prisons are just as effective in offering the opportunity for an inmate to be transformed as, say, a comfortable Norwegian prison where a prisoner who has committed, perhaps, a more gruesome act of violence than Kasab is currently serving life sentence. But India isn’t Norway, and Indians aren’t Norwegians. We have our different shades and castes and classes and religions and associated politics, but though we can assimilate diversity in disproportionate proportions compared to more homogenous nations, perhaps we can’t isolate certain issues as well.
Secondly, Whereas the Norwegians and the world can afford to find humor on the issue of Breivik finding his swanky Norwegian prison “uncomfortable”, we as a billion plus people can’t find comfort in the fact that Kasab’s goal was to self-immolate or get shot after his heinous act – I for one don’t feel that he should have that liberty anymore – in prison or anywhere (and this is from someone who believes Euthanasia should be legal).
So, to wrap up, I think where my blurbing is probably, and unintentionally, leading is to state that that stupid fuck picked the wrong country to avenge – he should have picked one without capital punishment and with better prisons. That way they could have given him life imprisonment and he could have self-immolated himself from the boredom of having nothing to do. And, now to real reason for my blurbing, kudos to your writing!