Every time horrific sexual crimes make the news, the people at large have been riled up in anger, ultimately calling for the death of the culprit.
Last Friday before dawn, police in Telangana transported four suspects to the scene of a crime that has outraged their nation: A roadside in southern India, where the men are accused of gang-raping a woman, suffocating her and setting her body on fire.
Police say the accused attempted to escape by hurling stones at the police personnel, and trying to snatch their firearms. This, according to the police, prompted the personnel to fire at the accused in self defence. All four accused were shot dead.
This occurred in the backdrop of massive public outcry which put the political class, the law enforcement establishment and the justice system under tremendous public scrutiny, ridicule and condemnation.
The incident will reportedly be probed, so no judgment can be passed on the actual facts of the case and the killing of the accused by the police.
What is pertinent to look at however is the way a large majority of the populace reacted to the quick deaths of the accused persons, who had not been granted the opportunity of due-process.
It is a difficult job to sound dispassionate when talking about cases like the one cited above— details of a case that should horrify, disgust and anger every sane person to the core. And such crimes have become an all too common occurrence in the country.
However, jubilation at death and violence; and in this particular case extrajudicial death is a dangerous way of thinking.
This is a short term dopamine rush which only serves to satisfy the part of us as human beings which believe that “an eye for an eye” is what justice looks like.
Today is Human Rights Day, and the Telangana rape case like the hundreds of others which go unreported every day, put shame on the failures of the state establishment and our society to safeguard the human rights of safety and dignity for our women.
At the same time, while talking about human rights, remember that they are not exclusive.
The aftermath should not receive the strongest action. Instead, the terrible track record of the police, along with the criminal slow pace of the justice system in the country are perhaps more crucial issues that need as much (or even more) attention and action.
And no amount of quick trigger happy ‘justice’ can act as substitute.
Even more needed are avenues to explore whether legislation can affect the shameful facets of our society that make effective detection and prosecution of sexual crimes against women and children difficult.
Go past the mere condemnation of these ‘monsters,’ and realize that these monsters are among us—a creation of our accepted social milieu—ripe with scared women and sexually repressed men.
And finally even if the ‘humanistic’ argument against vengeance and violence is a hard one to make in the immediate aftermath of such horrific crimes, it must be remembered that these are the crucibles that define the character of a country, and more importantly of our society.
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