In a time of global push towards respecting universal rights and democratic values, the vindictive and barbarous system of death penalty or ‘state-sponsored murder’ continues unabated in countries such as the US, Singapore and India – to name a few. While the system of death penalty has been characterized as unnecessary, inappropriate and unacceptable, it remains to serve the State’s monopoly to use legitimate force. Since the State views itself as a victim in any criminal act, the death penalty is essentially an act representative of redemptive violence by which the victim – the State – redeems itself.
Such a system is devoid of principles and contradicts human redemption and human dignity. At its core, death penalty is a violent system which implies that violence is the answer to a given problem. The belief that State violence is the solution to human dilemmas of consent is problematic towards human tryst with destiny. This internal contradiction belies the notion of State as a moral agent and reveals a system that feeds the cycle of violence by arousing lust for revenge. It brutalizes life and stifles human sensitivities to the preciousness of every single human life.
The death penalty represents a system that is unforgiving and uncompassionate. It contravenes the central principle of a just society where every person has an equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The right to life and dignity are central to all human rights and must be demonstrated by the State in everything that it does, including the manner in which it punishes wrong doers. Even a criminal has the right of self-worth and respect as a human being. The preciousness of human life must be highly honored.
Death penalty is a system that legitimizes the State to commit murder which is a violent negation of human dignity, and is anti-life. This has proven counter-productive. Rather than achieving its intent to deter criminal acts, it only ensures that acts of a criminal nature culminate with violence. Rather than transforming negative into positive and violence into nonviolence, the death penalty manifest itself as an intolerant retributive justice system that leaves no room whatsoever for grace and healing, which are essential for restorative justice. This is an inconsistency and a deplorable contradiction.
For Nagas to live in dignified peace, it needs to be founded on a moral imagination where the right to belong is unconditional and the privilege of living and pursuing the good life is dignified, but not absolute. It after all requires a minimum basis of mutual respect and honor. Eventually, the basis on which Nagas derive their justice system – either retributive or restorative – will determine whether they are a humane society that has the will to find non-violent alternatives to address human tryst with destiny!