Capital Punishment & Certain Social Crimes!

With legal proceedings having begun regarding the trauma that the 23-year old woman was subjected to, it is hoped that adequate attention is paid to the criminals having been then in a drunken state. Clearly, execution of gang-rapists can eliminate the risk of their ever again indulging in such an act. Yet, this does not reduce the possibility of drunken elements indulging in anti-social criminal activities.

A lot has already been expressed on the case reflecting the discrimination and bias to which Indian women are still subjected to. But, again, capital punishment of criminals is least likely to suddenly change the mindset of the entire society. The hard reality that such crimes are usually committed when an individual practically loses control over his senses cannot be sidelined. It is time the Indian public and government give more importance to putting a strong curb on this trend.

 It is feared that the actual issue over which the entire nation has given the impression of being united may lose its actual significance over debate on whether there should be capital punishment for gang rapists or not. Yes, criminals must be punished. They are also guilty of murdering the 23-year old lady, attempting to murder her friend, physically torturing both, causing them as well as their family members mental and psychological torture and inflicting them with damages which can never ever be healed. Though prospects of criminals being executed in the near future are practically non-existent, the actual issue retains its grim significance, that of a woman being tortured, physically, mentally, psychologically, financially and then being thrown out of the bus with her friend on a cold, wintery night with barely any piece of cloth to cover them. This too was a criminal activity of the worst kind.  

 What was no less horrendous of the criminals, then in an allegedly drunken state, giving impression of having drawn satanic pleasure from these activities. Think carefully, what does this suggest? They indulged in a series of crimes without being restrained by any fear or basic moral code of ethics. They were reportedly in a drunken state of mind. This in itself indicates that even if all rapists are given death sentences, there is no guarantee that this punishment would act as a deterrent for similar crimes. When and if the criminal is not in normal state, his activities can hardly be expected to be normal. Herein lies an aspect, given minimal importance in the rage aroused against what the 23-year old woman was subjected to. The government and concerned authorities need to pay greater attention in checking and preventing drunken people from moving around in public places.  

It may be noted that so far strict action has been taken against people driving cars in a drunken state. Now, in lieu of abnormal behaviour inflicting severe damages on others, strict action needs to be taken against individuals found in a drunken state in any public place, including roads, parks, buses and so forth. If concerned authorities can go overboard in checking smoking in public places on the ground that this pollutes the environment and can cause health problems to others in the area, it is time that greater attention is paid to taking action against drinking alcohol and moving around drunk in public.

 The fact is well known that alcoholic weakness of various sections of people is exploited considerably to win their support and/or earn their favours. In other words, this is also used as a bribe. There is a view that to incite groups to a riotous stage, almost barbaric against minorities, as was apparently the case during Gujarat-carnage, the rioters are first made drunk. During electoral campaign, attracting people with drinks is assumed to be a normal practice these days. By no code of conduct can this “norm” be labelled as civilized or even politically correct. Yet, this trend is assuming dangerous proportions in Indian society. The brutal victimization of the 23-year woman by drunken elements was one reflection of this hard reality. The same was visible on a larger scale and in a more horrendous manner during Gujarat-carnage. This happened despite Gujarat being known as a dry state, where consumption of alcohol is prohibited.

Undeniably, certain state governments are well aware of possibility of women being unsafe where alcohol is being consumed. Not surprisingly, the Punjab Excise Act, which also extends to Haryana, prohibits establishments from employing “women in any part of such premises in which such liquor or intoxicating drug is consumed by the public.” In Indian democracy, a similar law cannot be expected to extend to public places, including roads, parks, markets, buses and so forth. This would amount to women being virtually banned from entering these places. Social democracy, equality and public consciousness in India cannot allow women to face such discrimination. Why should they? Rather, strict action is needed in preventing drunken elements from roaming around freely in any area, where they can harm women and/or cause any kind of disturbance, including communal. Consumption of alcohol in public and open places should also be banned for common good.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 January 2013 on page no. 11

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