The Helicopter View and Afzal Guru
As Lulu, my parrot, descended on the mango tree, he called me out. I looked out of the window and there he was sitting on the branch. The mango tree was in full blossom and was looking very beautiful. It caught my attention. I did not notice Lulu, my parrot, sitting on one of the branches. Lulu called again.
“Hey! I am here” lulu shouted and whistled.
“Good to see you, Lulu. Oh, you look so exhausted, what’s the matter?”
“Well, it was a flight for my life. A falcon was chasing me. I managed to escape somehow.”
“Good God! It is really a fight for survival there in the animal kingdom.” I said. “It must be very tough; you have to be on your guard all the time.”
“Fight for survival in animal kingdom? Yes, but you seem to exclude human beings, that is not fair. They are also a part of the animal kingdom.” Lulu responded. “But there is a difference. A big difference.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Falcons attack other birds only when they are looking out for food. Men hang other men when it serves his political agenda,” Lulu observed. “Just see what happened to Afzal Guru.”
“Don’t talk about him. If anybody attacks our parliament he must be hanged, no mercy certainly.” I said. “Moreover, the Supreme Court held him guilty. He should have been hanged much earlier.”
“Well, well! What a shoddy process followed in his trial! Isn’t it a dilemma of means versus end? And there is another issue on which you men have no discussion at all!” Lulu said.
“The issue is also what the purpose of punishment is. Do you punish for deterrence, rehabilitation or for retribution? Deterrence has failed, no doubt. How do you handle a terrorist? And how do you handle a person who has committed a crime against his or her countrymen?”
“When it comes to crime against the State, retribution is the answer, no other. I mean, people like Kasab and Afzal deserve death penalty. If they don’t who will?”
“That’s an interesting argument. But haven’t whites in South Africa committed heinous crimes against the blacks and when the apartheid was gone, what was their fate?”
“What was their fate?” I asked.
“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission did a splendid job of rehabilitation. Why can’t you experiment, like they did?”
“Hmmm…. But I don’t think it will work when it comes to terrorists.”
“Why not? Where will it work? Don’t you think Nelson Mandela also must have been haunted by such thoughts when he sought to establish Truth and Reconciliation Commission?”
“I really don’t know.”
“Look, if not in Kashmir, it could have been tried in Gujarat. It could have been tried after Mumbai riots. But it takes a strong will and leadership to experiment with concepts that bring peace slowly and surely.”
“You mean to say that this episode has also exposed lack of leadership among those in power, whether at New Delhi or in State Capitals?”
“That’s my “helicopter view” of the issue.” Lulu said as he flew and perched on my shoulder.
Of course we're assuming here that the procedure for establishing him as guilty was duly followed! Do principles of natural justice okay the fact that the prosecuted person was made a witness against himself? Even so, under what circumstances were those 'confessional' statements recorded? And why were they repeatedly telecast on the media just before the case went to trial? What were they trying to achieve – trial by popular vote, or lynch mob justice?
Only after there is a sense of justice in the procedure can we proceed to the question of the purpose of the distributive part of the justice – deterrence, rehabilitation or retribution.
As you've also repeated in your workshops, shouldn't justice be seen to be done?
I agree with you and Lulu that the trial was very shoddy. Now a link to Hindu article is made available too. Procedure for criminal trial must be meticulously followed. They did it well in the case of Kasab where ironically the world had seen his crime!
Lulu's thoughts of Truth and Reconciliation are misplaced…Mandela's only option for post apartheid survival was to assistance from western nations… Appeasement of white was hence imminent …as in the case of India joining the Commonwealth post independence or acceding to N-Power terms with USA under UPA-I. Lulu's option was worth review if similar actions would have been taken by USA in case of Saddam or Gaddafi.