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Wednesday, October 19, 2011


The judiciary’s license to kill is a hot topic in the country today. The fate of Afzal Guru, Ajmal Kasab and the three Sri Lankan Tamils charged for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi hangs in the balance today. On one hand, there are people waiting to get rid of these averred murderers who have put scores of human lives in peril and on the other hand, we have people concerned about human rights, questioning the very logic of a civilized society carrying out an execution. I don’t belong to either of the categories though I’m inclined towards the latter. My allegiance grew a little stronger after I completed watching the Japanese anime series titled “Death note”. Death note not only put to rest a few doubts I had about the moral precision of capital punishment and a human being’s right to kill, but it also got me pondering about other movies that were judgmental about the power to carry out an execution.

Death note is about Light Yagami and his dream of creating a new world devoid of crime after he gets access to the death note, a notebook that could be used to kill people by writing their names on it. The turn of events as the series progressed clearly seemed to indicate the fact that it’s impossible to exterminate misuse for selfish gains when a consummate amount of power is rested on one’s shoulders and especially, when the power allows you to kill another person. It also left me wondering as to how I had appreciated a movie like Anniyan that not only advocated killing but also professed carrying it using the most gruesome methods one could imagine. I finally convinced myself by assuming that I had fallen for the literary genius of the late Sujatha, who had made myself and a million others accept something that would have garnered appreciation only in a Barbarian society.

The Brad Pitt-Morgan Freeman starrer “Seven” is another case in point. The antagonist orchestrates the last of a series of murders in such a way that the termination of his own life is almost impossible and a noble soul who had dedicated his life to saving lives is to carry out the execution which would eventually help spread the message and inspire mislead psychopaths. It’s an undeniable fact that terrorists are trained to be philistine and phlegmatic even in the most extreme conditions of emotional stress and aren’t afraid to sacrifice themselves in an attempt to accomplish their mission. And its also beyond doubt that the terrorists who die in pursuit will be idolised as martyrs in terrorist camps and for all you know, they could be the role-models of the next 16 year old terrorist. So what exactly are we trying to accomplish by killing people who don’t mind dying and in the process of dying, possibly inspire a million others to continue the heinous crimes they had been notorious for throughout their lifetime?

Kamal Haasan acted in two movies that pronounced opposite verdicts on the issue. If Virumaandi championed the cause of abolition of capital punishment, Unnaipol Oruvan, a remake of “Wednesday” seemed to lean towards eliminating terrorists from the face of the earth. As usual, he remained confused and confused other people by equivocating effectively and thus disguising his original opinion on the issue. But it was the mediocre “Payanam” that actually planted certain serious questions in my mind about the absence of too many options as far as this issue is concerned. If at all we are to progress towards the elimination of terrorism, we are expected to make investigative progress which involves questioning captured terrorists and hence detaining them in custody. But once the job is done, they become a financial liability besides the security concerns that are tagged to it. “Payanam” depicted a situation where in a plane is hijacked and the hijackers demand the release of a high-profile terrorist kept in police custody. In such a situation, the police and the government don’t have much of a choice but to release the captive, endangering millions of lives in the process. Plus, all the money spent on the security of the captive, the lives lost in a bid to capture the terrorist to further investigations comes down to nothing.

 This leaves us with a lot of food for thought though I think the idea that the death of thousands of people killed in a terrorist attack is to be avenged by executing the captive is flawed at the basic level as it thins the line that differentiates a civilised person and a terrorist with boorish ideals. The ability to think without emotional prejudice in times of mental stress is what separates a civilised person from a terrorist, who you would expect to bomb a city at the slightest provocation. The ability to forgive is the most appropriate representation of evolution of the human mind over time.  But do we have a choice when a question mark looms large over the survival of mankind?

The analysis of psyche of a terrorist makes the whole thought process a little more tortuous.  The conditions under which people resort to terrorism is definitely worth taking into account. The book “Mind of a terrorist” (forgot the author’s name) is a good way to start your analysis. The very reason why people oppose terrorists is reason enough to consider their clemency petitions: no human being has the right to kill another. Just like terrorism, the turn of events in life is arbitrary. And unlike terrorism, life deserves this arbitrariness. I think we ought to leave death to the cycle of arbitrariness that dictates life on this planet as far as we can.

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