Atanu Dey On India's Development

A Sense of Justice & Fairness

| 23 Comments

Stated in the abstract, the case simple and outrageous. Let’s call them parties A, B, and C. Parties B and C own land which person A wants to grab. Person A somehow induces person B to disappear from view, and then accuses party C of murdering person B. Then a court convicts three people of party C for the murder of person B and throws them in jail. Fast forward 11 years.

Person B reappears. That fact is brought to the attention of the court. Nothing happens for another year. The three convicted of murder continue to languish in jail for a crime that they evidently could not have committed.

The Supreme Court intervenes and orders the court to do something. The wrongly accused — and convicted — persons are let out on bail. Not freed but let out on bail.

I suppose the court figured that it must be a simple case of resurrection — which is why the original sentencing must stand and the only accommodation required is to let them out on bail.

I struggle to imagine the mentality of the people who sat in judgement in this case. Are they even human? Do they have empathy? Do they have any sense of justice or fairness?

Some judge, I presume, convicted three people for murder without a body. What kind of judge was this? How much money was the judge paid to pass that judgement of murder without a body? Were the police in on it and did they drag some corpse to court?

Why did it take so long — nearly a year — after it was discovered that person B was in fact alive and well for anyone to move the court to release the convicted prisoners?

And finally, why were they released on bail? Isn’t the fact that they are patently innocent of murder and that they had already served 11 years in prison sufficient grounds for an immediate release followed by some kind of compensation?

When I first read about this in the papers recently, I could not believe that this Kafkaesque drama was real. But on further reflection, I realized that this is what happens in the final stages of a society’s collapse. This is indicative of insanity at the level of the collective.

The Greek poet Euripides (484 BCE – 406 BCE) declared “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.”

The Indian legal system is in dire straits. From what I get to hear, it appears that judges are easily bribed. There are millions of cases pending in the courts. Cases go on for decades and sometimes the litigants pass into the great beyond before the cases are concluded.

Why is this so? Why is the legal system in such a state?

This is my conjecture. I stress that I am only guessing and I have no hard evidence to back my claims. I think that Indians generally lack empathy. Empathy allows one to put oneself in the other’s position and realize how the other feels. Empathy tells one that one should not treat another the way one would not want to be treated. Empathy is the basis of the Golden Rule. Empathy is essential for one to have a sense of justice and fairness.

Empathy stops one from gratuitously causing harm to other sentient beings. Because of empathy, one feels outraged at injustice and unfairness. Empathy, more than any other feeling, makes us truly human.

Empathy drove Abraham Lincoln to declare, “Just as I would not wish to be a slave, so I would not be a master.” When Bertrand Russell wrote, “The mark of a truly civilized human being is the ability to read a column of numbers and then weep,” he was pointing to the ability to empathize with others in their misfortune.

All those who wrongly convicted those three in the present case clearly lack empathy. They lack a sense of fairness and justice. If the society is not outraged, it can only be because it does not care about justice and fairness.

A society which values justice and fairness would not tolerate judges of the kind that condemn innocent people. In fact, it would not tolerate a government which is so incompetent that the courts don’t actually function.

There are many indicators of India’s backwardness: lousy infrastructure, third rate educational system, dishonest public servants, poor governance, outdated laws, overcrowded cities, . . . the list goes on. But one of the worst is the legal system which in a sense incorporates within itself all of the above maladies.

There are not enough judges, not enough court rooms, the whole system is massively corrupt, the laws are archaic and senseless, . . . and so on.

I wonder what went wrong. The Indian civilization is thousands of years old. Its people have figured out answers to some of the deepest problems of existence. It used to be culturally and materially rich. It gave the world some of the most exalted philosophical ideas and ideals. What went wrong?

Why don’t Indians fight injustice and unfairness? Who brainwashed Indians that it is ok to tolerate the intolerable? Who is responsible for Indians becoming a bunch of unthinking sheep? Who taught them to tolerate injustice?

Here’s what happened after Gandhi’s “Dandi March” in the event called the “Dharasana Satyagraha” in May 1930. The following is a quote from a report filed by an American journalist Webb Miller:

Not one of the marchers even raised an arm to fend off the blows. They went down like ten-pins. From where I stood I heard the sickening whacks of the clubs on unprotected skulls. The waiting crowd of watchers groaned and sucked in their breaths in sympathetic pain at every blow.

Those struck down fell sprawling, unconscious or writhing in pain with fractured skulls or broken shoulders. In two or three minutes the ground was quilted with bodies. Great patches of blood widened on their white clothes. The survivors without breaking ranks silently and doggedly marched on until struck down. When every one of the first column was knocked down stretcher bearers rushed up unmolested by the police and carried off the injured to a thatched hut which had been arranged as a temporary hospital.

There were not enough stretcher-bearers to carry off the wounded; I saw eighteen injured being carried off simultaneously, while forty-two still lay bleeding on the ground awaiting stretcher-bearers. The blankets used as stretchers were sodden with blood.

At times the spectacle of unresisting men being methodically bashed into a bloody pulp sickened me so much I had to turn away. . .I felt an indefinable sense of helpless rage and loathing, almost as much against the men who were submitting unresistingly to being beaten as against the police wielding the clubs. . .

Bodies toppled over in threes and fours, bleeding from great gashes on their scalps. Group after group walked forward, sat down, and submitted to being beaten into insensibility without raising an arm to fend off the blows. Finally the police became enraged by the non-resistance. . . They commenced savagely kicking the seated men in the abdomen and testicles. The injured men writhed and squealed in agony, which seemed to inflame the fury of the police . . . The police then began dragging the sitting men by the arms or feet, sometimes for a hundred yards, and throwing them into ditches. {Emphasis added.}

One should feel “rage and loathing” on witnessing how people acquiesce to violence and thus willingly participate in it. The policemen wielding those steel-tipped lathis were Indians following orders. They did not have the empathy, the sense of justice and fairness, to resist evil. The satyagrahis did not have sense to say no to violence.

They were complicit in the brutality. They accepted brutality and in their acceptance they also became capable of brutality. They suffered violence gladly and became capable of inflicting violence gladly.

I am not a “Gandhian.” I will resist violence with every fiber of my being. And just as I would not accept violence, so also I will never initiate violence. I will never be complicit in the crime by enabling another to be violent towards me.

India and Indians need a lot of things. But the two things Indians definitely need are, one, a sense of fairness and justice, and two, a backbone. They have been robbed of them by the idol they worship called Gandhi.

Here endth the rant.

PS: Here’s a news item of Nov 5th about the case of the resurrected man.

  • DG

    Classifying this as a rant is an error of Gandhian proportions. Everyone with a half decent brain and knowledge of the world privately knows that hardly a greater idiot has been born as great as Gandhi. If you write such an article write it with courage and not with Gandhi’s backbone.

  • Vishnu

    This is what happens when people forget Dharma… civilazations get ruined…. I hope this changes in the next 20-30 years….

    Keep the good work going Atanu. Jai Hind. Vande Mataram.

  • Manish

    Most people who fired in Jalianwala bagh were Indians too. They blindly followed orders. Even today, I think, if police is given order to fire on a crowd they would not question it and would go ahead with firing. Moreover, the next day it would be justified! This is what happened recently in Mawal area near Pune where three farmers were killed.

  • ND

    This is NOT a rant – this is a classic – a gem and I think you have done yourself and your readers a great favor by writing this.
    This articulates everything that I feel about India and more – it tells me that there are many like me who feel and say the same exact thing – but alas not everyone has the means to change India – I quit India a while back frustrated as I was with how horrible and out of control our problems are but I follow it from afar and weep everyday. I can’t do much more sadly.

  • tp

    “If the society is not outraged, it can only be because it does not care about justice and fairness.” — Society has gradually, over decades, painted itself into a corner so that there is no time for empathy amid the brutal daily struggle for existence. The main device for this degeneration has been the gradual outpacing by the population of its ability to keep itself educated. I don’t think loss of empathy is the origin of the problem. The origin is population outpacing education. There is reason to believe that empathy is an acquired skill and requires practice, at least for boys who, at 3 years, will happily tear butterfly wings until it is explained to them by parents why that action is reprehensible. Like two million times.

  • Manoj

    Isn’t it indirectly started with Gautam Budhha? With Budhha, India’s acceptance to the suffering, pain manifold… We lost the philosophy of fighting injustice … Might be that’s why western intellectual give so much importance to him…. Even in current world, look at Tibet… Rather than killing chienese, they are self immoluting…

    My dilema is at personal level i like Budhha and his philosophy a lot ..but for country it is disasterous…

  • Mayank

    A very well written piece. While the issues are not new, you make a reader sad and force him to think hard and deep.

    two points:
    1. Perhaps the number of courts and judges are adequate. Its the amount of injustice and crime that has increased beyond the normal.

    2. I am sure empathy is not easy to come by. I feel for a person only if I first know what the other person feels (in the first place). I can avoid/escape knowing what the other person feels and thus avoid the burden of being empathetic.

  • anup

    There is a lack of human values in India; empathy being one of them. Indians (read Hindus) are the dregs of humanity.For they inspite of having a rich cultural & philosophical heritage have neither the good sense or courage to access these & make use of it. One can understand such a sorry state of affairs if Indians didn’t have that benefit; but that’s not the case. Illiteracy or lack of education cannot explain away why Indians are so devoid of basic human values.

    The Hindu leaders (as well as members of Hindu cultural & political organisations) who have now started to get themselves off about the ‘Virat Hindu’ should get their heads checked and press themselves into action with sincerity with a view to actually helping make Indians (about 1/6th of humanity) lead dignified and humane lives.

  • ND

    @Manoj – don’t blame it on the Buddha – if you do, then you don’t really understand the underlying tenets and philosophy of Buddhism – turning the other cheek is not what the Buddha said – fighting it out fair and square and with equianimity – same as the what Krishna told Arjuna in the battlefield.

    @Anup – why blame it on “Hindu Leaders”? How different is any other Indian from any other Hindu Indian? All those purporting to use religion are crooks – the problems of India were not caused by the “Hindu Leaders” that you despise – they were caused by that socialist crook who goes by the name of Mahatma – the false Mahatma has been deified and glorified in India – only an utter devastation of India’s current leadership will change this.

  • manoj

    @ND: can you please tell me any sermon of Buddha which talks about “fighting it out fair and square and with equianimity” . I definitely don’t have deep understanding of Buddha’s teaching, so it would help me in learning more if you can tell me the name of book or any other source where he preached this kind of behavior.

  • anup

    @ND: The point about Hindu leaders was that they failed utterly in both their vision as well as in what they set out to do in the civil society/domestic socio-politico-cultural space. Their failure is evident in the appalling lack of basic human values in India. Yet, they go about their self aggrandizing & opportunist ways shamelessly and without a shred of conscience.

  • og

    @anup: “Illiteracy or lack of education cannot explain away why Indians are so devoid of basic human values.” — I am pretty sure education, empathy (“human values”) and wealth are very strongly correlated if you scatter-plot all societies of the world. Correlation is not causation, but of the three choices here, you cannot begin by giving people money or empathy, but you can (try to) begin by giving them an education. Unless they multiply much faster than the number of school teachers, of course. It’s pointless trying to hold the abjectly poor to any standard of honesty or “human values”.

  • http://themmindset.wordpress.com/ The Mindset

    The question is not about judges or court rooms but the right implementation of laws.
    Our constitution is not based on reason or religion; it was made by some people who were Indians physically but English by their soul, ideology and values.
    The results are now open. The constitution has failed to do what it was supposed to do.
    Criminal don’t fear police or judges , they fear punishment. the “Intentional Murder rate in India” is 3.4 per year per 100000 people.
    In china it is 1.12 – not even half. Read :
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

    The reason are simple – in china if a person commits a crime again he/she is given death penalty.
    Read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recidivism
    The act of repeating a undesirable behavior.
    So the problem is not court rooms or judges but LAWS.
    if there are effective laws – there won’t be any crime and hence no more court rooms will be required.

  • Rahul

    I haven’t been as regular in reading news and am not aware of this A, B and C case that you mention. Can someone please post a link to that story.

    • http://www.deeshaa.org Atanu Dey

      Rahul,

      I have just posted a link to a news report at the bottom of the post.

  • Jogi

    I hope they are going to prosecute persons A and B for perpetrating this fraud on C and the society.

  • Doc Hudson


    Rahul,

    I have just posted a link to a news report at the bottom of the post.

    You are addicted to porn :)

  • Loknath

    As usual our media does a half baked story again. The news story has no mention of who and where is the influential person. It doesnt even mention who the Judge was. It was written to evince reader’s sympathy for the three gaoled innocents. This is how news is sold and consumed in India. People love to sympathize with victims of poverty, terror, hunger and suffering more from the perspective of self-warning and thanking their idols for the privilege he enjoys. This is a genetic problem with not just normal Indians but even well educated well-to-do Indians.

    The police, state and courts should have immediately arrested this influential man, sentenced him to 40 years in prison- 10 that he deserved and 30 for compensating the time each innocent spent in jail plus the monetary compensation for mental trauma and loss of income.

    Stories like this and its many variants we all see and grown up with is not even a case of having or not having empathy. Indians in general are not fully evolved humans in mind and heart. They are simply different. A different species whose evolution is distinct from the evolution of other humans in other nations.

    I have some hope in tp’s point

    “There is reason to believe that empathy is an acquired skill and requires practice, at least for boys who, at 3 years, will happily tear butterfly wings until it is explained to them by parents why that action is reprehensible. Like two million times”

  • og

    “This is a genetic problem with not just normal Indians but even well educated well-to-do Indians.” — Ergo, well-educated Indians are not normal. QED.

    “sentenced him to 40 years in prison- 10 that he deserved and 30 for compensating the time each innocent spent in jail” — You won’t find a dearth of Indians who would be baffled by proposing to jail one person to compensate for wrongful jailing of another, and would quote some jackass we all know, thusly: “An eye for an eye leaves the world blind”.

  • Pranav

    Manu Sharma is granted the parole to attend the marriage of his brother.What the hell is going on ?

  • seadog4227

    Suggested reading: Eclipse of the Hindu Nation-Gandhi and his Freedom Struggle by Radha Rajan.

    • http://www.deeshaa.org Atanu Dey

      seadog4227,

      Thanks for the recommendation.

  • Kumar S

    Unfortunate but very true. Add to this the fact that we are passivists (some would call us masochists) and that spells doom. Unless India (and Indians) get a back bone and stand up to this rampant corruption, things will just be status quo.