India has death penalty on its statute book not because Indians are blood-thirsty and want an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth, but because India will not incentivise terrorism. Terrorists cannot kill, attack, destroy, injure and still live to attack again.
India is duty-bound to keep her people safe so that they can live in harmony and peace. India is a democratic country with a robust judiciary. It has due process of law and the right to fair trial applicable to everyone. Every citizen has certain fundamental rights. But they come with responsibilities.
While we have the right to life, we also have the responsibility not to take another's, and if someone commits the crime, he will be tried by law, sent to prison, face a trial, and if proven guilty, gets convicted and goes to prison for punishment as per the sentence awarded. The courts award death penalty depending on the irrefutable barbarity of the case. However, Indian courts have used it sparingly in rarest of the rare cases.
Crime of terror is barbaric. It's cold-blooded murder. It is equally an assault on the security and integrity of the state. It is also an attack on the nation of 1.2 billion people with a conscious attempt to cause mayhem by mass life destruction, bloodshed, pain, suffering, communal division, hostility, revenge within the communities by undermining trust and mutual respect.
The Indian democracy gives all, terrorists included, the due process of law. However barbaric the offence, the accused has the right to defend himself.
Victims' rights are the responsibility of the state delivered through the governments at the Centre and the state. In case of unsatisfactory protection of victims by the state, victims suffer, and lose faith in the system and the governance of the day. The political parties at the helm tend to lose support. Hence, to keep their respective constituencies intact, there is undoubtedly an element of competitive politics and political posturing is seen at play.
Threat of terror
India continues to be under serious threat of terror for decades. It has lost thousands of innocent ordinary citizens, policemen and women, and personnel in armed forces. The attacks have become almost a daily feature in different parts of the country.
As a cop I notice considerable outcry by the intelligentsia against death penalty to a terrorist, irrespective of his barbaric acts. Recently, the country lost the Gurdaspur SP with his 'thullas'. Their loss, comparatively, received little space and attention in visual, print and social media vis-a-vis the clamour of the vocal intelligentsia pleading for mercy to a terrorist. How justified was this? Is this not national blasphemy? And cruelty towards one's own, just because you yourselves have not been the victims, and have not experienced the pain and suffering?
Should our hearts not bleed for the loss of innocent lives and the hapless? Should we not support the rank and file in uniform, our real protectors? I asked a known opinion influencer advocating the abolition of death penalty, "If his heart bled for the slain Gurdaspur SSP and other 'thullas'?" I did not get a satisfactory reply.
Can our hearts instead not cry for a more effective, strong and resourced criminal justice system? Can we not ask for speedy trials, more courts, tougher and updated laws and processes, quality investigation teams, well-trained and equipped, strong intelligence systems, and certainly, exemplary punishment for terrorists?
What we see is energy being dissipated by pleading for mercy for killers or the ticking bombs who have just one single focus -- to tear apart our social fabric and create communal disharmony at any cost. If you get terrorists alive, they remain ticking time bombs in custody, in transit or even after being convicted while lodged in jails. In truth, terrorists are exceedingly indoctrinated with rare exceptions amenable to reforms. This comes out of my experience in prison management.
India today needs an uncompromising voice of unity against terror and terrorists. Challenges and threats of security are accelerating by the day, as is evident the world over, while synergy in political parties back home is diminishing. What all stakeholders need to remember is that if you play with fire, your hands too can get burnt.
(The writer, a former IPS officer, is associated with NGO Navjyoti India Foundation. The views expressed are personal)