History has it that in ancient Rome war was turned into a game during times of peace. People would gather to see gladiators fight and kill each other. The people would cheer for the victor and often demand the death of the loser. The scenes outside the Saket court this afternoon, where the trial for the four accused in the December 16 gang-rape was being heard, resembled ancient Rome and the people who expressed their relief on hearing the verdict (death for all four accused) resembled the audience inside an amphitheatre in Pompeii.
While there is no excuse for the brutal actions of the six accused (one died in jail and the other has been tried by a juvenile court) and it may be argued that the four deserve the verdict, there is little to cheer. That severe punishment will deter crime is as strong an argument as guns (and more guns) make the neighbourhood safer. The statistics speak otherwise. Nine months after the December 16 gang-rape there seems to be a spike in the number of sexual harassment, molestation and rape cases. Reports point that the violence (against women, in particular) is getting more brutal and while in many cases the culprits are nabbed, the rate of attacks is not coming down and, more disturbingly, women are not any safer than yesterday.
Rather than feeling elated over the verdict, we should feel sad: sad that the state has failed in reforming the lives of these men and thought it best to send them to the gallows. As long as the state fails, crimes will continue. And women will not be safe. Justice has been served, but it doesn't make the dark street alleys or the foot overbridges or many other public places any safer. The December 16 gang-rape verdict has brought a sense of closure in the lives of many people. But to breathe a sigh of relief would be a mistake.
Perhaps it is a coincidence that the verdict came on Friday 13. Just as in the movie franchise 'Friday the 13th', the real monster on the killing spree gives the authorities a slip and a false sense of calm and triumph prevails.