Don't always look back in anger
If perpetrators of crimes show a genuine desire to reform, then an evolved society must also learn to forgive. Rahul Bose writes.india Updated: Mar 13, 2013 01:12 IST
Over the last three days I have received a series of irate tweets at my comments made at a public meeting held on International Women's Day in New Delhi. I have received them with the same calm consideration as when I made those statements because the nature of social networks is that one should be unsurprised by extreme reaction, both negative and positive.
What I have been unprepared for is the misrepresentation of my comments in some sections of the print and online media, not so much in the content of the reportage as in the headlines of the pieces.
'Rahul Bose speaks in favour of Delhi gang rape accused, sees gender warrior in them' and 'Twitterati criticises Rahul Bose for favouring Delhi gang rape accused' are two such examples.
Let us examine what I said, and at this point I hasten to add that many major newspapers, including this one, reported my comments fairly and accurately.
I said that if anybody is willing to reform, did we have it in ourselves to subvert our patriarchal mindset and tell them we are willing to consider the right to reform, even if there is such a massive public upsurge against them? 'If we have to evolve as a civilisation, further beyond the boundaries of India, then we have to look at forgiveness.' I posed a question to ourselves.
A question that I did not dictate the answer to, a question that I personally, in my own capacity, unequivocally answered in tweets, saying that 'if the perpetrator shows no remorse then neither should we.' And, 'if a person dear to me was raped' (I would be) 'very sad, even angry.
But if, over time, the perpetrator showed deep, genuine remorse while in jail, I would find it in my heart to forgive him'. These are personal evaluations on how I would react to such a display of contrition on a perpetrator's part.
Naturally, I would use my own judgement to arrive at a conclusion of whether or not the perpetrator showed deep and genuine remorse. There was never at any time, any suggestion on my part that others would have to replicate the standards I set for myself. Rightly, it is the victims and their near and dear ones who will decide whether or not to forgive.
My point of subverting entrenched patriarchies was made against a larger phenomenon that I mentioned at the public forum, but has gone unreported, namely that the most staunchly patriarchal societies have an unenviable record of 'an eye for an eye' and that more evolved societies today have done away with capital punishment as just one example of a more humane response to the most hateful of crimes.
Why did some of India's wisest founding fathers, why do religious texts across the board, preach forgiveness? Why do they contend that forgiveness is a tenet we must practise if we are to make a better, more peaceful world?
I believe that is because forgiveness gives the aggrieved a chance to erase negativity and hate from their souls. It gives them the nourishing breath, the positive energy to heal, to move forward.
In retrospect perhaps it was still too soon after the horrific incident of December 16 to make this argument, especially in Delhi where people are still processing their grief and anger. But to suggest I support the rapists is untrue and unfair. Equally unjustified is to ask me to retract my beliefs.
I will always hold the principles of non-violence, love, peace and yes, forgiveness too, to be the lodestars that guide my life. The statements I made were my personal beliefs posed as a question to the rest of the country.
A reading of the reactions to them would make some think this country believes in harsh retribution, reform of the perpetrator be damned. I disagree.
There are many who reacted using empathy, love and peace. To quote two such reactions on Twitter: 'Forgiveness, compassion is where reform and change begins'. 'Reformative measures are more important than punitive ones. Reformative justice ensures a better society.'
I hold these as indicators to the future of this country. That this belief is true or ill-founded, only time will tell.
Rahul Bose is an actor and rights activist. The views expressed by the author are personal.