Archive for December, 2012

In the heat of the moment to scream out “DEATH FOR RAPISTS” is easy and convenient. Should the six men, involved in the brutalisation of the Delhi girl be sent to the gallows? Delhi’s best doctors have been unable to put her internal organs back together again, so badly mangled are they by the rape and the beatings she received. They say, if she survives it would indeed be a miracle.

Reactions have been on expected lines – with the public and the politicians all calling for the rapists to be sent to the gallows. There have been command performances by politicians in Parliament all demanding death to the rapists. By all accounts, this was a crime so heinous that it deserves nothing but the death penalty.

However, it is one thing to pronounce such a judgement and an entirely different thing, to actually to carry it out till the gallows. I am pretty sure, that politicians, who are playing on public sentiment and clamouring for capital punishment, will be the first to object when it comes to tabling of such a Bill. In fact, they will bring in a slew of objections.

These are a few:

  1. That it could be misused by their political rivals to finish their political careers
  2. That it could be misused by women wishing to get even for all sorts of reasons.
  3. That there are enough cases of men being convicted and languishing in jail for crimes they did not commit.

A more sinister reason for their objection could also be that most of the people who commit such crimes are on the payroll of the politicians, which is why they walk away from the crime scene with impunity, secure in the knowledge that are protected.

It is not as if rapists have not been hanged before or have not been sentenced to death for the crime. Dhananjay Chatterjee, the watchman in Kolkata who raped a 14 year-old schoolgirl Hetal Parekh sometime in 1990 was sent to the gallows in 2004, but even there many people believed that hanging was not the solution.

On March 13, 2012, a Sirsa court sentenced to death, a 22-year-old for raping a 75-year-old woman. He first raped her then gagged her with a shawl, and strangled her with her salwar on February 11, 2011.

The Bombay High Court in September this year confirmed the death sentences for Pune call centre cab driver Purshottam Borate and his friend Pradip Kokate for raping and then murdering a BPO employee in Pune, in 2007.

But, there have also been cases where rapists sentenced to death have had their sentences commuted either by the Supreme Court or by a presidential pardon, one, as recently as last week. There have been at least five cases in recent memory where child rapists convicted to death were given a presidential pardon and had their sentences commuted to life. This was just before President Pratibha Patil demitted office.

The legal system also ensures the right of appeal, and convicts have been given lesser sentences. As recently, as last week Pune’s Sainath Abhang had his death sentence commuted to life for a murder and rape. He had, on September 10, 2007, entered a woman’s house in Pune and had killed her. After that he turned on her pregnant daughter-in-law and raped her. The court after going through all the evidence, including the statement of the injured lady, who said the convict was drunk, granted him relief.

The fact is that our laws are archaic and however well our judges interpret them and pronounce judgement there will always lawyers who will find some loophole. The point is, there is already a law that determines capital punishment to those who commit rape if it comes under the rarest of rare cases. So, instead of spending another fifty years trying to reform the legal system, why not just do away with the system of presidential pardons for those who are sentenced to death for rape? Rape is violent and there are no two descriptions of it, so there should be one punishment – death. However, while giving a convict the right to appeal against the judgement if he believes he has been wrongly convicted, his appeals should go no further than the Supreme Court. If it’s a water-tight case then where is the need for a presidential pardon?

Also, I am getting very tired of people who make everything personal. I tweet about things happening around us to get a healthy debate going and very often to provoke in fun. Unfortunately, I find people use my updates to jerk off on anything and everything under the sun, which has very little to do with the subject at hand. They forcibly point it in the direction they want the topic to go!

Like this whole Narendra Modi or Bal Thackeray thing. Frankly, I don’t give a shit about them or their policies or whether they did or didn’t engineer riots in Gujarat and Maharashtra, respectively. The thing is these events are history. There are many who would label Rajiv Gandhi and Indira as ‘killers’. Ask the Sikhs. But they are history. Feel free to carry on with your personal agenda, just keep me out of it. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I feel sorry for people, who think it’s fashionable to disagree with anything and everything anyone says – unless of course, they have been personally affected, and worse drag a topic into a totally irrelevant direction. Just keep me out of it.


I know the BCCI is a ‘charitable’ organisation, but do the players who work for it also have to act like they are part of the package?

So, I have a problem with people who believe that Sachin Tendulkar should be allowed to play as long as he wants at the cost of the team and younger players.

I mean, that would be perfectly all right if the great man had announced on the day he made his debut that he would be playing for the country for free. That every rupee he earned from the BCCI, endorsements and sponsors would be donated to charity. THEN, neither I, nor anyone other Indian anywhere in the world would have the right to say a word against him. Then a place in the Indian team was his till he decided he had had enough.

But, that’s not what he said or he did, and no one, not even me ever expect him to say such silly things. He has give plenty to the game and so has every right to get back enough and more from it, and from all those who run it and fund it. So, when some followers of the game believe he has given enough and say that it’s time he went on to other things, there are howls of protest. Why?

He spent 22 years playing cricket, and he got paid handsomely for it. He’s a sportsperson who made money for every ball he played, every four, six or century he hit, and quite some in multiples of zeroes. So what’s the big deal if there is a demand that he quits, because he hasn’t got the same reflexes that he had as a 22-year-old? And that there may be a few youngsters who might lose their chance to play for India because a struggling, stubborn 39-year-old believes he’s still 22?

There have been other players as great, if not greater, and many mere mortals who were there in between who played for the country. They too gave their 100 per cent for less returns. But they were dismissed rudely and crudely. They were doing what they did best.

I shudder when his so called loyalists believe they should make a permanent place for him at no. 4 till he dies! It’s not just funny, it’s demented when people lose all sense of rationality and talk such utter rubbish. For heaven’s sake, the guy is paid a salary by the BCCI, he isn’t doing anyone a favour. He is also doing what he does best. And like some others before him, he isn’t doing what he is being paid to.

And since the Indian cricket team is not a retirement home, I don’t understand why he, or anyone else, should be retained. Doesn’t he realise that all he has done by clinging to the straws is that he has made a laughing stock of himself? Yeah, yeah, I know, I’ll get that line thrown at me by some ‘knowledgeable cricket fan’ that I haven’t achieved even an iota of what he has in his 24-odd years of cricket, so I don’t have the right to comment on Tendulkar.

My answer to that is that this is a free country and I have every right to comment on anything everything under the sun from the price of rubbers to Sachin Tendulkar’s cricketing form. In my 50 years, and in what I do, I might think I’ve achieved a great deal, but anyone has the right to rubbish that. He is, and I am being honest, one of the reasons, why I have stopped following the game as closely as I used to these past few years.

I have watched him prosper from age 13 and just as he had brought tears of joy to my face when I watched him bat against the world’s best in his younger days, seeing him bat now brings only sadness. I don’t want to watch him bat anymore, because watching the bewilderment on his face as he gets bowled middle stump is a sight that numbs me. I prefer to watch a film, than watch him bat. At least there I can also laugh with the hero, not just at him.

So to all those silly people who have anointed themselves Tendulkar cheerleaders, don’t you wish that all your energy could have helped him play like before…but it can’t, because even science hasn’t found a cure for ageing. So wake up and grow up.

Leave us with the memories of Sharjah, Old Trafford, Perth, Sydney or wherever, great man, and not the sight of you on your haunches, not just beaten, but looking completely beaten.

There are a couple of students who keep egging me on to comment about 1.) Bal Thackeray and 2) the arrest of the two girls in Palghar and the subsequent furore it created.

Let’s take the late Bal Thackeray. I kept mum during his funeral only because I don’t believe in denigrating the dead – however, divisive his policies, his role in the Mumbai riots or his State funeral. The thing is, you may have hated his politics and his raving and ranting but the truth there were around two million out on the streets that day. I am sure they were not all there, just to make sure he was really gone. I did not always agree with Bal Thackeray’s brand of politics but a large number of Maharashtrians did – whether out of respect or fear – so why raise a hornet’s nest on the day of his death and subsequently his funeral?

The point is a lot of kids I saw calling Thackeray names on social networking sites, would not have had the guts to do that if they ever came face to face with him or even someone from the Sena. Secondly, many of the kids ranting were media students who are supposed to be objective in their writings. I did not see too much of objectivity, so it was not too different from the hooliganism of the lumpen elements that make up the rank and file of some political parties, including the Shiv Sena.

Strangely, some of the kids who were letting off steam were those who gleefully call the Pakistani cricketers or the Pakistani populace in general, every available profanity in the dictionary, and even question their parentage. So it was okay if they said it, but not okay when Thackeray did so or when he ranted against any community?

I am also quite cool when it comes to using swear words in public, but even I was embarrassed by the language used. I am afraid you can’t go around calling anyone a ‘bastard’ or a ‘fucker’ on a public platform. And Facebook or Twitter is as public a platform as television if not in reach per household, at least in terms of their growing popularity.  That is the language I heard and that is why I refused to get into a debate or argument on the subject.

This is one of the reasons the government is bringing in stricter IT laws. I sincerely hope they do that soon. If freedom of speech gives us the right to speak our mind without fear, it also tells us that there are restrictions on the language we can use in public. And as we saw during the Arab Spring uprising, it takes one comment on Facebook to galvanise a hundred thousand people, for a just cause. The last thing one wanted to see on the day of Thackeray’s funeral was riots breaking out because of some idiot with a keyboard and an itchy finger who wanted to be the first one in cyberspace to vent his spleen.

Then, there’s the issue of the two girls from Palghar who were hauled to the police station. It was frankly, disgraceful. The girls did not say anything that could be considered dangerous to public peace. Some overzealous cops goaded by politicians decided to act and ended up with egg on their faces. We know who controls the cops, so for them to be coerced by a mob led by some politicians is understandable.  What surprised me was that it happened under the control of a cop who I thought was quite liberal in his views and quite clued in to IT and cyber laws.

I’ve met this top cop on a few occasions and found him quite adept at public relations and knowledge of the Internet. Some of my students from the SIMC 2011 PG batch might remember him as the cop who I had invited to take a lecture on crime reporting. The lecture was supposed to be for 90 minutes but stretched to three hours because the kids had too many questions and he was such an entertaining speaker. I don’t know if I had to drag him away or he did so himself, but I do know that it was one of the most informative three hours I spent listening to someone on the subject of crime reporting.

But coming to 66A itself, that it is flawed is pretty obvious. Too many things in there can be twisted around by politicians in power and misused. For example what constitutes “grossly offensive or has menacing character” or “any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience”? Does a comment like the one left by the two girls come in that category? Frankly, I’ve seen worse and saw even worse on the days following Thackeray’s death, and those fellows had a free run in cyberspace.

Our experts need to sit and discuss these issues threadbare. Secondly there is the political angle. The UPA government, at the Centre and Maharashtra condemned loudly (methinks too loudly), the action against the two girls. I would like to see their reaction if someone was to post something against the Gandhi family. Why were they objecting to all the cartoons morphing the prime minister and Sonia? After all, none of these were offensive. Let’s wait and see what Sibal does when that happens.