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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 31, July 18, 2009

Abolish Capital Punishment

Saturday 18 July 2009


Death penulty is both cruel and irreversible. There are rare instances in which irrefutable proof of a man‘s innocence appeared long after his execution. Instances of execution after travesty of trial are galore. In the year one of President Obama, let us recollect that there was a time in the United States when the accusation of molestation or rape by a White woman against a Black man would inexorably lead to a death sentence, proof or no proof. (The reader will be well advised to read or re-read the Harper Lee classic To Kill A Mocking Bird.) The record of show trials followed by immediate execution in the Gulagist regimes is well known. At least one of the regimes, that of Hungary, formally abolished capital punishment just before its collapse.

Muslim fundamentalists often claim that cruel punishments are most effective deterrents against crime. No statistical back-up, however, is available for such claims. Years ago the execution of JKLF leader Maqbul Bhatt actually led to an immediate spurt in terrorist crimes in the country.

Relationship between cruel punishment and the society is indeed dialectical. Cruel punishments are expression of the cruel nature of the society. At the same time, they reinforce and enhance the intrinsic cruelty. The fact that during the recent parliamentary elections demands were made for immediate execution of this or that terrorist, is really alarming. Capital punishment needs to be abolished, first and foremost, for the sake of what, following Dr Erik Fromm, should be considered the state of mental health of the society at large.

July 4, 2009

Subrata Sen

13 Lendra Park, Nagpur 440010

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