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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 22, May 22, 2010

Offloading Some Ironies

Tuesday 25 May 2010, by Humra Quraishi

Sitting in the midst of this unbearable heat, let me offload some of those ironies that hit and continue to hit. Last week’s stampede at the New Delhi Railway Station is one of those offshoots of complete mismanagement, coupled with two teasers—the concerned Union Minister, Mamata Bannerji, giving those confusing statements from faraway West Bengal; not even bothering to catch the next train to the accident site and then opening or shutting her month. Though, of course, her coming here wouldn’t have made any difference. Just about provided that formality-ridden balm. And the other aspect which appeared hugely strange is that the dead or the near dead were not rushed to the Railway Hospital which lies next door to the New Delhi Railway Station. Why were the affected taken to hospitals which are situated several kilometres away from the stampede-site? Don’t tell me the concerned authorities will set up a commission to unearth this near mystery!

Moving on, along the list of ironies—though we call ourselves developed or developing (if you follow the Western mode), we haven’t upgraded our ‘punishing’ strategies. ‘Hang to death’ is one of those most primitive practices ongoing from centuries and even today we are chanting just about this! Can’t there be some superior ways to punish the accused? Make him plough fields and feed those on the brink of starvation. Make him fetch water for those living on those parched lands. Make him build roads. Make him dig wells. Make him work round the clock, so that several hundreds can survive in these days of utter deprivation… Above all, capital punishment not just sounds barbaric but yields little! Bringing you on par with the accused. If he killed, you are doing the same. What’s the difference, because killing in which-ever form or under any of those garbs brings in no far-reaching results.

I might sound terribly outdated or completely old-fashioned but I do believe in compassion and the subtle power it yields. Compassion can yield far better results than all your bullets put together. Also, I do believe that even the most dreaded criminal is capable of being reformed. Not to be overlooked are the circumstances in which he was raised as a child or even as a teenager, under what systematic treatment he was put through and, of course, not to overlook those high-powered games—where the political mafia and intelligence agencies use human forms to settle and unsettle scores.

In fact, to stretch this argument a little further I have to bring in a distraction of sorts. Former cop-turned-astrologer C.B. Satpathy had, during the course of an interview, told me that he predicts a person’s future not the basis of his or her date of birth but under what circum-stances he or she was conceived. According to Satpathy, this very factor is of vital significance in a person’s life, as it determines the entire course. Whilst he was dwelling on this, a couple—speaking fluent English and presumably well-to do—had walked in and recounted the wayward ways of their college going son. Almost immediately Satpathy had asked the circumstances under which their son was conceived. They sat quiet for a while and then uttered that in the particular hotel where they were honeymooning a murder was taking place in the very next room and with that the expected aftermath… I could go on further with what Satpathy uttered along the strain—the close relationship between the circumstances under which one is conceived and the life patterns that follow, but space constraints stare and also there is little need to expand on this theory—after all, life begins in the mother’s womb before the actual birth; so those nine months are of great significance and are linked to the behaviour patterns that follow. Those circumstances of his or her birth and family background are not under the control of the affected and so there has to be some thought reserved for this. Suppose a child is born in a family of criminals or becomes a pawn or is being used, then shouldn’t reform and compassion come into play?

And another of those ironies is that though we booed out Shashi Tharoor from Minister-ship and much more, the man is going up...yes, going up at least in my esteem. He is all set to get formally engaged to Sunanda Pushkar. Unlike most Indian men he is not behaving like a stupid coward, nor indulging in any of those tactics of tucking away skeletons. No way, he is all there for Sunanda Pushkar and in full public glare. Didn’t let those ministerial frills come in between their relationship. Not bad, at least we have one real man in the midst of weaklings. Bringing me to utter that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ought to appoint him as the Union Minister for Women Welfare!

And finally this one—though the concerned Ministry keeps issuing statements that they are ready for talks with the rebel groups of the country but one of the biggest ironies stands out: instead of using mild terms for any of those combative strategies, there are these frightening terms, relaying fear and much more—Operation Green Hunt is just about one of them, where the very word ‘hunt’ conveys dangerous off-shoots …. Why can’t the very word ‘hunt‘ be replaced by ‘hug’?

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