The Encounter That Shook India
Should rapists be murdered by the state? After the 2019 rape and murder of Hyderabad Vet Dr Priyanka Reddy, this question has divided netizens for sure. The four accused in Hyderabad case are shot dead in an encounter by the Hyderabad police and many are celebrating now. When the justice system has failed to provide enough solace to victims of violent crimes, then this is the way to get justice for many. Even Indian parliamentarian Jaya Bachchan recommended mob justice and open lynching of the accused in the parliament.
The demand for state-sponsored murder (encounter) of the rape accused strengthened after the Unnao rape victim committed suicide by burning herself (media promoted that she was burnt alive) around the same time by the accused who was out on bail. Here, let’s assume media promoted story as correct even though I have seen the victim’s family crying to see their side of evidence, which confirmed suicide. At this time, it may seem all the more important to demand public lynching and or the encounter murder of the accused. That is why it is more important to understand that such state-sponsored murders don’t bring justice to the victim but surely bring a lot of injustice to many.
No, I will not tell you anything that other human rights activists or lawyers may be telling today. I will not talk about any mistaken identity as well. Rather I will assume that in both Unnao and Hyderabad cases the correct culprits were nabbed and tried. Now under these circumstances when I am setting aside all faults from the police (which can be far from the truth in reality), I will explain why encounter or instant mob justice is NOT in favour of delivering better justice to the victims or to the society.
Encounter – A Message Than a Murder
In the Hyderabad case, the vet’s bike was punctured by the miscreants and then she was raped and finally burnt alive. Our conscience and humanity are shaken every time we hear about burning someone alive or murdering in such a brutal manner. So, we become all the more emotional when we think about a remedy and in the fit of anger, we think of extreme forms of punishment (like lynching, burning them alive or encounter).
Before I get deep into this, we need to understand that the encounter in these cases (should we call these rarest of rare cases?) is more of a message rather than a murder. It’s a message to the rapists that they will be killed like worms when they commit such a crime, and it’s also a message to the society and mainly to the women, that, yes, we care for you and we care for your safety (WOW!! what a message from a patriarchal society that is supposed to oppress women).
After the news of the Telangana encounter, we have seen many parents feeling secure. We have also seen schoolgirls passing by the area cheering police officers and local-residents distributing sweets and offering garlands to the policemen for the killing.
At this juncture, the discussion whether the police should have tried to reconstruct the crime scene at the wee hours of 3 am or whether they should have shot the accused in their legs become immaterial. When the society by large has accepted the killings with open hearts, then no more discussion about the legitimacy of the killing seems to be necessary (NHRC will still do it anyway).
But as we see here, all these decisions seem to be driven by our emotion rather than any logical thinking from the viewpoint of justice as I shall discuss.
Justice Delayed is Justice Denied
When we talk about justice, we all accept that justice delayed is justice denied to the victims, their families and society at large. Like in this case, everyone is giving the immediate example of Unnao rape case, where the heavyweight accused BJP leader is said to have burnt the victim alive. He was out on bail when he did this. Other kith and kin of the victim are also murdered in different ways. Question is when the Unnao (in UP) police is following the process of law (bail is also a process of law), then how could the victim’s (and her family’s) lives were not protected and where was justice to her?
It may seem that all that has happened in the Unnao case was an injustice to the girl and her family and hence encounter murder seems to be more legitimate. These accused have demonstrated their barbarian behaviour and the question is, why should the society behave as civilians when they have openly demonstrated barbarian behaviour.
Why Being a Civilian to Barbarians?
Since we are not considering the popular counter-arguments of the possibility of mistaken identity of the accused in this article, we need to discuss one more point that commonly appears in such discussions. When one has raped and killed a person like this, he has shown barbarian nature of his and he should be treated like a barbarian. That is when people propose mob lynching, burning the accused alive or an encounter murder. The argument that we live in civil society and our laws should uphold civil principles rather than barbarian principles, doesn’t seem to be valid to those.
At this juncture, we need to understand that individuals that behave like barbarians do not represent our society, but they do live in the same society and there are certain times when their barbaric nature comes to the fore. In certain situations like in a mob behaviour, this nature may be exaggerated.
For example, the people who are suggesting such barbaric punishments are also showing their barbaric nature and mob behaviour. Even Jaya Bachchan has shown her barbaric nature when she demanded mob lynching for the rapists. But none of these people may be barbaric in their life. The human behaviour changes based on several factors including in a group or mob scenarios.
Do you know why you don’t know of women rapists?
Because media do not report genders when women are the rapists and men are the victims..
Parliamentarian vs Common Man
Now let’s try to understand how the same comment made by a parliamentarian is different from that made by a common man.
An average person demanding death penalty of the rapists and a parliamentarian demanding the same makes a whole lot of difference. A common man’s views can be ignored but not that of a parliamentarian’s views. So, when Jaya Bachchan commented in favour of lynch mob justice, that has fuelled a mob behaviour. This comment has also reflected poorly on the Indian parliament and conveyed that the Indian parliament does not follow civil norms and that directly reflects on this country. More so, when we see that her comment was not deleted from the parliamentary records (at least what I have seen). This situation is similar to a male MP standing in the parliament and demanding rape of a woman and both cannot be acceptable in any civil society.
The point here is, when an individual or some common people behave in a barbaric way, that becomes their personal image or personal behaviour. Whereas when an MP behaves in a barbaric way, that reflects on the whole country. Because MPs are not just individuals, they are people’s representatives and whatever they say or do, reflects on the country.
Why We Can’t be Barbarians
Now that you understand the difference between same responses of a common individual and that of the state, you can easily understand that a punishment given by a state, reflects on the nature of the state rather than on the individual or the nature of the crime.
Now, you may feel that when barbaric crimes like the Hyderabad Vet case, are committed in a society, how can the society claim to be a civil one?
To understand this, you need to understand that these rarest of rare crimes don’t reflect the true state of our society. The fact that a large number of people was protesting and demanding punishment of the rapists itself shows that. I am sure you would not have seen any individual (even MRAs) supporting such barbaric rape incidents. So, it becomes clear that one/two outlier incidents (like Hyderabad vet case or the Nirbhaya case) can’t determine the true state of the society as being barbaric. But when we start giving barbaric punishments then we reflect the same on ourselves.
The Concept of Justice
Now let me explain the concept of justice as accepted by most civilian countries including ours. This says –
Equals can’t be treated unequally and unequal can’t be treated equally
This is the feminist theory that has made Article 15(3) possible and going strong in India. This is an Article in India constitution, where the exception is the rule.
Feminists propagate (rather successfully) that women have been oppressed for centuries and hence they are unequal and need special treatment and benefits. It doesn’t matter if she is a commoner or an MP. That’s why we see women MP’s like Jaya Bachchan openly spreading feminism in the parliament but male MPs talking about men’s rights, become laughing stock or criticized heavily. So, while you read this, as a male commoner you need to understand that this theory believes that despite being an MP herself and despite being super-rich, Jaya Bachchan is oppressed by you.
Now, if we go by the same logic, all Hyderabad (and Nirbhaya) rapists should have been pardoned because they belonged to the poorer and underprivileged class (and hence unequal). But looks like in the competition of genders, they have lost the battle even in the sense of justice that is accepted by the Indian judicial system. Rather we see that women rapists and nymphomaniacs are sent for psychological treatment but serial male rapists are lynched in the parliament and on the streets.
Speedy Justice – A Relative Term
Now those of you who have demanded speedy justice for any victim of violent crime, you would need to understand that the term, ‘speedy’ is very relative. If all the people are asked today, what is their definition of speedy trial and justice, the answers will surely vary. Is 6 months’ time enough or it should be 6 weeks?
Now we need to understand that since our courts are not working in three shifts to deliver justice, we surely have a limitation on how ‘speedy’ it can really be. This is worsened by unending vacations our courts enjoy and added to that are the sickness of lawyers, judges, their training, deaths etc that keeps the courts closed. Over and above that a situation of a high number of different sections for the same offence particularly related to crime against women has made it impossible for any justice to be truly ‘speedy’.
Why ‘Justice’ can’t be ‘Speedy’
So, we understand that unless special courts are formed to deal with such special cases, ‘speedy’ justice delivery is not possible. Also, that speedy may not give ‘justice’ because even judiciary is impacted by emotions. Sensational Hetal Parekh rape and murder case from Kolkata is the biggest example. This case rocked the whole nation for more than a decade and the accused still didn’t get justice in all the courts. This was because a popular sentiment was created against him so that we all thought he was guilty. Now, when a normal process of justice couldn’t punish the real culprit, (victim’s mother), how can a fast track court deliver justice?
Rather when such sensitive matters are heard in fast track courts to deliver justice to the victim, judges’ emotions play more compared to evidence, and in such high-profile cases, the chances of getting ‘injustice’ become more.
No, Encounter didn’t give justice to Priyanka
Now let me show you even from the most barbaric viewpoint, that the encounter by the Telangana police, didn’t actually give any justice to Priyanka Reddy. As I said, I will explain this from the barbaric viewpoint.
The wounds that were inflicted on Priyanka and the fact that she was burnt alive, was truly barbarian in nature. Even from the hate-mongers perspective, the encounter death given to the same perpetrators were rather easy and quick. Did it in any way match the wounds inflicted on her?
Now we need to know how rape accused are treated in jails. They are treated the worse even by the other inmates. They are brutalised and even raped almost every day by the police and or other inmates. The way police treat them and the kind of beatings they need to tolerate is monstrous. So, if the accused were alive rather than dead, they would have undergone more pain and sufferings than this quick death.
So, even from a lynch mob perspective, the accused didn’t get proper punishment that they would have otherwise received, and hence, even from a hatemonger’s perspective, Priyanka Reddy didn’t get justice.
[Now if you are thinking that the accused should have been burnt alive as punishment to give justice to Priyanka (many have suggested this on social media) as you may think that inflicting same amount pain to the accused would give justice to the victim, you are showing your own barbaric nature and a state giving that penalty would be considered as a barbaric state and hence would attract global sanctions.]
So, you understand that from either from the civilian or from the barbarian perspective, the encounter didn’t give justice to Priyanka and it surely can’t give justice to any victim.
How an Encounter Brings Injustice
Now that I have explained how encounter didn’t give justice to Priyanka if it was intended to do so, I will show you how such instant punishments will bring injustice to the society.
If it is believed that the Hyderbad Police under the leadership of encounter specialist officer Mr Sajjanar, wanted to send a strong message to the criminals of heinous crimes it has resulted from the social anger and a fit of rage that was created after the incident. Jaya Bachchan’s comment in parliament and huge pressure on Telangana police to bring justice even when they were actually taking speedy actions, led to the events as unfolded.
This fit of anger (lynch mob mentality) in public is very harmful that instigates common people to take laws into their hands. Just on the same day when police killed Hyderabad accused, a man was thrashed by the general public in the presence of police. Complaint against him was he eve-teased a woman. This happened even when police had taken him into custody. This kind of incident shows the result of instigating mob violence and promoting lynching in parliament by some MPs.
Remember, if this kind of mentality prevails in the society then innocent accused like Saravjeet Singh (Jasleen Kaur case) or the three accused in Rohtak Sisters case would be thrashed by the public even before any trial. Barbaric MPs will not take responsibility for those killings and no one will blame them as they will hide behind feminism, sexism and patriarchal oppression. The encounter and the series of celebrations that took place around the country is all a part of this lynch mob mentality, that can even take down your life one day.
That is why an encounter doesn’t bring justice but brings more injustice.