[Reader-list] Media romanticizing rapists

Shuddha shuddha at sarai.net
Fri Jun 25 14:18:51 IST 2004

Dear Nisha

This is a brief response to your post about the report in the Kolkata 
edition of the Times of India about the death sentence and impending 
execution by handing of Dhanajoy Chatterjee who raped and murdered a 14 
year old girl.

Let me clarify one thing at the very begining. I have absolutely no 
sympathy for any man who has raped and murdered anyone, and least of all 
someone who has raped and murdered a minor.And I agree with your 
revulsion at any attempt to romanticize the life of any such person, 
just as I would be critical of any attempt to romanticize the life of 
military personnel, prison staff, policemen, terrorists, powerful and 
well connected individuals who operate within and outside the law and 
others who rape and murder, routinely. in the line of their work, and in 
the pursuit of their pleasures.

However, I have absolutely no qualms in saying and believing that the 
death penalty is a barbarous and deeply violent institution that in my 
opinion should only be a matter of shame in any civilized society. The 
fact that the death penalty continues to exist in India, and is 
routinely used, not only against rapists and murderers but also against 
others, is a shocking indictment in my opinion of the routine, 
institutionalized violence that we are prepared to condone in our 
society. Dhananjay Chatterjee's death by hanging, within the confines of 
a state institution, in Alipore Central Jail, will not bring the girl he 
raped and murdered back to life. A life for a life is the ethic of the 
blood feud that we continue to enshrine in our constitution, i think it 
only brings the taint of killing on us all.

I doubt that the death penalty is an effective deterrent against violent 
crime, if anything, societies that retain the death penalty (the United 
States and China being leaders in this field, are arguably much more 
violent than those that have abolished it, after all, the death penalty 
confers on the act of killing a certain legitimacy, and this, in my 
opinion contributes to more, not less violence in society)

I have for many years believed that there needs to be a considered and 
an honest debate about the existence of the death penalty, and 
extra-judicial executions, and concomitantly about the romantic cult of 
violence that is  so much a part of the vocabulary of resistance 
movements in India. I am not a pacifist, but I would call for a 
disbanding of military and police functions,  I do not believe that 
violence has any virtues, I do not believe that any valuable social or 
political transformations can be brought about by violent means and at 
the same time I am not an absolutist believer in what is called 
'non-violence' (in that I do believe that armed resistance, by 
individuals, or by groups, in self defence is justified, when no other 
options are left, and when survival is at stake) but I do believe that 
the death penalty and thinking that killing people is a solution of any 
kind, is the kind of attitude that actually engenders and fosters 
violence in society.

Dhananjay Chatterjee is responsible for the life he took, and he 
deserves the harshest punishment for it, but we are all responsible for 
the taking of his life, and by ensuring his death we are also cutting 
off the possibility that he would be condemned to live out a life 
contemplating the enormity of the violence that he unleashed on a 
defenceless person. We ensure that neither Dhananjay, nor we, have to 
really think about what violence means.

I look forward to more thinking on the list about this issue.



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