Writer Paul Zacharia has said that it is high time India abolished capital punishment as it is founded on the primitive and fallacious belief that a crime can be undone by killing a person.
Inaugurating a convention seeking a moratorium on capital punishment, organised by the Committee Against Capital Punishment, here on Monday, Mr. Zacharia said the media's celebration of the capital punishment awarded to Govindachamy in the Soumya murder case was born out of the innate human craving for war and gore and the social consensus of the current times on the need to meet crime with crime. The recent murder of a youth by a moral vigilante group was the result of this mindset. Television channels were particularly adept at feeding this war hysteria. This was in evidence immediately after the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks when some media organisations even called for an immediate war with Pakistan.
What actually played out in Govindachamy's case was hatred for a foreigner, the craving for bloodshed and upper caste sense of honour. The reaction would not have been so celebratory had the accused belonged to any of the major communities in Kerala, he said. The writer pointed out that in India capital punishment was also a political weapon and said that no judge would have been able to award anything less than capital punishment in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. The clamour for hanging the accused in the Parliament attack case was another case in point, he added.
Chairing the convention, journalist B.R.P. Bhaskar said that Kerala had changed so much over the last 25 years that a person suspected of pick-pocketing could be beaten to death and nobody found anything wrong in capital punishment which was nothing but judicial murder. The people of Kerala must ask themselves how things came to such a pass. Equally important was to raise the question what role the media played in preparing the Malayali mind to accept murders in society and those ordered by the judiciary without any sense of guilt. The media should introspect on this and society at last should start worrying about this if the State were to become a better place to live, Mr. Bhaskar said.
On the occasion, academic N.A. Kareem said capital punishment derived its legitimacy from the legal guarantees to protect life and also to take life. As important as capital punishment was extra judicial killings as was evident in the killing of Maoist leaders Azad and Kishenji, both of whom were enticed into the police dragnet under the guise of negotiations. Such killings showed that the State could not be trusted with the power to take a person in the name of the law. The quality of the judiciary also raised serious questions about the wisdom of persisting with capital punishment, Dr. Kareem said.