To Kill or Not to Kill

Prologue

35 year old Raghu is sitting on his desk on a Sunday evening, giving final touch to an office presentation, supposed to take place on Monday. Raghu is a tall, good built guy, slightly short tempered. As he is working, his 5 year old son comes running towards his table and says,

“Papa papa, I want to play with you!” to which Raghu replies, “Not right now, I am working. Go back to your room.” The son obeys.

5 minutes later, the son comes running again and says, “Papa papa, I want to play with you!” Raghu gets a little angry and replies with a loud voice this time, “Didn’t I tell you I am working. Go back to your room.” The son runs away.

Another 5 minutes later, the son comes running once again and says, “Papa papa, I want to play with you!”

This time, a sudden outburst of anger fills up Raghu’s body, he gets up from his chair, slaps the son and says, “How many times do I have to tell you, I am working. Go to your room.”

The child puts his hand on his cheek and runs away with a tear drop in his eye.

As the poor kid was running towards his room, Raghu looks at him and begins to think whether what he did out of anger was justified.

The Beginning

At this point in time, I ask you to reflect on what Raghu did. Do you resonate with his action?

Would you be surprised if I tell you that the anger that Raghu showed towards his son is the same anger present in you, me and everyone else around? Anger is an emotion, present in all of us, a part of being human.

And, would you be surprised if I tell you that the anger that Raghu showed towards his son is the same anger that can lead to a man killing another human being?

Since the topic is much on cards these days, I thought I’ll put my contribution about it too! I believe the idea of Capital Punishment is unjustified. I have my reasons.

For those who do not know, Capital Punishment, death penalty or execution is punishment by death, granted by law or the Supreme Court.

An Act of Killing

Let’s look at the Act of Killing and different situations in which we kill anyone. For the sake of argument, let’s take the case of a mosquito. It’s a widely known that mosquitoes are the cause of many diseases including Malaria.

Situation 1: A mosquito is biting your forearm. The moment the mosquito is biting the arm you realize that the mosquito is on the arm. At this moment there are two options, one is to shrug it off the arm the other is to kill it. This kind of kill is what I call killing out of Self defense.

Situation 2: A mosquito hmms around your forehead. You spot it while flying in the air and immediately there is a chance to finish it. Again there are two options. One is to fly it away by blowing air from your mouth. Second, take it in your hand and kill it. This kind of kill is what I call killing out of Fear.

Situation 3: The same mosquito this time hmms around the left ear, then around the right ear, then on the forehead. Bites your hand and arm and doesn’t let you sleep. At this moment, the moment you spot the mosquito, you feel angry and crush it hard between your hands, killing the tiny mosquito as a result. This kind of kill is what I call killing out of Anger.

All other kinds of kill can be categorized as a combination of two or more of the above three reasons – Self defense, fear, anger.

(There is another kind of kill which happens when I accidently step on an ant moving on the ground, killing it as a result without even knowing it. For the sake of argument, let’s do away with this kind since it won’t count for Capital Punishment anyway.)

Now let’s replace the mosquito with a human being. Self defense and fear can still be justified as ‘normal’ causes of killing in a court of law. It is the third kind, the one which arises out of anger or deep hatred towards a person or community which comes in the category of Capital Punishment.

My Reasons for not supporting Capital Punishment

1. Newton’s Third Law

It takes an immense amount of anger and hatred to kill a human being. It takes the same amount of anger and hatred to kill the person who killed a human being.

Killing a human being is not an easy task. One need a significant amount of reasoning and conditioning to evolve that kind of hatred and take up a step like this.

Newton’s third law says every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The moment I slap someone, the hand is hurt as much as the cheek.

Assuming that the law holds in every aspect of life, the amount of anger and hatred you generate to kill the man who killed someone would backfire by making you a more angry and hating person in other aspects of your life too. Think of the case of short tempered Raghu. The more anger one generates within oneself towards anybody, the more angry the person becomes.

The mere thought of killing a man, no matter what that man has done would do nothing but make you a more angry and hating person in your life. Is that the kind of price you are willing to pay?

2. A Violent State

Let’s look at the goal of punishment, capital or imprisonment. The goal of all punishment is to create a non-violent, peaceful society where you and I can live safely with our children without fear.

If the law and the state begins to promote itself as a violent state, can we have a non-violent, peaceful society? More than the fear, it’s the culture that we promote in our state that shapes the minds of people. The state that promotes violence cannot expect the people to be peace loving.

3. The Man who Kills

After numerous hearings at multiple courts of law, almost every capital punishment case comes before the President of India. Indian Constitution gives the power to the President of India to grant pardon for Capital Punishment and reduce the punishment to lifetime imprisonment. Think of yourself as the President of India. The life and death of a human being is dependent on your signature. In essence, if you let him die, the blood of a man is in your hands. No wonder in the last 20 years, out of more than 1000 cases of death penalty which came to the courts, only 5 executions have happened in our country. Would you like yourself to be responsible for killing the life of another human being?

4. The Cost Aspect

There is a widely known aspect of costs associated with capital punishment. Think of two criminals. One who got life imprisonment and the other who got capital punishment? Who out of these do you think would try harder to reduce the extent of his punishment. Of course the guy who got the latter. Which means the person who got awarded the death penalty would not only move from one court to another more frequently, but would also have to be moved from one jail to another as a result. This leads to higher cost of movement, cost in terms of time and life risk of the cops who do the transfer, cost in terms of the higher attorney fee and the increased time in the hearing of courts and judges. Is it otherwise more costly to keep the man in jail for life?

The Purpose of Prison

What is the purpose of a jail or a prison? The purpose of a prison is not to cure the man who has committed a crime. The purpose of a prison is to detain and isolate him away from the ‘civilized’ society of people.

No child is ever born with any amount of hatred and anger towards someone. The hatred is either developed by external influences, as in case of organized groups and communities, or through personal experiences of a person with another human being tormenting him/her for a long time.

Which means the thought of hatred is planted in the mind of the man externally. Considering the fact that thought precedes action, the question then becomes, if over time the thought of hatred can be planted in a man and made it grow into a huge tree of anger, is it not possible to plant the thought of growth, of expansion, of peace, of love in the same man and let that thought grow into a tree of its own?

The thought of hatred took time to become big enough into a tree. So will the other thought of peace and harmony.

Are our jails helping in this transformation? It seems the time has come to create institutions where criminals having some mental problem or the other can actually be healed rather than hanged. The act of killing out of anger is a mental condition for which a man requires treatment of the mind. And our prisons are no places to heal a man.

Epilogue

In conclusion I want to add that with time and with appropriate treatment of the mind, a man can become a human who would no more be interested in taking another person’s life. Once that happens, the same man can contribute effectively towards the betterment of the world by taking up work in different sectors of society and creating a better life for the society, his family and himself in the process.

What we really need are not places to Hang but places to Heal.