Death penalty: What exactly are we protesting against?

Last Updated: Wed, Aug 31, 2011 05:52 hrs

"So, it looks like Gandhi's back in vogue. First, there's Anna, who's, like, the twenty-first century new and improved version, tech savvy and all."

"Does his iPad have a spinning app?"

"Are you talking about spinning wheels or media reports?"

"Never mind. You said this was the first. What's the other Gandhian trend?"

"You know, some six decades after he last said it, people are quoting the ‘eye for an eye makes the whole world blind' one-liner."

"But those people are missing a point, aren't they? Half the world would have to be poking out eyes for that scenario to occur. If no one poked someone's eyes out in the first place, there would be no need for the whole world to go blind."

"Yeah, it's a logical fallacy. Actually, I think an eye for an eye would work quite well. If rapists were to be raped, and people who burn their wives and daughters-in-law over dowry were to be burnt, I'm quite sure the crime rate would drop."

"Well, what would you do in a case where there's...uh, collateral damage? Like someone gets assassinated in a suicide bomb attack, and everyone around him dies?"

"Well, I guess you have to settle for one eye for two then. Not like you can bomb the jail, and get their ward mates blown to bits. Or their houses."

"So, what you're saying is, you're for capital punishment?"

"Umm, I think I'm in favour of an-eye-for-an-eye. Like they do in Iran, sort of."

"Dude, in Iran, they throw photographers in jail and torture them for taking pictures of the outside of prisons. Your eye-for-an-eye would mean they just took a mug shot of the photographer and let him or her go."

"Well, you know what I mean. Anyway, the problem with any kind of punishment is that involvement has to be proven, I guess. But if it's proven beyond doubt, then you ought to pay for a life you've taken with your own life, don't you?"

"You know, what I don't quite get in the case of the Rajiv Gandhi killers, is this - what's the deal with the abolition of capital punishment? Are the protesters against capital punishment for everyone, or just for Tamils? Because if it's for everyone, they'd make Afzal Guru a very happy man."

"Or set a precedent for Kashmir to agitate. And God knows they have bigger problems than we do."

"Hey, hey, that's all relative. Most people don't even know we exist. They just call us all ‘South Indians'. When I moved to Delhi, my landlords tried to make me feel comfortable by introducing me to fellow South Indians. Turned out it was a family from Andhra who only spoke Telugu and Hindi. And I speak only Tamil and English."

"But I thought the problem was that everyone from the South is called ‘Madrasi'. If I were a non-Tamil South Indian, I would be aggrieved."

"Well, but at least the people of every other non-Hindi-speaking state have unique pejoratives. You know, Bongs, Mallus, Gults, Digs. We don't have one."

"They call us ‘Pandis' in some crowds."

"See, I didn't know that. It's not popular enough."

"Anyway, I don't think Kashmiris have a pejorative."

"I think most of them believe being called ‘Indian' is offensive enough."

"Not Omar Abdullah. Remember that famous speech he made about being Indian and being Muslim?"

"He's a complicated guy. He got a shoe hurled at him last year, and this year, he forgave stone throwers. Then he tweeted that he wouldn't tweet about Anna, and then tweeted about Kiran Bedi, who's part of the ‘I am Anna' lot."

"Hmm, I think we're too far down South to figure out what goes on in his head."

"Fine, back to the Tamil question then. What point are the people attempting and committing suicide trying to prove? And they all seem to belong to a Tamil Power outfit."

"Yeah, and they're all called ‘martyrs', which is a semantic fallacy. I guess the suicidal tendencies have to do with films. People have been setting themselves on fire on our screens for decades, and I can't remember when we had a ruling or opposition party leader who didn't come from a filmy past."

"Yes, but did people in films ever immolate themselves for a cause?"

"I don't think I've watched enough movies to figure that out."

"The police seem to have had a couple of rough days, stopping people from setting themselves on fire."

"You know, they should have a suicide complex."

"I think they already do. Though Freud may have called it a preoccupation or obsession, rather than a complex."

"No, no, I wasn't using complex in the psychological sense. I meant like a shopping complex. This way, people could just queue up in a single place to bring attention to their causes. It would spare the police and media a lot of running around too."

"So they just pay for the kerosene, declare their cause, and get stopped by the police?"

"Well, unless the cops are on a break or something."

"But imagine the traffic diversions around the place!"

"You're right. Maybe they should allow them to go through with it, you know. No ambulances allowed in the area, free supply of kerosene and matchsticks, only come in if you're serious about committing suicide."

"But I think they'll have a lot of takers for that too. The Corporation's brought in free cremation and burial facilities too, now. How will they handle the crowd?"

"I suppose they could allot a quota, going by the standard reservation system."

"Hey, that's not fair. What about suicidal Brahmins?"

"Oh, they can always migrate to Silicon Valley and kill themselves."

"Do you know how hard it is to get a visa? And it's not like Brahmins ever stopped people from killing themselves. In fact, they've been aiding and abetting suicide for aeons. I mean, given that it's Onam time and all, think of the Vamana Avatar!"

"Yeah, well, deal with it. But I think self-immolation has become a popular enough pastime to be given its own designated space. Maybe at the Collectorate? And they could issue tenders for fuel suppliers."

"Well, with government buildings going green, they may consider using electric incinerators instead."

Also by Nandini Krishnan: Ramlila Maidan: Are Indians addicted to drama?

A tale of two ministers...and a magic wand

Temple treasure: Does God owe us money?

Why everyone should take a leaf out of Kalmadi's book 

How do you solve a problem like the Lokpal Bill?

The author is a writer based in Chennai. She blogs at

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