He was only 25 years old. Barely a year older than my little sister. He could have had a whole life ahead of him. He was just a baby faced kid. And he was executed by hanging on 21st November 2012. Such was the brief short life of Ajmal Kasab. However, I feel no regret or remorse over his death. He had it coming. Many people celebrated his death. I empathize with their emotions. To be perfectly honest, there was a sense of gladness.
To the stranger, this might sound extremely hypocritical coming from a pacifist. Especially one who tends to lean against capital punishment. Many might deem me to be a flip flop of sorts. Indeed capital punishment is one of those conundrums that puts pacifists like me in quite a moral quandary.
Pacifism stems from humanitarian beliefs in the sanctity of human life. On one hand even the most hardened criminal is still a human being. Humanitarianism deems that justice also be compassionate and cause no harm. On the other hand some of the most hardened criminals have no value for human life. They are often cold blooded sociopaths devoid of any sense of morality or human emotion. They pose a risk to the safety and well being of society in general. So you see the difficulty of processing death sentence from a humanitarian perspective? A purely utilitarian or a purely right to life perspective makes the decision easy in a black or white yes or no matter. But it is the darned humanitarianism that makes such choices so circumstantial.
There are other practical reasons why I oppose the death sentence as well. Across the world several people were convicted for rape and/or murder, but later found innocent after DNA evidence was discovered years later. In many parts of the world the odds are still stacked against minorities of all sorts. Investigators are biased against them, popular media does not paint an objective picture, and juries have stereotypes in mind. Many cannot afford good defense that could acquit them. Every year hundreds of innocent people do get convicted due to biases and circumstantial evidence. In light of these scenarios. I find it better to sustain life rather than face the burden of sentencing a potentially innocent person to death.
Finally the act of taking a life causes irreparable psychological damage. Soldiers suffer post traumatic stress disorders on account of horrors of war. People in innocent no fault car accidents that took a life suffer nightmares over causing death. The human psyche is not designed to take human life. No matter how wretched the person killed, human psychology is designed to feel remorse and guilt. The death sentence not only condemns a criminal to death, but condemns the executioner to bear the remorse and guilt of society.
On the flip side there is only so much our criminal justice system can handle. Prisons have limited room. The legal system has a limited number of staff to serve as correctional officers and wardens. There are also limited resources of psychologists and sociologists who can help rehabilitate criminals. Most importantly the criminal justice system is expensive. It takes a humongous amount of investment to have prisons and hire staff. Even more investment is needed to feed, clothe and care for the prisoners. A lot more investment is needed to educate, train and rehabilitate criminals into becoming members of society again. That is why even if not desirable the criminal justice system has to make difficult choices. Society does not want to invest in people who have minimal hope.
That is why I am not explicitly against capital punishment but lean against it. I believe society would be much better off if we rehabilitated and trained criminals to become contributing members of society. Capital punishment should be the last recourse. Only in clear cut cases like Timothy McVeigh or Ajmal Kasab does it seem appropriate.
While I have explained my stance on capital punishment, the question still remains how one can empathize with celebrating death. One take on a similar conundrum a long time ago was in This Post. Personally, I don't condone such celebrations. I would encourage people to take time and solemnly reflect upon what happened. One cannot help to feel relief or joy in death, it is an impulsive emotion we cannot control. It is a completely different thing to celebrate death. If I found myself celebrating death in such a brazen manner, I probably would never be able to live with myself.
There was a time I would have condemned people for doing so. I would have painted them as heartless, soulless and pure evil to have such blatant disregard for life and celebrating death. But I see things differently now. Different people have different ways of gaining closure. This was a national tragedy that affected many lives. It was India's 09/11. The event was a catalyst that changed the world for many people. Four years of delayed action on part of the government, VIP treatment of the terrorist had caused many people to lose hope in the system. So the execution finally came as relief to many people. Celebrating was their way of gaining closure. Moving on from the event. Spare them a few moments to express their emotions.
That being said I strongly support and favor the perspective of Aashis Chaudhary. He lost his sister and brother in law in the terror attacks. He could have easily celebrated. In fact his celebration would have been acceptable given his loss. But he refused to celebrate. He had things in perspective.
He said "Why should I rejoice Kasab's death? I will rejoice when little innocent children will stop being taught to kill in the name of God and religion. Ignorance gave different faces to God, who in my view is one. Hence, religion too is one and that religion is humanity. Kasab was not taught that. I sympathise with Kasab. He also was once a small innocent baby, like my son. But unfortunately born around wrong people and wrong teachings. I'm sure as a little baby, Kasab didn't plan his outcome. He was brainwashed, driven to kill in the name of God. He didn't know he was wrong. I will not teach my children to rejoice anyone's death - be it Kasab. They will learn to be non-vindictive, non-fanatical and will love all. I'm not saying that I defend the consequence he faced. I just feel that rejoicing, or feeling completion doesn't make sense. There's more to it.In these four years of awaiting and looking upon Kasab's sentence, I can bet lakhs of new Kasab's were born. Problem lies there. Rejoice when that stops"
I don't just empathize with his view. I highly respect and admire such courage and conviction. It is a rare human quality to be able to reflect, put things in perspective and focus on the real problem. One thing I really hope for in life is that should I ever be put in a difficult place of losing loved ones, that I should not fall prey to vengeance and vindication, I want to preserve my innocence and humanitarianism.
Kasab was merely 21 when he carried out those murders. An age when I myself was still finding my place in the world. His death made him a martyr, and there are many more innocent children with guns in hands and blood lust in their minds. Moreover, his death didn't undo or repair any damage that was done. The world did not become safer or better upon his execution.
Terrorism is a cancer upon society. Perhaps we saved society but cutting of one cancerous growth. But if we have to keep cutting every part that succumbs to this cancer - eventually we wont be left with any society at all. It is high time we focused on the cure, rather than callously hacking of bits and pieces of society.