Brando and Brando
Abolish death penalty
Egg pakodas at Laala Moosa
Leopards feast on humans
THE Agra doctor who allegedly certified 10 sane women as insane to enable their husbands to get divorce has proved that human greed and depravity know no limits. Mind you, he is no quack but a senior government doctor of the Agra Mental Hospital who for a few thousand rupees sold his soul to the devil. So blatant was his wantonness that he did not even care to look at the women before issuing the certificate which could land them in a mental asylum for God knows how many years. The story has hit the headlines because of a sting operation by the Tehelka team, whose member managed to get a certificate of insanity for his wife for Rs 5,000 and could even record it on tape for the whole world to see. This may be one of the most blatant misuses of his position by any doctor anywhere. One wants to believe for the sake of one's sanity that he was the only Mr Hyde of his kind but there are reasons to suspect that there may be some more that have equally degenerate morals.
The plight of the hapless women languishing in the Agra asylum was highlighted in the media about a decade back also but at that time the focus was on the avarice of their family members. To get divorce or to grab property, they would get their close relations declared insane and dump them in mental hospitals. Even at that time fear was expressed that the mischief could not be carried out without the connivance of doctors. The apprehension has come true.
The national concern being expressed about the incredible story would be worthwhile only if it ensures exemplary punishment for the culprits and a nationwide clean-up. Last time the Tehelka team carried out a similar sting operation, it was the journalists themselves who were put in the dock and hauled over the coals. Unlike the politicians who close ranks to save their Bangaru Laxmans, Ajit Jogis and Dilip Singh Judeos, the medical profession should come out in the open to weed out the black sheep — jackals would be the more appropriate word — from their ranks.
BY branding the words Yeh Chor Hai (He is a thief) on the back of an undertrial, officials of the Amritsar Central Jail have immortalised their own bestiality. There must be something in the DNA of the Punjab Police which makes them do such unthinkable deeds. Some years ago, it was the Sangrur Police which had tattooed the words “Jebkatri” on the foreheads of certain women accused of picking pockets. It had evoked worldwide revulsion, so much so that the police had to get it erased through plastic surgery. It was thought that better sense would prevail in the future but the Amritsar episode has established that no lessons have been learnt and no repentance shown.
These are the sort of extreme cases which prick the conscience of man. Then there are hundreds of slightly less but equally reprehensible acts of brutality which do not even get reported. For the policemen who have yet to realise that the medieval times have passed, third degree is the only way to extract information. Anyone who comes in contact with them is treated as a galley slave, who can be beaten up, branded or even killed in custody. Look at their behaviour even with the general public. They seem to believe that they have the licence to humiliate and insult everyone.
All this has happened because they manage to get away with even murder. The Amritsar incident should be treated as the last straw. Now onwards, let the police be made to shed their inhuman streak. What they are doing today is only promoting lawlessness. Those who thought branding a man with “Yeh Chor Hai” would make him a better person did not know that the women with the words “Jebkatri” were caught picking pockets some years later.
Brando and Brando
NO actor, not even the hugely talented Shah Rukh Khan, should have played the role of Devdas after Dilip Kumar. Similarly, no actor should ever try to play Godfather for it would require an extraordinary effort to improve upon the performance of Marlon Brando. The legendary Hollywood actor was to start shooting for “Brando and Brando” later this month. He was to play himself in the movie. Should not the making of the film be cancelled? Who else can do justice to the role than the flesh and blood Don Corleone of Maria Puzo's novel?
Brando was a born rebel. Hollywood may not have discovered this extraordinary talent had he not been a sworn non-conformist. In 1940, he went to a military boarding school from which he was expelled for insubordination. He joined the American League for a Free Palestine, and collected money for a radical Jewish underground movement. This was the first sign of the recurring pattern of spontaneous expression of his sense of justice, which led to his lifelong commitment to the political rights of the American Indians. He sent a Native American to reject the second of his two Oscars along with a controversial speech. He was only being true to himself by manipulating a bizarre form of protest against the deprivation of Native Americans.
Forty years ago the “greatest actor ever” stood on the waterfront, where he had stood in a movie of the same name, in support of American Indian rights. The weight of his stardom propelled the movement into an international cause celebre. On Thursday, as the world paid him tributes for his acting prowess, the Native Americans remembered him as a sensitive defender of civil rights. Few people can claim to have lived life on their terms. Brando was one of them. He wrote his autobiography not for the world to remember him, but for his own progeny, brought up on malicious propaganda about his private life.
History is not what you thought. It is what you can remember.
Abolish death penalty
THE awarding of death penalty to Dhananjoy has unfortunately been mixed up with the larger of question of abolition of death penalty. In the process, the issue of morality and of retaining death sentence as such has been eclipsed. It would be pertinent to recall that the Supreme Court had found that Dhananjoy's offence “was not only inhuman and barbaric but it was also a totally ruthless crime of rape followed by cold blooded murder and an affront to the human dignity of society. The savage nature of the crime has shocked our judicial conscience.”
I wish the discussion was in the context of a case of four Dalits in Bihar still awaiting execution for having allegedly killed the persons who had wanted to deprive them of their livelihood by throwing these people out of their cultivated land. It then may have been easy to persuade the public that the reasons of persons like me who oppose the death penalty are based on larger consideration human dignity and the arbitrariness of sentencing mechanism, notwithstanding my agreeing that the action of Dhananjoy was both inhuman and unpardonable.
The rationale for the abolition of death penalty is qualitatively different and is wisely expressed by President Eduardo Frei of Chile: “I cannot believe that to defend life and punish the person that kills, the State should in its turn kill. The death penalty is as inhuman as the crime which motivates it.”
Support for the death penalty remained strong. In 1946, on the eve of Independence, the then Union Home Minister stated that the government did not think it wise to abolish capital punishment. Ten years later, when the government asked the states for their opinion, most expressed support for the death penalty. In its 35th report, produced in 1967, the Law Commission took the view that capital punishment acts as a deterrent to crime. Curiously, it conceded that statistics did not prove these so-called deterrent effects. But it comforted itself by saying that neither could it be said the figures disapproved this either.
There was some unease with the death penalty. One consequence was a change in the law in 1955, saying that courts no longer had to explain why they had not chosen to pass or award a sentence of death. A further reform came in 1973 which provided that in the case of a death sentence, special reasons for such a sentence had to be given.
The Supreme Court traditionally has not questioned death sentence.
But some liberal judges tried to develop the alternative by holding that if more than two years have passed a death sentence, the accused could invoke Article 21 and demand the death sentence be quashed.
However, in Trivenben (1989) the Supreme Court again unanimously upheld the death penalty to be constitutional. It held that the delay could only be counted from the day the Supreme Court’s judgment is pronounced, in other words when the judicial process came to an end. The court added a caveat that the time consumed by repeated petitions at the instance of the convicted person should not be considered delay, thus the accused not getting the benefit of it.
But the Supreme Court in April 1991 reduced the death sentence that it had confirmed in the 1988 Daya Singh case — who had murdered Punjab Chief Minister Pratap Singh Kairon — to life imprisonment because of delay. Strangely, this was done without any examination of the causes of the delay, apparently in defiance of the 1989 decision.
This cacophony of differing judicial views is bound to continue so long as the death penalty remains on the statute book. Each judge, it seems, reaches for his own interpretation of the retributive or reformative aspect of criminal punishment. So, we have confusing signals on death penalty. Ironically, after the rarest of rare doctrine was propounded in 1980 the Supreme Court confirmed death penalty in 40 per cent of the cases in the period 1980-90 whereas it was 37.7 per cent in 1970-80. For the High Courts the figures confirming death sentence rose from 59 per cent in 1970-80 to 65 per cent during 1980-90.
The vociferous opposition to the abolition of death penalty comes from the myth that it will lead to an increase in murders. Facts show otherwise. Thus, in 1945-50 the State of Travancore, which had abolished death penalty, had 962 murders whereas during 1950-55, when death sentence was reimposed, there were 967 murders.
In Canada, after the abolition of death penalty in 1976, the homicide rate has declined. In 2000, there were 542 homicides in Canada — 16 less than in 1998 and 159 less than in 1975 (one year prior to the abolition of capital punishment).
A survey conducted by the United Nations in 1988 concluded that research has failed to provide any evidence that executions have a greater deterrent effect than life imprisonment.
In 1997, the Attorney-General of Massachusetts said, “there is not a shred of credible evidence that the death penalty lowers the murder rate. In fact, without the death penalty the murder rate in Massachusetts is about half the national average.”
A survey released in September 2000 by The New York Times found that during the last 20 years the homicide rate in the states with death penalty has been 48 per cent to 101 per cent higher that in the states without death penalty.
Death penalty had been abolished in 1965 in the UK. The membership of the European Union is dependent on having no death penalty. Italy with its Sicilian Revenge syndrome like Punjab has also abolished death penalty obviously in the confidence that murders do not get automatically reduced by retaining death penalty.
The South African Constitutional Court unanimously ruled in 1995 that the death penalty for murder violated the country’s constitution.
More than 118 countries have abolished death penalty either in law or practice.
The second optional protocol to the International Civil Covenant which entered into force in 1991 mandates the abolition of death penalty. India has unfortunately not even signed it thus placing ourselves in the doubtful company of the US.
The grievous danger of irreversibility and innocents being executed is no panic reaction considering that 500 people have been executed in the United States since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Over that same period, 75 condemned inmates have been released after evidence showed they had been wrongfully convicted. That equates to roughly one exoneration for every seven executions.
The Baldus report prepared in the United States found that if a homicide victim was white, his or her killer was four times more likely to get the death sentence than if the victim were black. The same disadvantage will occur in India in case of Dalits and the poor.
It cannot be disputed that the outcome of any trial depends to a fairly large extent on the quality of legal advice that the accused receives. This loads the scales in favour of the rich who find it easier to avoid the death penalty than the poor. The arbitrariness, sometimes approaching freakishness, of the sentencing mechanism in India persuades one to strongly urge that retaining the death penalty is less justice and is a violation of human rights.
Egg pakodas at Laala Moosa
MEMORIES are recalled through the senses. There are the memories of the seen, the heard, the felt and the touched. There are also the delicious memories of the taste buds. And if it were not for these mouth-watering remembrances, I would never have known the name of some obscure little town in West Punjab called Laala Moosa. The memory came down from my mother who had not really seen the town but had passed it many times by rail during her sojourns from Rawalpindi to Kharian. What made the name of this town stay alive in her mind long years after Partition, migration and much else were the delicious egg pakodas that were sold at the Lala Moosa railway station.
“I have never eaten egg pakodas as tasty as those sold at the Laala Moosa railway station!” She would say this and go onto describe in detail how hard-boiled eggs would be slit sideways, stuffed with spices and then dipped in garlic-flavoured besan batter and boiled to a rich golden brown. On an occasional winter Sunday evening she would prepare this delicacy for us and we loved it. But biting into her own share, she would exclaim, “All right! But the Laala Moosa fare was exceptional.”
So this time when I got a chance to visit the Punjab of my parents, I would ask people of the various things I had heard from my elders of the land lost to us in an effort to put together some kind of a patchwork quilt of memories. In the process, I discovered many missing links and a lot more information about things that were still vague in my mind. But when I tried asking people in Lahore about Laala Moosa railway station and the egg pakodas that used to be sold there, I always drew a blank. The imperious Lahoris so proud of their own elegant city had little or no time for some God-forsaken Laala Moosa town.
On the last day in Lahore, I sat chatting with Basheer Ahmad who owns an antique shop in the Falleti’s Hotel. Asking him about the rugs, doorknobs, silver jewels and much else that was littered about, I casually asked him of the place he belonged to. “I am from Laala Moosa,” he said. I almost jumped up crying Eureka! but stopped myself in time and launched off on the egg pakodas at the station that my mother used to rave about. The old man smiled and said, “Yes, you still get them at the station there. So many vendors sell just that. It is the speciality of our town.” I had found a missing
Leopards feast on humans
UNFORTUNATELY for the Mumbaiites living on the periphery of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, shikar has been out of fashion for half a century.
The first six months of this year alone have seen 14 persons, mostly children, fall victim to leopards. In contrast 15 persons were killed by the man-eaters last year. Most of them were attacked in their sleep or while answering nature’s call in the wild.
“The city is expanding into what was originally a forest land, leading to a conflict between humans and panthers,” says Mr A.R. Bharati, Chief Conservator of Forests. Most of the victims were illegal encroachers living in sprawling slum colonies that have sprouted on the land belonging to the national park. Bharati and other forest officials feel that the entire 98-km-long boundary of the park should be barricaded by a high wall.
Meanwhile, animals are getting bolder. Last year a leopard scaled a 10-foot wall into a housing colony near the Indian Institute of Technology, Powai and tried to grab a seven-year-old child while his horrified playmates watched. Though the animal dropped the child and escaped during the commotion, the boy died of his wounds in hospital.
Students at the IIT often encounter the big cat on the verdant campus. The techies designed a cage to trap the animals. The contraption has been doing the rounds of housing colonies in the periphery of the park.
Environmentalists are now demanding that the Maharashtra Government enforce the Bombay High Court order on clearing of slums on the park land and relocating them elsewhere. According to Debi Goenka of the Bombay Environmental Action Group, which moved the court for evicting slum-dwellers nearly four years ago, the government is required to build a 22-km high wall to check encroachers.
The Maharashtra Government has so far built 10 km of the wall ordered by the court. “There are encroachments that need to be removed before we can proceed further,” says a state government official.
However, politicians have so far resisted the move. With Maharashtra going to the polls later this year, Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde wants the animals to be moved out of the national park instead. He suggests the leopards be trapped and set free elsewhere. Environmentalists say the animals would then attack human beings in those areas.
Forest officials here estimate that the 103-sq km park, the only one in Asia to be located close to a city, has about 40 leopards. The food base for animals like deer and monkeys is not sufficient, forcing them to wander out of the park in search of prey.
Matters worsened when earlier this month six-footer Kuldeep Singh Chalal, who was (55) out on a pre-dawn walk in the park area, was killed. His partly-eaten body was found by other walkers a few hours later. Chalal’s nephew, former cricketer Balwinder Singh Sandhu is now demanding that a wall be built separating the park land from the city. “Perhaps the panther will have to carry away a politician or two before the wall is built,” Sandhu told reporters later.
The Forest Department has now announced that 50-60 cheetals and sambhars would be introduced in the park to increase the prey base. However, forest officials themselves admit that the leopards find dogs and human beings an easier prey.
Others like Goenka feel that the entry of people into the national park be banned. “Visitors should be restricted to specific routes,” says Goenka.
Faced with increasing criticism, the Maharashtra Government is now being forced into action. State government sources say an old proposal by the Bombay Natural History Society to study the problem may now be taken up. The study requiring funds to the tune of Rs 2 lakh has been put in the cold storage.
The other proposals include construction of public toilets for the benefit of locals as well as a ban on sleeping outdoors. The authorities have also been advised to enforce a night curfew to prevent further casualties.
IF you are a film buff you certainly know who Raveena Tandon is. But do you know the name of her husband? If you don’t, you may have difficulty in clearing the commerce paper of Ranchi University. The rather novel question was asked in the general knowledge section of the commerce paper in Ranchi University almost a month ago. But it was highlighted only when examiners began seeing the answer papers. When one examiner found he did not know the answer to the question, he asked his colleagues. None of them knew either. So they sifted through some Bollywood magazines. But in vain. The magazines too could not tell them the name of Raveena’s husband. Said a teacher: “We will write to the Vice-Chancellor of Ranchi University and draw his attention to the question, which indicates that whoever set the paper wasn’t quite applying his mind!” Interestingly, many of the examiners are yet to find out the answer. And just in case you did not know either, Raveena’s husband is called Anil Thadani. He must be thrilled at the unique honour bestowed on him by the university.
The rather novel question was asked in the general knowledge section of the commerce paper in Ranchi University almost a month ago. But it was highlighted only when examiners began seeing the answer papers.
When one examiner found he did not know the answer to the question, he asked his colleagues. None of them knew either.
So they sifted through some Bollywood magazines. But in vain. The magazines too could not tell them the name of Raveena’s husband.
Said a teacher: “We will write to the Vice-Chancellor of Ranchi University and draw his attention to the question, which indicates that whoever set the paper wasn’t quite applying his mind!” Interestingly, many of the examiners are yet to find out the answer. And just in case you did not know either, Raveena’s husband is called Anil Thadani. He must be thrilled at the unique honour bestowed on him by the university.
She returned from “hell hole” She was sold to a Mumbai brothel by two traffickers in connivance with her own sister-in-law. But an illiterate Nepalese widow was able to get justice when a district court sentenced her deceivers to over 16 years in prison. Yam Kumari Thapa comes from Chidipani Bhutuke Bhanjyang, a remote and underdeveloped village in Nepal racked by the Maoist insurgency. When her husband died in an accident, the woman fell into the clutches of her scheming sister-in-law Sita and two Nepalese men who tricked her into going to Mumbai and sold her there to a brothel. There she came across a fellow Nepalese. Though Raj Kumar had gone there as a customer, he was moved by Yam Kumari’s plight and helped her return to Nepal. On her return, Yam Kumari was befriended by a women’s rights group, the Women Welfare Association, which helped her lodge a case against the two traffickers. Eight months after her return from the “hell hole” in Mumbai, Yam Kumari finally received justice when the court sentenced the men to jail for 16 years.
She was sold to a Mumbai brothel by two traffickers in connivance with her own sister-in-law. But an illiterate Nepalese widow was able to get justice when a district court sentenced her deceivers to over 16 years in prison.
Yam Kumari Thapa comes from Chidipani Bhutuke Bhanjyang, a remote and underdeveloped village in Nepal racked by the Maoist insurgency. When her husband died in an accident, the woman fell into the clutches of her scheming sister-in-law Sita and two Nepalese men who tricked her into going to Mumbai and sold her there to a brothel.
There she came across a fellow Nepalese. Though Raj Kumar had gone there as a customer, he was moved by Yam Kumari’s plight and helped her return to Nepal.
On her return, Yam Kumari was befriended by a women’s rights group, the Women Welfare Association, which helped her lodge a case against the two traffickers.
Eight months after her return from the “hell hole” in Mumbai, Yam Kumari finally received justice when the court sentenced the men to jail for 16 years.
Marry in haste,
divorce in haste
Cubans are considered the friendliest people in the world. They are always in a hurry to tie the knot- and to untie it too. The divorce rate of Cubans is the highest in Latin America, says a new study. With the cupid running riot, the country has a very high number of non-formal families too, points out the study by the Psychology Faculty of Havana University. The immaturity of the couples too young for a mature matrimony and increasing economic independence of women are also seen as reasons for growing divorces.
Cubans are considered the friendliest people in the world. They are always in a hurry to tie the knot- and to untie it too.
The divorce rate of Cubans is the highest in Latin America, says a new study.
With the cupid running riot, the country has a very high number of non-formal families too, points out the study by the Psychology Faculty of Havana University.
The immaturity of the couples too young for a mature matrimony and increasing economic independence of women are also seen as reasons for growing divorces.
By reflecting on the Guru’s Word, evil-intellect goes. By meeting the True Guru, the door to salvation is attained. By submitting to the will of God, man is blessed with all virtues and wisdom, and he is honoured in His court.
— Guru Nanak
Sri Ramakrishna used to say, “Whoever has prayed to God sincerely for one day, must come here.”
— Swami Vivekananda
Money is at the root of all the disaster you see in the world. Money may lure one’s mind into other temptations. Beware!
— Sarada Devi
God has created the world in play.
— Sri Ramakrishna
He is a learned man that understands one subject; a very learned man who understands two.