150 years after the American Civil War, 50 years after Civil Rights movement, the American justice and prison system is a fortress of prejudice and hate.
- On MLK Day: How a Racist Criminal Justice System Rolled Back the Gains of the Civil Rights Era (alternet.org)
- Poll: Opinion On Trayvon Martin Case Divided Along Racial Lines (npr.org)
- I Was Trayvon Martin (thedailybeast.com)
- Justice Hidden In A Hoodie (theglobalmail.org)
- British Raj: Expansion In India was Swift and Easy says British-American Historian (2ndlook.wordpress.com)
- Why Pakistan Never Became Democratic (quicktake.wordpress.com)
- Koenraad Elst: Singing Bhajans to British Gods to an Indian Audience or The Game Is Over (2ndlook.wordpress.com)
- Bangladesh: A Step Behind Pakistan or a Step Behind India (quicktake.wordpress.com)
- Valmiki, Orwell & Twitter – The Missing Link (quicktake.wordpress.com)
China believes it is a corrupt nation
China has a big ‘corruption’ problem. Apart from Western media reports, China’s own media confirms,
Corruption has long haunted the ruling Communist Party of China. The Party’s General Secretary, Hu Jintao, once said that “determined punishment and effective prevention of corruption concerns… the existence of the Party”. (via Former official executed by lethal injection).
A report carried by Time magazine, says that
The current level of corruption in China is systematic and widespread. It is so entrenched that honest officials are now part of a minority that risks being left behind. It is a system where corruption is the rule rather than the exception. According to the Chinese professor Hu Xing Do, 99% of the corrupt officials will never be caught. The few who do get caught are simply considered unlucky, and even if their punishment is typically heavy, the dissuasive effect remains minimal.
They have an answer
The Chinese answer to corruption has been death penalty. Liberally, widely, explicitly. A bullet in the head. Finito. Finito. Fini. Ände. Revestimento. Vuoden. Eind. Ende. final de la muerte. отделка . Τέλος.
That is the Chinese answer. To further ram home the point (in case the bullet does not do the trick), these executions are photographed, televised, published in newspapers, covered by the media.
Cant miss it.
In 1983, Deng Xiaoping initiated what were called ‘Strike-Hard’ campaigns. Based on traditional imperial Chinese attitudes and wisdom, apparent from
traditional sayings like “a life for a life,” “killing one to warn a hundred,” “killing a chicken to warn a monkey” are embodiments of these retributive and deterrent beliefs.
Deng, who initiated the strike-hard campaigns in light of the rampant crimes, commented that the authorities could not be soft on crime, and the death sentence was “a necessary educative tool”
This thinking continues in China
The notion of “returning like for like” is rooted in China. The majority of the public could not accept that some murderers could go free after 10 years’ imprisonment.
It is believed in modern China that,
death penalty does have a strong deterrent effect. Studies do suggest that one execution deters five to 18 potential murderers from committing the ultimate crime. Though there is no detailed study on the death penalty’s deterrent effect on corruption cases, it can be expected to play a similar role. If corruption is struck off the capital punishment list in such a situation, there is a fear that all hell would break loose. (via Opinion: Corruption has to stay capital crime).
From the Deng’s initial ‘Strike-Hard’ campaign in 1983, crimes that qualify for death penalty has increased from 32 to 68 – ranging from corruption to embezzlement, smuggling and tax evasion.
Simply lovin’ it
What do the Chinese people think of these killings, shootings and executions?
Public opinion in China is rooted in the eye-for-an-eye and a tooth-for-a-tooth idea of justice. Efforts by the Chinese authorities to reduce categories of crimes for which death penalty can be awarded, sparked suspicions that ‘abolishing the death penalty for economic-related and non-violent offences (was) a tool to help privileged officials involved in corruption crimes escape capital punishment’ (text in parentheses supplied).
Chinese public opinion and reactions borders on being vengeful. Pictures on the Chinese internet, of the execution of Wang Shouxin, a woman government official from northern province of Heilongjiang scored more than a million hits. In another case,
Hearing the news of Wen’s execution, some local residents lit firecrackers or held banners that read “Wen’s execution, Chongqing’s stability” at the gates of the Municipal High People’s Court and the municipal Communist Party Committee. (via Former official executed by lethal injection).
Time magazine reports of the Chinese ‘appetite’ for such killings and executions. Even as China tops the world in the number of executions and killings, there is
endless “public demand” for this kind of punishment and (by) the surging popular anger, it would seem that there is actually not enough of it. Of all the criminal cases in China, those involving corrupt officials sentenced to death arouse the greatest interest. The morbid examples abound: from the public cheering for the recent death sentences. People in China viscerally hate corruption and are reluctant to see the death penalty dropped. (text in parentheses supplied).
Was China always like this.
During the time when Buddhism at its peak in China, in early Tang dynasty (618 AD – 907 AD), ‘death penalty was abolished for a time during the reign of Tai Zong emperor (627-650), one of the Tang dynasty’s most admired rulers.’
Chinese plans and measures
The Chinese do understand, that these killings and executions are not the answer.
If cutting hands, legs, heads, was the solution, every Islamic shariat-country would have been free of crime. China has been killing people since 1983, for nearly 30 years, now. Chinese corruption should have reduced. With the largest prisoner-population in the world, with the biggest secret-service, police force, the US should have been crime-free. After a sustained levels of executions at a historic-high, China still believes, it has a corruption problem.
In fact, Time magazine goes further and announces, ‘China is the global leader for the number of corrupt officials who are sentenced to death, and actually executed each year- carrying out 90% of (the executions) worldwide. Though another report by Time Magazine gives a varying estimate that China ‘puts to death more people than the rest of the world combined — about 70% of the global total in 2008.’ In 2001, Amnesty International recorded and confirmed ’more than 4,000 death sentences and nearly 2,500 executions in China.’ Chinese authorities do not release execution statistics, ‘but rights groups estimate that they number from about 5,000 to 12,000 annually.’
Is the Chinese Government happy with these killings and executions? Using Western models, ideas and thinking, the Chinese look to the West for solutions.
For the first time in 30 years, China’s top legislature proposed this week to reduce the number of crimes punishable by execution. The proposal, largely symbolic, has drawn renewed attention to China’s controversial death-penalty policy, under which 68 crimes are punishable by death.
13 nonviolent economic crimes — ranging from smuggling relics and endangered animals to faking VAT receipts — have been dropped in a pending amendment to China’s capital-punishment law. Convicts above the age of 75 will also be eligible for the exemption. If passed, the revised law could slash the total number of capital crimes in the country by up to 20%. (via China Reviews Death Penalty for Nonviolent Crimes – TIME).
For one, Chinese authorities seem quite amenable to adopting the Western labels of developing country and increased ‘supervision’ as the models to go with.
“As a developing country, China’s current food and drug safety situation is not very satisfactory because supervision of food and drug safety started late. Its foundation is weak so the supervision of food and drug safety is not easy,” (via Former SFDA chief executed for corruption).
Another senior government official echoed similar sentiments
“As for the death penalty, different countries have different situations and different cultural backgrounds,” (said) Gan Yisheng, head of the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.
“We still execute people who have committed serious economic crimes on consideration of China’s national condition and cultural background.” (via Execution defended as graft trial nears – The Standard).
After 30 years of sustained, public executions, all that the Chinese Government seems to have done is created a public appetite for more such killings and executions.
An end in sight?
How do the Chines see a solution to this situation?
There is considerable disbelief in ‘political re-education’ – a hall-mark of Maoist system of criminal ‘reform’.
If political education is the answer to rampant corruption, then all the propaganda courses we are constantly exposed to would have solved the problem by now. While so many people are “beheaded,” executives at all levels are still determined to brave death by trying to (benefit from) corruption (via Blood, Justice and Corruption: Why the Chinese Love Their Death Penalty – TIME).
Press, elections, democracy?
More Western ideas are more acceptable in China.
It is thus obvious that the reason for corruption lies elsewhere, in the fact that there isn’t enough control and supervision over public power, and in the lack of democratic elections and freedom of the press. (via Blood, Justice and Corruption: Why the Chinese Love Their Death Penalty – TIME).
Some of China’s commentators believe that
It is also time to rope the mass media into this war. The Zhejiang provincial committee of the Communist Party has made a good start by expressly empowering its local media to scrutinize and keep an eye on public officials.
Educational ads should be telecast on TV, broadcast on the radio and published in newspapers, something that Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption has been doing for a long time. (via Opinion: Corruption has to stay capital crime).
If democracy and free press were the answers, why is corruption so rampant in India. Not to mention the West?
Echoes from India
China-style killing-and shooting has some admirers of in India. If the Chinese were successful at curbing corruption, it would be worth studying their approach. Have the Chines succeeded?
Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev have captured the media’s attention – and possibly a significant part of ‘middle-India’ also. What Anna-Baba are proposing to impose is a ‘Hindu’ shariat in India. Cut of hands, legs, heads. Flog people. Nail them and jail them. The works. How can India remain backward?
Chetan Bhagat, an admirer of Chinese style anti-corruption campaign, and another darling of ‘middle-India’ has become a Hindu Shariat supporter. Since powerful politicians cannot be ‘embossed’ or ‘tattooed’, Chetan Bhagat wrote on his forearm – मेरा नेता चोर है mera neta chor hai (My leader is a thief). He writes,
Contrast (India) with China where the punishment for the corrupt can be death by firing squad. Not only that, the family of the convict gets a bill for the bullets, just to emphasise the point that no one steals the nation’s money. (via Of Ravages And Kings – Times Of India).
Root of corruption
The source of corruption is power. Raw, unbridled power. That the modern State enjoys. More laws, more corruption, more crime. More police, more crime.
Any steps (like the Lok Pal) that empowers the State with more power will increase corruption. Reducing powers of the State reduces corruption. By eliminating monopoly, the Indian telecom sector saw a massive decrease in corruption. The opaque Indian railway ticketing system of the past encouraged corruption. That has been eliminated by bringing in transparency, through computerization. Like this Chinese commentator says
To tackle corruption at the roots, prevention is more important than punishment. China needs to thoroughly review its institutional system for preventing and combating corruption and for identifying and plugging loopholes. Corruption in many cases has been the result of power abuse. So we have to think of ways to curb such powers. (via Opinion: Corruption has to stay capital crime).
The three main areas where the State comes in is in land, wealth (as in gold), and people-to-people interaction. By injecting itself in the middle, the State creates abuse of power opportunities – leading to corruption. By arrogating the power of law and justice to itself, the State creates injustice. The end of corruption will be systemic change. End of Desert Bloc ideas. भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra has delivered corruption free regimes for centuries – and can do it again.
People get ready. Time for भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra.
- Blood, Justice and Corruption: Why the Chinese Love Their Death Penalty (time.com)
- China’s corruption fighters learn from India (hindu.com)
- Websites encourage Chinese to report bribes (telegraph.co.uk)
- Corruption Taints China’s Booming Telecoms (globalspin.blogs.time.com)
- Corruption, a World wide view: (hotdogfish.wordpress.com)
Indic Justice …
The on-going saga of the Ambani brothers’ dispute, brings home how deeply and completely Indic norms of justice and fair play have been lost. The Ambani brothers have approached the Prime Minister and are pressing their cases in the Supreme Court for justice. Such a form of dispute redressal is alien and remote to Indic thought.
The other apparently unrelated ‘event’ is the much promoted and publicised book, The Idea of Justice by Amartya Sen, has no clue about justice (at least on Indic thoughts on justice). Apart from a few token mentions about Ashoka Maurya and Akbar Moghul, he has very little to say about Indic thought on justice.
But he speaks very volubly on Western thinkers and thought on justice.
The wise king delivers justice
To bring out the contrast, one has only to read the Biblical story of King Solomon’s justice (where two prostitutes claimed the surviving baby as theirs). The point worth noting is that this paradigm of justice centralizes solutions and concentrates power in the hands of some central authorities.
So, whether it King Solomon or Caliph Haroun Al Rashid (the King in disguise), or the Turkish Çapanoglu Ahmet Pasha (of the bell of justice fame which even a donkey could ring to summon the king for justice) – the model was the all-knowing King. Variations of the Donkey /Horse and the Bell of Justice story is localized and retold in various cultures.
Going back earlier, the Desert Bloc model of seeking justice was captured in the story of Tehuti-nekht (the oppressive overseer); a ‘sekhti’ (the poor salt-trader) the ‘clever’ Meruitensa (The Grand Vizier /Supreme Judge) and The Wise Pharoah Nebkanra.
The Duke of Venice perpetuates the myth of justice in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. The more than 120 Doges of Venice who ruled Venice for nearly a 1000 years, preserved the myth of justice during the Middle Ages.
In modern times, as republican democracy made Emperors and Kings redundant, the Smart Lawyer took over the justice function, in the garb of legal thrillers.
Perry Mason replaced The Wise Emperor as the fount of justice. John Grisham keeps company with many writers about legal-eagles, who go out to save the innocent from the hangman- and send the guilty into the dock. Like John Buchan, GK Chesterton, Wilkie Collins, et al.
Hollywood used the legal thriller genre with assembly line regularity – with successes galore, like Billy Wilder’s Witness for the Prosecution (1957), with earlier instances like Charles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich, or the screen adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), or the more modern Erin Brockovich (2000)and My Cousin Vinny (1992).
All quiet on the Indian front …
In more than 1000 Indic books, that record more than 10,000 years of history, there is no instance of any dispute reaching an Indic King.
The longest ancient epic in the world, The Mahabharata has no incident where a private dispute reached Yudhisthir (though a mongoose could lecture the King about sacrifices and yagnas). There was never any case of private dispute, recorded in the Ramayana, that reached Ramachandra (though a dhobi could ‘inform’ the king on bazaar talk about the Queen Sita). Even a poor Brahman, Kautsa, could reach King Raghu for help in the disbursal of guru-dakshina गुरु-दक्षिणा.
In yet another instance, rulers were warned against disproportionate punishment – through the Mandavya incident. Mandavya, was punished by Yama (the God of Death) for his ‘crimes’ as a child, of hurting insects. Through a chain events, Mandavya ended up, impaled on a trident /stake. After best efforts to remove the offending weapon, a part remains inside Mandavya’s body.
With a trident through his body, Mandavya confronted Yama. Mandavya, the sage, berates Yama for ‘criminalising’ children. Codifying the principle of juvenile justice, Mandavya exhorts “that no action committed by a human being till he is fourteen years of age shall be regarded as a sin which it would thereafter.” In turn, Mandavya curses Yama to be born as a shudra child – to learn about the ‘reality’ of life. Yama, born to shudra woman, became Vidura, Dhritarashtra’s court.
In Buddha’s childhood, an injured swan becomes a point of legal dispute with his cousin, Devadatta. The injured swan, Devadatta’s hunting /archery practice target, was claimed by Siddhartha. Some minister’s preferred Prince Siddhartha’s claim, due to his position. Since the hunt was not for food, but for pleasure, Devadutta’s claim over the swan was seen as weak. Finally the claim of the saviour was seen as superior to the claim of the hunter /captor. Replace the swan, with a slave, and the legal principle for any dispute between a slave-owner versus slave-liberator, is established. The same principle is evidenced in Artha-shastra in many shlokas.
The Tamil classic, Silappadikaram, is ancient Tamil drama about the perils of royal justice. Silappadhikaram is, a literary critic informs us is “a saga of the of the cult of the Goddess Pattini … the first ripe fruit of the Aryan-Dravidian synthesis in Tamil Nadu.” Who is Goddess Pattini? Once a widely worshipped Goddess in South India, now limited to modern Sri Lanka “Pattini was an angry deity, whose anger was directed at evil people and she is also associated with rational justice.” The destruction of the city by Pattini, the Goddess of ‘rational’ justice, is a warning against vengeful royal ‘justice’ – and instead move towards ameliorative Indic justice system.
Elango Adigal warns Indic kings from taking over and interfering with dispute resolution mechanisms. The Pandyan King, Neduncheziyan, in Silappadikaram, comes to grief, after royal intervention goes horribly wrong, resulting in miscarriage of justice.
It gets worse! No prisons …
Modern econometric modelling shows that for much of the last 1000 years, India has been a significant economic power – till the 1900. China and India, this analysis estimates, for the last 1000 years, accounted for 50% of the world economy. Statistical analyses showed India with a world trade share of 25% for much of the 500 years during 1400-1900. The interesting (historical) aspect of the criminal management story is the absence of any surviving mass jails in India prior to colonial India. Just how did pre-colonial India, one of the largest (and most prosperous) populations of the world, deal with crime and criminals?
But then crime rate in India must be really high …
Cut to modern India. With such an inheritance, India has the lowest prison population in the world. How can India have such a low prison population, with a poor police-to-population ratio and a crime rate which is not above the average – in spite of a large civilian gun population.
All the 5 indices (below) create a bias for a lawless Indian society and rampant crime. With these five indices, namely: -
- Police to population ratio (‘increase police force’)
- Prison population (‘put more criminals behind bars’)
- Capital punishment (‘kill enough criminals to instill fear’)
- Poverty (‘it is poverty which the root of all crime’)
- Gun ownership (‘more guns means more crime’)
against a stable social system, how does current day India manage low-to-average crime rates. More than 2000 years ago, Megasthenes a Greek traveller to India wrote,
Theft is of very rare occurrence. Megasthenes says that those who were in the camp of Sandrakottos, wherein lay 400,000 men, found that the thefts reported on any one day did not exceed the value of two hundred drachmae, and this among a people who have no written laws
Historically, trade in India is governed by शुभ लाभ ‘shubh labh’ – and hence Indians have not been major players in drugs proliferation (unlike Japan, the West in which traded Opium in Korea and China) or in slave trade.
In modern times, India is not a big player in spamming or in software virus – though a power in computing industry. In August 2008, a hoax story alleged that an Indian hacker, had broken into a credit card database, and sold it to the European underworld. Some ‘experts’ feared that this would spark of a crime wave across Europe.
The Indic model of justice, crime and law
Evidence of a different Indic system goes far back in history. To Lipit Ishtar, Hittite laws, Hammurabi et al. At least as far back as 4000 years back in history. Indian kings did not deliver justice. It was done at the local level by panchayats पंचायत. Indian justice systems did not rely on imprisonment or executions or the police to control crime!
The answer – the world’s most stable marriage system and the extended family-social structures took care of the wayward.
A recent Hollywood film on the Desert Bloc system of justice was the schizophrenic Breaker Morant – by Bruce Beresford. In the closing lines of Breaker Morant, when asked about his religion, Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant declares that he is a pagan.
When the execution detail comes to get Morant and Handcock, the military chaplain asks their religious affiliation. “Pagan.” replies Morant. “What’s a pagan?” inquires Handcock. Morant replies, “Well, it’s somebody who doesn’t believe there’s a divine being dispensing justice to mankind.” Handcock nods and says to the chaplain, “I’m a pagan too.” (extract from Wikipedia; accessed on 25th January, 2010).
I have always wondered how much the writer knew – and understood the import of that statement.
In India, under the onslaught of the Desert Bloc, Akbar-Birbal stories, Tenali Ram-Krishna Devaraya were used to create expectations of a Wise King. From then on, the Indic system of justice crumbled at a faster pace.
Is it that Indians were ‘saints’ and did not have private disputes? Were they so civilized that they could solve all disputes by talking to each other? Is it that Indian kings were not bothered about delivery of justice!