2ndlook

Justice in ‘modern’ India

Posted in British Raj, History, India, Media by Anuraag Sanghi on October 3, 2011

Is revenge, punishments the only way of delivering ‘justice’. Is prison and death justice?

Jhansi Fort (image source and courtesy - indianwarhistory.co.in). Click for larger image.

Jhansi Fort (image source and courtesy - indianwarhistory.co.in). Click for larger image.

21 March 1858

The British started the siege of Jhansi. The Rani of Jhansi, explicitly on the side of the British, was no longer trusted by the British. She had not joined the anti-British War on the side of Nana Saheb Peshwa – but maintained a steady relationship with the British.

The British had earlier asked her to come, unarmed and without escort for ‘negotiations’ – which she refused. Before the siege, Jhansi was given the ‘option’ of surrender.

Jhansi on my mind

The people of Jhansi were one – behind the Rani. In a city of 2,50,000, some 14,000 people volunteered to defend the city. Considering that there must have been some 25,000 families in the city, (large joint-families was the norm), nearly every house volunteered a soldier. For 10 days, Jhansi was bombarded by British artillery. Jhansi’s walls were breached on 30th March.

Rafting on the Betwa river in Orchha, Madhya Pradesh. (image source and courtesy - frontlineonnet.com). Click for larger image.

Rafting on the Betwa river in Orchha, Madhya Pradesh. (image source and courtesy - frontlineonnet.com). Click for larger image.

On the banks of Betwa

Even though the Rani was not a part of the War, (at least a major player), the fate of Jhansi occupied the minds of Indian leaders.

On 30th March, a diversionary force under Tatia Tope split the British siege army at Jhansi. General Hugh Rose, fed with information that the relieving force was 20,000 strong, himself led the ‘attack’ on diversionary forces to Betwa. This diversionary force battled the British at Betwa river – east of Jhansi, north of Orchcha.

The British lost around a 100 soldiers – and were ‘victorious’. The Indian military leadership engineered a split in British forces to allow Jhansi’s defenders to attack or escape the siege. An attack or escape party from Jhansi did a probe against a British unit, besieging Jhansi, led by Major Gall.

Every family in Jhansi joined the battle

On 3rd April, General Hugh Rose returned to Jhansi – and British forces stormed Jhansi. Fierce fighting ensued in the streets of Jhansi – door-to-door, street-by-street, with the Rani in the thick of the battle, with her female companions. The next day, the British realized that Lakshmibai was not in Jhansi.

Jhansi and its people paid a heavy price. Jhansi burnt for days. Jhansi’s Halwaipura was put to flame – and the fires could be seen from a distance. Corpses were piled high – and stench of burning and rotting flesh, hung over Jhansi.

Reluctant warrior as a hero

In modern India, Rani Lakshmibai, a reluctant warrior, has been cut out as the most heroic figure(See comment below on parallels) of the 1857 War – whereas the real leaders and generals have been forgotten or faulted. This behaviour is consistent with Indian tradition.
Mandodari and Tara (wife of Ravana and Bali) have been included in the पंच-कन्या panch-kanya pantheon1↓. Ahilya, wife of Rishi Gautama (not the Buddha), cursed for adultery by the rishi, was released from the curse by Vishnu as Raghu Ramchandra himself. Duryodhana’s wife, Bhanumati is almost forgotten – but not cast in negative light. Neither is Duryodhana’s mother, Gandhari.

In a society, where the two most important festivals are dedicated to worship of goddesses, casting women in negative light is an idea, that India is not comfortable with.

Journalists take pictures over Wang Shouxin's body.  (Source and courtesy - telegraph.co.uk; Photo: LI ZHENSHENG). Click for source.

Journalists take pictures over Wang Shouxin's body. (Source and courtesy - telegraph.co.uk; Photo: LI ZHENSHENG). Click for source.

People or Monsters

Meanwhile in ‘modern’ China, pictures of the execution of Wang Shouxin, a woman government official from northern province of Heilongjiang scored more than a million hits. This case was documented in People or Monsters (《人妖之间》), a book by Liu Binyan, in a style of reporting called baogaowenxue, and became famous the world over.

Shot with a bullet in the back of her head, the the execution of Wang Shouxin was widely covered by Chinese and international media. This is now an old story – Wang Shouxin was executed in the 1980.

This killing only increased Chinese appetite for more executions by the State.

In another corner of the world

Neither of the two major US political parties has ever had a woman nominee for the Presidential election. Closer to the Islāmic world in this aspect, the thought of a woman President seems unacceptable to Americans.

India goes ‘modern’

Looking at the way the mainstream media, literatti, chatteratti, bloggeratti, twitteratti are rejoicing over Kanimozhi’s arrest gets India closer to China and US and further India itself. What Kanimozhi deserves is complete contempt, for participation in the family swindling, and the courts ‘had’ to arrest her, did the ‘media’ have to go overboard?(Sentence modified to clarify that Kanimozhi deserves no adulation).

Did it …

Or am I reading too much meaning into an anecdote?

^1↑. [Text of footnote 1]
अहल्या द्रौपदी तारा कुंती मंदोदरी तथा । पंच कन्या स्मरेन्नित्य महापातकनाशनम् ।

Ahalya, Draupadi, Kunti, Tara and Mandodari
Keeping in memory these five maidens will destroy greatest sins

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14 Responses

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  1. senthil said, on October 4, 2011 at 2:23 am

    you are right anurag.. in one way, when the architect of 2G, (the karunanidhi and other major players) are outside, the small players are put in jail..

    Btw, do you see putting women in prison, as against indic tradition? or is this concern only for kanimozhi?

    • Anuraag Sanghi said, on October 4, 2011 at 6:36 am

      Yaduraj Krishna killed Kamsa for putting people in jail. Before Rajasuya yagna, Krishna put up a precondition – Jarasandha who had thousands in prisons had to be killed.

      Prisons are not part of the Indian justice system – and the prison system does not work.

      US has put 2 million people in jail – and crime has not reduced. In fact, there are some studies that crime increased. After putting another huge number of people in prison, Britain still saw riots and looting in London.

      India has the lowest per-capita prisoner population in the world. Our family and social checks-and-balances manage crime better than police does.

      India has to end this Desert Bloc system of asuric prisons.

      Let us first stop at least imprisoning women.

  2. x said, on October 4, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Sri Krishna killed Pootana. Lakhsmana cut off body parts of Surpanakha.

    But y this concern for Kanimozhi when more deserving and much more tortured and maligned Sadhvi Pragya is not even mentioned?

    Vishkanya Gandh deserve the worst punishment.

    Bharat never discriminated between gender. Anybody who did wrong was given deserving punishment.

    • Anuraag Sanghi said, on October 4, 2011 at 12:06 pm
      1. Pootana was an asur in woman’s form, who tried killing a ‘defenseless’ baby.

      2.Was Pootana imprisoned? My memory – and all texts that I have referred to, tell me, that Yaduraj Krishna suckled the life out of her. Same with Surpankha. Vishkanya Gandh(?)- who, what, where, when, …

      3.The subject of this post was imprisonment.My significant criticism is not against the judiciary – which has ‘to to do its job’.

      4.The criticism is against (my exact words) the mainstream media, literatti, chatteratti, bloggeratti, twitteratti are rejoicing over Kanimozhi’s arrest.

      5.I am not particularly inclined or against Kanimozhi or Saadhvi Pragyaa. The judiciary should have fast-tracked these cases – and closed them.

      6.Anyway, Kanimozhi is being accused of stealing and hoarding money. Saadhvi Pragya is being accused of killing innocent civilians with rigged bombs. I see a difference.

      7.Coming to gender bias – I am all for it.

      There are different roles that genders plays –
      existential
      biological
      social
      parental
      familial
      behavioural

      8. After this, if we are going to shut our minds, eyes, ears, noses (metaphorical), and say that the law is the same for everyone, it is a charade – a ढोंग dhong.

      9. I have given instances in the post where I have shown a marked change in Indian behaviour – based on gender. Rani Lakshmibai is an excellent example. And I rather admire that social trait.

      • senthil said, on October 4, 2011 at 12:16 pm

        /** After this, if we are going to shut our minds, eyes, ears, noses (metaphorical), and say that the law is the same for everyone, it is a charade – a ढोंग dhong
        **/

        Exactly.. that’s why, i often used to say “Law is an ASS”.. historically, only slaves are treated like this,, unfortunately, the constituted based Nation-State had been made to deal with all its subjects as slaves..

        India had never been law based system, and Laws can only be made in a Slave societies

      • x said, on October 5, 2011 at 4:49 am

        1. Asuras can be women as well as men.

        2. If objection is to jail system, it is equally applicable to men as well.

        3. Vishkanya is the name Dr Swamy uses to refer to a particular creature in India, a western import, that apparently uses a woman’s body and suckles life blood of the nation. That creature deserves the worst punishment.

        4. The post seems to recommend discrimination between women and men in terms of punishment, which is not supported by Bharatiya traditions.

        5. Why judiciary should fast track only these cases and not others ?

        6. So if u r accused of raping and killings, it is justified to consider u deserving of imprisonment wthout trial ?

        Sadvi Pragya has been tortured for 3 years now. Kanimozhi gets idli vada specially made.
        Not a peep about Sadhvi, but concern about ‘rejoicing’ of twitterati in Kanimozhi case. Y ?

        >>>>”Saadhvi Pragya is being accused of killing innocent civilians with rigged bombs. I see a difference.”

        I see Bu#$hit in that loaded statement.

        7. Gender bias, or any bias for that matter, other than that based on dharma, is playfield of mlecchas.

        Bharatiya discriminate only on basis of dharma/adharma.

        Dharmik consciousness is the governing factor in Bharatiya society.
        In mleccha societies, it is “law”, amended/interpreted/manipulated depending on interests of personalities concerned.

        Only the west-influenced see different roles between PC and Ambika Soni, Digvijay and Renuka Chowdry; Shakuni and Mandhara; Dhritarashtra and Kaikeyi.

        • Anuraag Sanghi said, on October 5, 2011 at 7:38 am

          1. Asuras can be women as well as men. 2. If objection is to jail system, it is equally applicable to men as well.

          Completely agree.

          4. The post seems to recommend discrimination between women and men in terms of punishment, which is not supported by Bharatiya traditions.

          Yes. The logic is given above. You cannot nurture apples and oranges the same way. You cannot have same nurturing, citing ‘equal’ treatment. It is because of different treatment in India, that our family system prospers – and India lives.

          5. Why judiciary should fast track only these cases and not others ?

          It is bad enough that nearly 4 lakh people languish in jails. It is worse that there are thousands of women among them. Since we are talking about these two cases, my remark is specific to these two cases. Please take the rest of the context into account.

          Sadvi Pragya has been tortured for 3 years now. Kanimozhi gets idli vada specially made. Not a peep about Sadhvi, but concern about ‘rejoicing’ of twitterati in Kanimozhi case. Y ?

          Exactly my point. Saadhvi Pragya and her ‘treatment’ by the courts is just how thousands of women are getting treated. Should we rejoice? The name does not matter. It is our reaction that I am talking about?

          7. Gender bias, or any bias for that matter, other than that based on dharma, is playfield of mlecchas.

          You are wrong here. While actually discriminating, to claim that they do not discriminate is mlechcha speciality.

          Bharatiya discriminate only on basis of dharma/adharma. Dharmik consciousness is the governing factor in Bharatiya society.
          In mleccha societies, it is “law”, amended/interpreted/manipulated depending on interests of personalities concerned.

          Indian legal systems have been localized – and there is a huge variety of treatments, (for instance Mitakshara and Dayabhaga). Yet finally, whatever it is, it is local, immediate, contextual.

          Bharattantra did not need lakhs of laws written on crores of pages – which finally no one can know. Ignorance of the law, does not exonerate you of your crime and guilt stands, according to Desert Bloc justice system.

      • x said, on October 5, 2011 at 8:22 am

        apples and oranges analogy is not correct.
        Atman is not different. Bodies are, to suit different karma samskara. Physical features, gender etc., not definitive markers of anything. Mandhara Shakuni alike. Kaikeyi-Dhritarashtra alike. Kapil Sibal Ambika Soni alike. Pratibha Manmohan alike. Beniwal Bharadwaj alike. Sita Yudhishtira alike Dharmis.

        Dharma is the criteria. Absence of dharma, like absence of light- darkness, is adharma.
        When criteria is anyting else, it is adharma. Incorrect.

        Always merit, not gender or birth or position or age. That is bharatiya samskriti.

        Different role in society/family does not mean different treatment.

  3. Mahesh CR said, on October 4, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Beyond the fact that both were women, what is the connection between Rani Lakshmibai and Kanimozhi? Former fought against imperial ventures, latter played a role in bleeding the country. This is rank injustice to Rani Lakshmibai’s legacy.

    Also, let us not confuse the idea of justice and gender. Every gender is capable of criminal behavior and deserves punishment accordingly. Whether justice is rendered by imprisoning people is a different issue though.

    • Anuraag Sanghi said, on October 4, 2011 at 12:18 pm

      Beyond the fact that both were women, what is the connection between Rani Lakshmibai and Kanimozhi

      There is none. And that is important.

      This is rank injustice to Rani Lakshmibai’s legacy.

      You make an important point. No, a very important point.

      I strongly agree with you – and no comparisons were made, intended. If any are perceived, I would immediately and completely dispel and reject these comparisons.

      Whether justice is rendered by imprisoning people is a different issue though.

      This is the nub of the matter – the issue. Even though India has the lowest per-capita imprisonment rates, with nearly four lakh people in jails, and many thousands being women, it is too many. It is a barbaric practice that we have adopted – thinking it is modern. That is point of the post.

      • Mahesh CR said, on October 4, 2011 at 12:52 pm

        Glad we see eye to eye on the first bit.

        Agree with you that imprisonment is not ideal, but one has to be pragmatic with respect to dispensing justice. An ideal society has a rewards and punishments framework setup and dispenses it without prejudice. It would be barbaric if it were the arbitrary fiat of a King or ruler that decides if one is punished or not. Adoption of a legal framework, however insufficient to our moral sensibilities is an essential condition of a modern state.

        As long as men transgress the rights of his fellow-men and society it is essential to be firm. If society turns more enlightened, like a Satya Yuga perhaps, then laws might not be necessary but until then squeamishness will not serve us well.

        • Anuraag Sanghi said, on October 4, 2011 at 1:07 pm
          Pls go through the two posts that are linked below.

          India’s crime-management system, (which is still partially effective) accounts for

          Lowest prison population,
          Lowest crime rates,
          Lowest police-to-population ratio,
          World’s second largest gun population, and
          Largest number of poor people in the world.

          By any definition of modern theory, such a society cannot exist.

          Prisons are not part of the Indian justice system – and the prison system does not work.

          US has put 2 million people in jail – and crime has not reduced. In fact, there are some studies that crime increased. After putting another huge number of people in prison, Britain still saw riots and looting in London.

          India has the lowest per-capita prisoner population in the world. Our family and social checks-and-balances manage crime better than police does.

  4. senthil said, on October 4, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Btw, the core message of this post is NOT clear.. and many of my friends whom i forwarded this post, also conveyed the same opinion.. i wish you could look in to this

    • Anuraag Sanghi said, on October 4, 2011 at 12:24 pm
      I see from Mahesh’s comment that indeed an unintended , but valid conclusion could be made, that Lakshmibai and Kanimozhi are comparable. I will add a sentence to that effect.

      If there is any other point – I will make the change or clarify.


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