The cruelty of war and the rhetoric of justice

Ayushman Jamwal

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The DMK and AIDMK

After a hiatus of one year, the Sri Lanka human rights debate has once again stirred the Indian political spectrum. India is days away from deciding to vote for or against the island nation in an upcoming meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Tamil parties and the Left have raised the clamour demanding the government push for an impartial, international inquiry into the killing of Tamil civilians in the 2009 Lankan offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

 

Parties have held up the photo of LTTE leader Prabhakaran’s dead son, raising the allegation that he was killed in cold blood by the Sri Lankan army. They have supplemented their outrage pointing fingers at images, documentaries and old reports of other alleged atrocities by Lankan soldiers, and the plight of Tamil refugees. Leading the pro-Tamil bandwagon, the AIDMK and the DMK, ever so eager to play to their galleries, even threatened the Congress party last year of a pullout if the UPA government didn’t vote against Sri Lanka in the UN.

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Mahinda Rajapaksa

This political anger has put the balance of the Sri Lanka debate out of whack as the pure political calculation behind this outrage is being ignored. The war with the LTTE was no covert affair. It raged for two decades and killed thousands. The LTTE was a brutal terrorist organisation that killed many innocent civilians including our former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. They waged war and sidelined a peaceful political campaign for the rights of Sri Lankan Tamils. The Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa promised the people that he would subdue the Tamil Tigers and end the war. He was sworn in as President in November 2005 and launched an all out offensive which destroyed the terror group. Rajapaksa was re-elected for a second term in January 2010 as the people lauded him for ending the 20-year-long insurgency.

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The Sri Lankan Civil War

 

It is a simple case. Sri Lanka was at war and the LTTE lost. Being ‘civilised’ is not in the nature of war as history would tell. There will never be a code of conduct during a conflict and civilian casualties as well as ‘war crimes’ are inevitable. The LTTE did no favours to the community they were supposedly fighting for and in fact, sealed their fate to be maligned by the Sinhalese population. As the cycle of history shows, political hawks will always circle the charged public sentiments in the wake of a war, reaping opportunity from tragedy. This case is no different.

 

India should not vote against Sri Lanka and waste its efforts to investigate the conduct of a war that is finished. It will never deliver true answers or true justice. The issue now is of Tamil rights and the Indian government must push the Lankan government to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, which was set up after the end of the conflict. But at the same time, it must not snub the Sri Lankan government in that effort. India needs to maintain strong relations with the nation as China continues to spread its influence in the sub continent and has also never voted against the island nation in the UN.

While making its intentions clear, India must respect Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, and allow its political culture to find the solution. At the same time, India must use deft diplomacy to prevent such a brutal conflict from plaguing the sub continent again. That is well within our rights and a tangible, beneficial move for India. It will be true service to the cause of human rights and allow a relationship of respect to flourish between the two countries.

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Death Penalty is no sign of an uncivilized society

Ayushman Jamwal

ImageMorality and prudence are polar opposite virtues, which when hold hands deliver political master strokes to those who wield them. For the heinous crimes of terrorism and rape that visit the Indian people every day, that political capital lies in carrying out the death penalty, as many cheer to see the rare sight of justice in its purest form. The very root of crime is human character, something that hasn’t diminished in brutality even with the advent of ‘civilised society’. While it is very important for society to drive the judicial machinery to prove guilt, it is as important to give fitting punishments to the guilty. Due diligence should never be seen as the criminal justice system being soft of perpetrators. Yet, when the Supreme Court and the President sign off on a penalty, the sentence of the guilty should be carried out; the right of appeal of the guilty should end then and there. Their crimes forgo their rights to be treated as citizens

Whenever the judiciary mulls the death penalty in cases of terror and rape, activists suddenly come out of the woodwork to decry human rights, the under-developed mental faculties of the guilty or just plain savagery. Yet savagery is the brutal rape and murder of a 23 year old girl in New Delhi, savagery is the murder of innocents in the Mumbai attacks or the security officers who defended Parliament. It should be completely unacceptable that a person who commits such heinous crimes is kept alive by tax payer money completing a life sentence. In the case of regional parties who raise the ‘sentiments’ of communities, the Central government should grow a backbone and ignore their threats of pulling out support. Rajiv Gandhi was India’s Prime Minister, the prime representative of the people. It’s an insult to Indian democracy to entertain the demands of Tamil parties to commute the death sentence of his killers. It’s an insult if the Centre entertains the calls of Sikh groups to commute the death sentence of Balwant Singh Rajaona, the killer of Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh. The death penalty is a fitting punishment for these enemies of the state for destroying lives, causing wanton destruction, for attacking Indian democracy.

The logic of the death penalty is clear and simple. People who commit such crimes should be removed from society when the judicial system deems it so to not only uphold the law, but to maintain a precedent that people who have no respect of human life don’t deserve to be sheltered or sustained by human society. Many ask who has the right to play God. But we play God all the time when we live for others. We play God when we love and nurture others, when we strive to elevate others, when we fight to defend and uphold the integrity of our community. It’s just called responsibility. Permanently removing dangerous criminals from society is not the sign of a God complex or savagery, it’s the responsibility of the government when carrying out their duty to protect the integrity and faith of civilized society.