Juveniles Must be Tried for Gravity of Crime

Under a lot of public pressure, Indian parliament has passed a law that allows children aged 16 years may be tried in adult court for certain crimes. The decision has to be approved by juvenile justice board. This is a welcome move given the incidence of heinous crimes committed by juveniles are on the rise. Many are getting out after a serving a short three year stint in a remand home. Many a time hardened criminal syndicates are using juveniles to commit crimes on the belief that the juvenile will be out after serving a short span. We hear numerous cases of crimes committed by juveniles, the following are a few, by no means the only ones, that I have listed:

  • Juvenile that participated in rape, disembowelment and eventual death of Nirbhaya was close to seventeen and half years at the time of crime. Yet, he got away serving three years. His criminal record will be expunged. His identity will not be revealed. Government has given him a one time grant and a sewing machine towards his rehabilitation. Some said  the juvenile did not reform, although contrary opinion also exists. 

  • fifteen year old boy kidnapped another child and demanded ransom to fulfil his dream to participate in a dance show. The kidnapped boy died. Kidnapper was sent to juvenile home. Juvenile came out on bail to write his class X board exam. He killed another lady. All this to fund a dream to become a dancer. The boy would likely be tried by newly enacted juvenile law.

  • Two juvenile 17 year old boys had raped a two and a half year old girl after luring her. The boys belonged to the same neighborhood as the child.

  • More recently, Dr. Pankaj Narang was beaten to death by a mob outside his home in Delhi. There were four to five boys in the mob that participated in lynching  of Dr. Narang. I hope these boys will be tried as adults and not as juveniles.

It has been repeatedly argued that juveniles cannot be held responsible for their actions. Their brains are not developed enough to realize consequences of their action. In addition, juveniles coming from difficult background with traumatic childhood, must be given a second chance in life. 

I find it difficult to understand how a seventeen and half year old not understand consequences of his action because he is a juvenile. The same person will become mature enough as soon as he reaches eighteen. Behavioural sciences that are quoted, in support of sparing juveniles from adult punishment, are extremely complex. Many humans can develop ability to fool behavioral tests. Beyond esoteric science, moot question remains should a person who commits a heinous crime, should be allowed to   say that he was not responsible for what he did? Is this a joke?  If one commits a crime he has to take responsibility for his action, irrespective of the fact if he understood the consequences of his action. If a juvenile puts his hand in fire, will his hand not be burnt because of his tender age? 

Why not treat crimes based on heinousness without considering age of the criminal. For certain serious crimes like murder, rape etc all kids from thirteen to nineteen must be treated like adult. According to juvenile justice system in the United States, it is believed that “rehabilitative approaches are less effective than strict punishment. Ease of trying juveniles as adults became a defining feature of tough on crime policies in the 1990s.” In the England and Wales also, juvenile may be tried in adult court for  offences like homicide, sexual assaults etc.

Finally, rehabilitation of juveniles is important. But what about rehabilitation of victims of juvenile criminals. Many of them have to go on for rest of their lives with the loss inflicted upon them. Victims family should have a right to closure of their trauma. Victims family should be the one who should have first right to pardon a juvenile victim.



King of Good Times, Such a Long Flight

King of good times, Mr. Vijaya Mallya, has flown out of India. He has flown first class, with a lady friend and eleven pieces of check in luggage. He packs heavy cannot blame him for that. Before he flew out, he visited parliament and met his fellow members of parliament. May be to thank them for all their help in getting him a loan and may be to let him know that a crackdown is imminent. With all the noise on television channels and news printed on news papers, any half intelligent person would have left long time before. I am surprised he waited this long to take the final step.

Now that Vijay Mallya has left India, everyone has jumped into action. Congress woke up and blamed government for letting Mallya leave. Government retaliated by saying congress funded his airline by giving him massive loan. In UPA II era, Mallya’s loan was restructured even when he did not have much hope of returning. 

Government is breathing fire. Finance minister wants Mallya to return, pay back his dues or face action. Was our administrative machinery sleeping in the face of huge default that Mallya had accumulated? Some what to the tune of 9000 crore rupees? Why was Mallya allowed to fly out of India? There is no idea how government will bring back Mallya? How Mallya going to pay back? Will he pay back at all? 

Banks are declaring Mallya a wilful defaulter now. Why did they not do it when his business failed and he was not returning money?  Yet a farmer is beaten up in the state of Tamil Nadu for not replaying a loan of two lac. The farmer committed suicide, Mallya celebrated his birthday spending three crore rupees on his private match. Yet Mallya could fly out unscathed right under the nose of officers.

It is understandable that to run a business one has to take risk. This is true for borrower and lender. But how does lender safeguard his end, when he is dealing with someone elses money? There is no answer. When it became apparent that Mallya cannot pay back why action was not taken to recover the due? I do not grudge lifestyle of Vijaya Mallya. What I find obnoxious about Vijaya Mallya is not that he failed his business, not that he squandered public money but he celebrated his birthday in such opulent and lavish manner after not paying his employees who worked for his airline. 

It is rumoured that lookout note at airport was changed from detention to observation. Who changed it? Some say there was no court order to stop Mallya from flying out. Did government wait for a court order to deplane Green Peace activist Priya Pillai? In India everything is possible, if you know people in right places. And, Mallya knew a lot of politicians from a wide array of different parties.

Death of Dr. Narang : A Reflection of Time We Live In

There are times in our lives, when we wake up from our comfort zone and look at the world around us with helplessness and with horror. We cannot figure out why things happen the way they do and what can we do to avoid such events. We desperately seek to find out clues or behaviour patterns that we could have done differently. Many a time we blame the victim. Why a person was out so late,? Why was the person dressed in a provocative way? Why was the person acting in a manner to attract attention? And the list goes on.

One such event was rape and disembowelment of Jyoti Singh, a.k.a Nirbhaya and the second one was brutal lynching of a dentist Dr. Pankaj Narang. Both incidents happened in Delhi. Both victims were not doing something out of place that most of us do not do. One was returning home after watching a movie. Another person was playing cricket with his son in his own home in his own neighbourhood. Yet both people lost their lives. 

More than the brutality and shock at losing people at the prime of their lives, what is scary is that such a thing can happen to anyone of us. Accidental grazing of car with another vehicle, or a peson can blow up into a mob violence. Returning home late at night by a public transport may result in violation, rape and murder. We do not know whom to blame. Society and sorroundings where we all live in our shells and do not want to get involved in some one else problems. Is this a symptom of generalised apathy and selfishness? It is unbelievable that Dr. Narang was chased, beaten with sticks repeatedly, brutally in his own neighbourhood, not only no neighbour stepped out, no one raised alarm, no one called police. And, we call ourselves civilised?

Sri Sri Ravishankar and Jamuna

Sri Sri Ravishankar and his Art of Living Foundation decided to organise a function on the bank of Jamuna river for three days. A flurry of protests erupted from environmentalists. The matter went to Green Tribunal or Green Court. Petioners wanted the function should be stopped and moved to another venue. While different people had different points of view, for a neutral observer like me, it appeared that the demand to move the festival at the last minute, i.e. three – four days, before inauguration is unfair. Sri Sri has impressive credential of living in harmony with nature. With Sri Sri drawing attention to the river and its sorry state, a lot of benefit would come in all likelihood.  

There are points both for and against organising a festival on the bank of Jamuna. The petitioners claim:
 1. Jamuna flood plain is an area with an ecology that is likely to be damaged with so many footfalls. Water carrying and holding capacity of the area of flood plain will be damaged. 

2. Critics say in the event of a flood we may see devastation comparable to that seen in Chennai or Kashmir. 

3.The flood plains are reservoir of water. By allowing flattening of the plains, by putting permanent structure on the flood plains, we compromise water holding capacity and may face water shortage at the time of crisis. 

4. It has been reported that flow of water has been diverted, natural water bodies on the flood plain has been destroyed. This may also cause water shortage at the time of crisis. 

5. Birds that come to the area have flown away due to felling of trees and by construction activity going on the area in preparation for the festival. 

In response, organisers of the function has the following to say:

1. Organisers of the festival claim the area where they will be working was full of debris. It is the organisers that have cleared the debris at their own initiative and expense. 

2. The organisers also argue that they are working in an area of around 3000 hectares, whereas Jamuna plains are close to 40 square kilometres in the national capital region. 

3. Jamuna in Delhi has become like sewer because of discharge of untreated sewage. So the argument that Jamuna is being polluted by organisers is a bit stretched. 

4. In its present form, no body in his right mind will drink water from Jamuna as long as it is within National Capital Territory of Delhi. 

5. Sri Sri has also said on television that they his organisation has not felled any tree, they have only pruned some of them. 

6. It is important to mention that many festivals happen on flood plains and river beds. Kumbh mela, that attracts at least ten times more number of people and festivities go on for a much longer period, happens on flood plains of ganga. Maramon christian convention happens every year on the bed of river Pampa in Kerala. A full fledged structure has come up on the bed of river Gomati in Lucknow. The structure was erected by another religious organisation. We have never heard any murmur on television or new paper about Maramon convention or structure on the bed of river Gomti, ever. So it brings to attention is the noise all politics designed to embarrass government of India and may be  government of Delhi. 

7. Another point of debate was the use of army to erect pontoon bridge across Jamuna river. Army being a national resource, cannot be used to cater to private festivals. It is important to note that army has been used before to help out organisers of Kumbh mela and common wealth games. A better parallel can be drawn from the fact that army had helped erect bridges for concert of Yanni in Agra in 1997. We have not heard any murmur of protest then. More recently, an airforce property was used in Bangalore for Benny Hinn convention, an evalengical activity.

The matter has gone to green court. The tribunal agreed to let Sri Sri have his function after paying a fine of 5 crore rupees. I think, this is a good judgment given so many followers of Sri Sri from India and abroad have desended in Delhi. So stopping the festival at this time would put so many people in great inconvenience. This may also mean that we are a disorganised bunch that cannot arrange a gathering well. 

At the same time, critics and petioners say this judgement has created a precedence. Now anybody and everybody can ask for permission to hold function on Jamnua flood plain. Authorities may not have any moral right to decline permission to them. 

In a rule based civilised society, we must accept the verdict pronounced by a court. In this context, green court of India has declared Jamuna flood plains beyond reach for an activity. So to be fair, one must follow rule of law and accept this verdict. I think  Sri Sri should have done his home work before applying for permission to hold function on the Jamuna bed. I think Sri Sri is wrong in attempting to organise a function in an area declared out of bounds by the court.

It is true that Sri Sri and his team had applied for permission. It is  the responsibility of government and its machinery to check for rules and regulations before granting permission. It that decision is found to be wrong, one cannot penalise an applicant by withdrawing permission just a few days before function. There must be a date after which, it is a point of no return and, no complaint will be entertained. I think court has acted in the most balanced manner possible and tried to minimise damage to all parties. They have asked Sri Sri to pay a fine that may be used to restore the area and create a biodiversity park. Finally, prime minister in his inaugural speech has said “if we keep denigrating everything that is Indian, then why would world look at us.”

Intolerance Debate, Politics is Central

In Telegraph National Debate 2016, on the topic “Intolerance Debate Continues” Barkha Dutt made a powerful speech. Coming after fiery and feisty Anupam Kher, Barkha Dutt spoke for the motion and rightly said the topic of  debate was politics neutral. There was no BJP or congress. There is no disagreement that India and Indians need freedom from dikats given by right wing or left wing about what to wear, what to eat, what to think etc. No sensible person can disagree with Barkha Dutt’s argument on our freedom. 

At the same time it would be disingenuous on her or anyone’s part to claim that intolerance debate that is raging in the country is apolitical and not directed at Modi and BJP. If so, why in every TV debate of NDTV Ms. Dutt had called representatives of BJP and congress to say their side of the story? If the narrative is such that country as such has become intolerant, why not call civil society members and discuss the issue? Member of  her team and speaking for the motion, Mr. Randeep Soorjewala had a laundry list of his and his party’s pet peeves against BJP, that he read out in the intolerance debate. So, ofcourse debate has political undertone. 

Question is, has India become more intolerant after BJP came to power? It is true, many stupid comments were made by foolish people. It is true, may be right wing fringe felt emboldened after BJP came to power. But attribute every wrong doing of loony fringe to BJP is ludicrous. Mr. Pansare, Mr. Kalburgi were killed when central governmetn was run by UPA and states of Maharashtra and Karnataka were governed by congress party. Why were culprit/s not caught? Was the issue kept alive in anticipation that Modi will come to power and intolerance debate will be initiated? 

It is important to note that left liberals, a champion of free speech, banned Usha Uthuup from singing in Kolkata club in the name of “apasanskriti” or spurious culture. Ms. Nayantara Sahgal, the first person to return her sahitya academy award, had no compunction receiving the award a year after massacre of sikhs in Delhi. Many extra judicial killings have happened during forty seven year rule of congress party in India. Killing of young boys that joined ultra left Naxalite movement happened during congress rule of Bengal and continued in other states like Andhra Pradesh. About BJP less said is better. But can you judge a government from looney fringe? 

Politics is being played out everywhere on every issue after Modi government came to power. Media has no small role to play in the whole issue. Remember, how BJP was crucified after rape of a nun in Bengal. Later it turned out to be a criminal act.

Haryana Burnt Opposition Played Flute

Recently Haryana burnt because of jat communities demanding reservation. There is no doubt government, eyeing 30% Jat vote, let the community take Haryana state and its neighbors to ransom. In the the state properties of non jat citizens were selectively targeted. Manohar Lal Khattar government was inept to say it mildly. If Mr. Khattar was not a Punjabi, I would call him complicit in violence. A man who did not anticipate violence in the first place, when violence started did not order armed forces and armed police to take on the rampaging mobs. What a shame, what an incompetence, such people are chosen to lead a state as chief minister! 

Besides incompetence of government, if anything is more shocking, then it is the complicity of opposition parties like congress and possibly RLD with the rioters is extremely sinister.  Evidence has emerged in the form of an audio tape, that an aide of ex chief minister was encouraging and inciting violence by Jat community. While last chief minister of Haryana himself belongs to jat community, RLD is a party dominated by jats. Many knowledgeable analysts believed that both parties were waiting for jat riots to happen and took full advantage of the situation.

As if rioting was not enough, there was report of gang rape of women Delhi – Chandigarh highway near Murthal. Several truck drivers came forward as witness and claimed to have seen women being dragged to the fields. Predictably opposition and activists pounced upon government. Police opened helpline manned by a lady officer and urged people to come forward. Despite repeated plea, only report emerged where a lady charged her relative was involved in the alleged assault. As dust settled, it emerged that at least one of truck driver  claimed he was was asked to make statement claiming women being dragged and assaulted.  

It is important to say that story of rape was broken by a news paper whose editorial policies are vehemently pro congress party. I would not be surprised if story of rape was planted by zealous reporter to impress and/or under instructions of management and to malign ruling party in Haryana. Is this greed for power, is this jealousy at prosperity of non jats or simple anti pathy to BJP that had prompted congress party ex CM to encourage hooliganism is not clear. Will congress go to any length to vilify Mr Modi and BJP, even at the cost of tearing social fabric of a state? Same congress comes to Delhi and takes up Rohit Vemula case and stands with JNU students that chants slogan in support of breaking up Indian Union. Double standard indeed!