I remember the exuberant shade of green of the paddy fields surrounding us. I remember shuddering as I caught sight of the many curious eyes scrutinizing me from head to toe. I remember the rancid stench of sweat, mud and animal waste, the dingy houses devoid of
adequate fresh air, the dense smoke remanating from the make-shift kitchen as they rushed to welcome us with food. But, most of all, I remember all those grim faces, that either spoke in hushed tones and mono
syllables or let out deafening cries of anguish. Those faces had bleak eyes that seemed to wander far away and lines of unremitting exhaustionetched across them that told stories of despair and agony. “They will neither let us live nor allow us to die,they hope for us to suffer and wither away….I don’t have it in me to goon anymore.” These words were uttered by Maula, whose husband Jagat was sentenced to death some
five years back.
In a country, where crime rates are skyrocketing every single day, and the gruesome acts continue to worsen in shape and form, capital punishment remains a much-debated issue. Some people assume the stance of agreeability and speak in favour of the death sentence in terms of being fair, while others criticise this form of punishment on the grounds of in humanity and violation of basic individual rights. Let me state in the very beginning that I belong to neither of these groups. I don’t intend to weigh or analyse capital punishment nor propose an alternative. My sole aim is to tell stories that often go unheard and acquaint people with an imagery of what is left behind, once an individual gets sentenced to death. During one such visit, we met the 105-year-old father of the prisoner.
It was heart wrenching to watch a frail old man who walked with the pride of a 20-year-old, burst into tears at the mention of his son. As he wept, he said to us, “the second I got to know about the death sentence, it felt like life had suddenly been taken away from my body. I don’t understand what god is trying to do. He is innocent, he was trapped. The son dies while his father is still alive, what kind of a religion is this?…….He had gone to attend a function when the police came and took him away from us. People came up to me and told me that they are going to take my son away and there was nothing I could do about it.”
we met the son of the prisoner.
Interviewer – “How was your father’s general behaviour with all of you?”Son – “If he had been mean to us, there would have been no problem.The love he had for us is the primary reason why it has been so hard to get used to life without him. My younger brother has been suffering the most.He often gets up in the middle of the night and starts crying. He will start
frantically looking for father and when he realises that he’s not around, starts sobbing unconsolably. This happens almost every night and we feel utterly helpless” These are a few extracts from the many conversations we had with these people. Most of them, seem to have lost sight of their hopes and aspirations and now devote all their energy to surviving the aftermath of one
particular occurrence. They hardly seem like individuals with their own thoughts, goals, and wishes, and more like the product of the consequences that followed when their family member was awarded the death sentence.These experiences, have forced me to carefully analyse the meaning of fair and unfair and ponder upon whether such a distinguishing line even exists between the two.