Wednesday, March 28, 2012

COURAGE OF CONVICTION (The Matter of Balwant Singh Rajoana) by I.J. Singh

Beant Singh's assassin, Balwant Singh Rajoana, is to be hanged on Saturday, rules the court.  But the jail authorities are reluctant to do.
The political back and forth between the jail authorities and the courts continues.  The courts have ordered a hanging; the jail authorities would like to defer the moment.
There is no doubt that Balwant Singh, by his own admission, is guilty in the killing of Beant Singh, the former Chief Minister of Punjab, almost a decade ago in 1995.
Balwant Singh has not requested a delay.  He has not appealed to a higher court.  He has not petitioned for mercy.
Balwant Singh absolutely refuses to recognize the courts or the legal proceedings that convicted him and sentenced him to die.
He has repeatedly and clearly asked that no one intercede on his behalf.
It is not that Balwant Singh wants to die; it is that he is willing to do so.
It is that everyone is free to challenge the existing law, whether on taking a life, as Balwant Singh did, or going through a red light.  Each carries a price that the law demands.
When a man deliberately decides to break a law he must also be ready to pay the piper.  And Balwant Singh is.
He committed a crime.  Why?
Because Beant Singh, the Chief Minister, was responsible for the arbitrary and capricious murder of so many innocent Sikhs  -- all in the name of state security and peace.  Something had to be done. The state mechanisms of justice had totally failed.  And when all other means have failed it is just and rightful to take to the sword.
This is what Balwant Singh did.  That is why to the peasantry of Punjab Balwant Singh has reached an iconic status.
But when the courts have so ruled why do the jail-authorities cringe at carrying out the orders?
Simply because the jailers and those designated to carry out the hanging see the political realities.  To most Sikhs Balwant Singh is a man who has done no wrong; he is a hero to so many that it would be politically unwise to hang him.  Many would like to give him a medal instead.
From a hanging a popular backlash could result and that would hardly be conducive to peace.
His guilt is not issue today.  It is the shortsighted political decision that is to be rued.
A crime deserves punishment and alternatives to hanging exist.
Before Indians in India – Sikhs and non-Sikhs – take umbrage at my words; to them what I say sounds like interference in the internal affairs of their country, I ask them to think a little.  Not so long ago, when apartheid was the law of the land in South Africa, it was our moral duty to raise our voices against it – no matter if we were citizens of India, Germany, Africa or India.  Why then should we hold our tongue in the case of miscarriage of justice in India?
South Africa is not the only nation whose genocidal policies raised our hackles.  It became everyone’s cause, no matter the race, color, caste, creed, religion or geography and nationality.
Take careful note of the fact that India’s record of justice for its own people is horrendous.  One example of many that exist:  the killing of several thousand Sikhs in its capital city of Delhi in 1984 when the police watched, if not aided and abetted the murders.  And where is justice now 28 years and a dozen Inquiry Commissions later?  Still waiting!
I would be willing to bet that the ordinary Punjabi, the ordinary Sikh, grieves for Balwant Singh today while at the same time he salutes and celebrates the courage of his convictions.
Hanging of the man – Balwant Singh – who acted in the face of such unabating injustice would reopen fresh the wounds of the 1980’s.  And that is not the way to a future of peace.  It is the way to unending resentment and violence.
Is that what the policymakers in India want?  I would think they are a lot smarter than that.
A government of the people ought to listen to the people; it needs to have an ear to the ground

March 28, 2012

Published with permission of the author.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

(Inter) National Brotherhood(/Sisterhood) Week

This is a song by the USA's master parodist, Tom Lehrer. This song needs an introduction by me, as well as Tom's intro.

First let me pontificate a bit, then listen to the song.

National Brotherhood Week is now National Brotherhood/Sisterhood Week to reflect, I suppose, the changing social climate.  I think National Siblinghood Week would be better, saving a total of three syllables that could be used more profitably elsewhere.    According the Wikipedia, the authoritative source of just about everything except for school papers, it is held on the third week of February.  (February, of course, is Black History Month.)  I guess it came and went without much, if any, notice this year.

I sort of wonder what the people behind it, National Conference for Community and Justice, expect to accomplish?  Of course, they want us all to realise that we are sisters and brothers (or brothers and sisters) and end all our prejudices based on race, colour, creed, socioeconomic class and country of national origin.  I think the prejudice based on gender, disability and sexual orientation must have been added in recent years.  If India had such a week, caste would have to be included.  Although my high caste friends assure me that caste is no longer relevant in India, my friends who are not high caste assure me otherwise.  Who should I believe?  I won't get into such oddities as manual scavenging here;  I don't want to make you uncomfortable, now, do I?

I think very little is accomplished by it personally.  Those who consider themselves unprejudiced will give each other  self-congratulatory slaps on the back, not understanding or not willing to admit or not caring  that we all have nasty prejudices lurking in us and rooting them out would be more profitable than denying them.  The bigots will remain bigots and, I suspect, ignore the whole thing, as it seems the entire country (USA) does every year except, I suspect a few kids in liberal and Montessori Schools.

My prejudices?  I was hoping you wouldn't ask.  I find racial and ethnic differences more interesting than distasteful.  I tend to be more prejudiced against those on top than those on the bottom, you know, the 1%, but that's socially acceptable, so I suppose it doesn't count.  Stupid people.  I find them insufferable.  I know they can't help being stupid, but I dislike them and I know that isn't very nice.

A bit of explanation for my readers from countries outside of North America and those too young to remember what these references are.

Sheriff Clark was Sheriff Jim Clark of Selma, Alabama, the quintessential segregationist, [Racial segregation, also called Jim Crow,  was the USA form of apartheid enshrined in the laws of the South.  The Northerners were less honest and pretended that they believed in equality of the races, ignoring the squalid ghettoes of the Northern cities. All segregation laws have either been repealed or declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.]   Sheriff Clark died, unrepentant,  in 2007.
Lena Horne was a great Black (now African American) singer, actress. dancer and activist, among other things.  She died in 2010.

I think everyone should be able to follow the rest of the song.

For those of you in other countries (mostly India, among my readers), feel free to replace Mr. Lehrer's words with your own local prejudices in place of the U S of A ones as written.

Tom Lehrer's Introduction:

One week of every year is designated National Brotherhood Week. This is just one of many such weeks honoring various worthy causes...During National Brotherhood Week various special events are arranged to drive home the message of brotherhood. This year, for example, on the first day of the week Malcolm X was killed which gives you an idea of how effective the whole thing is. I'm sure we all agree that we ought to love one another and I know there are people in the world that do not love their fellow human beings and I hate people like that. Here's a song about National Brotherhood Week.

Oh, the white folks hate the black folks,
And the black folks hate the white folks.
To hate all but the right folks
Is an old established rule.

But during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week,
Lena Horne and Sheriff Clarke are dancing cheek to cheek.
It's fun to eulogize
The people you despise,
As long as you don't let 'em in your school.

Oh, the poor folks hate the rich folks,
And the rich folks hate the poor folks.
All of my folks hate all of your folks,
It's American as apple pie.

But during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week,
New Yorkers love the Puerto Ricans 'cause it's very chic.
Step up and shake the hand
Of someone you can't stand.
You can tolerate him if you try.

Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,
And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
And the Hindus hate the Moslems,
And everybody hates the Jews.

But during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week,
It's National Everyone-smile-at-one-another-hood Week.
Be nice to people who
Are inferior to you.
It's only for a week, so have no fear.
Be grateful that it doesn't last all year!


Sheriff Jim Clark:

Lena Horne:

Tom Lehrer:


 National Conference for Community and Justice: