Death Penalty : A long-standing debate

Death Penalty - A long-standing debateReports of a terrorist being hanged to death have been in light for a long time nowadays. Every newspaper as well as news channels were flooded with the views of the citizens as well as the politicians. Every aspect of this incident was being covered. This entire execution of the death sentence diverted my mind to the question that has been a debate since a long period of time. This question is ‘Is death penalty really justified?’

Who has the right to decide whether an individual deserves to live or die? Who has the right to decide whether a particular person’s crime calls for a death sentence and another person’s crime must settle down with a life imprisonment? These questions have congregated my mind recently. A fool-proof answer to this question lies in these lines:


An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.
                                                         -Mahatma Gandhi


Non-Violence is the strongest weapon

Mahatma Gandhi lived his entire life following the principle of non-violence. He never preached nor supported violence. He was determined to free his country from slavery of the British and that too by the weapon of non-violence. He was a strong opponent of death penalty.

Today’s society really needs to give a thought to this teaching and ideology of Mahatma Gandhi. It was really sad to see the citizens celebrating the death penalty of an individual. There are people who might argue that the person being hanged was a terrorist and had killed many other people. But it is necessary for those people to realize that on what basis one can differentiate a crime as extreme enough to punish the accused with a death penalty. There are so many killing going on in the country every moment.

We all know it. There are gang rapes, murders, shoot outs and number of other crimes happening across the different corners of the country. So if a penalty is decided for a particular crime, especially a killing then who will decide that that crime is more extreme than the other ones. Just because the above mentioned cases involve accused from the same country, they must be spared and the executed terrorist being an outsider should be hanged. What about the regional terrorists and murderers? After all a killing is a killing.

I do not mean that even they should be hanged to death. But the idea is that we humans really do not have any right to decide life or death for other human being. This entire execution throws light on the values that are being nurtured in the society today. How can a society that stands on the value of violence ever become free from crime? Coming back to the example of death penalty; the ideology behind such decisions somewhere lies in the thought process that such executions will set examples for other terrorists around and will develop fear in their nerves.

But can a dirty cloth ever be cleaned with the help of dirty water? It needs clean and clear water. To kill someone with a view to stop other killings is not a solution. Killing for a killing is only revenge, irrespective of the motive behind that killing. Having a motive doesn’t really justify a killing. At the end, it is just revenge. Just think about it once! If we resort to the same means which the terrorists and such other criminals gave in to, then what is the difference between them and us?

Both the killings – the one which is considered as an offence and the one which is considered as a punishment – only nurture the values of hatred, revenge, aversion and such other negative emotions. In no way can they teach the values of compassion and love. Today one person kills another with a particular mindset or motive. Tomorrow other person seeks revenge and kills another one. This cycle simply goes on forever.

This is the reason that Mahatma Gandhi says ‘An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.’ Somewhere at some point someone has to stop so that further worse can be stopped. Death penalty to one criminal doesn’t set an example for others. Rather the idea should be to target their basic mindset behind those killings. If even one person undergoes a change by non-violent means, then that will set an example or persuade other criminals to think about the reason for the change that has eventually occurred. The roots of the false beliefs and ideas that have been planted in the mind of a criminal are the ones that need to be targeted to make a difference.

In this process, the government is not the only one which needs to be blamed. The government is formed by the people and of the people. The representatives in the government have come from amongst us. Also, the society alone cannot bring about a difference. Government and the society must go hand in hand. Violence will only fuel the hatred within us and that will reflect in the overall character of ours.

It is we who need to decide in which direction we need to move in. That direction will build our character as well direct the fate of the entire humanity. May be the path of non-violence could take time. But the results will be surprisingly excellent.

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