Monday, March 22, 2010

The punishment of living.

The comments on my earlier post have led me to think more on this line and am presenting a rather queer thought. I am probably contradicting myself as compared to the earlier post. (Which is OK. I often contradict myself!) Further, I might be raising a storm with this thought.
The issue is about what is the purpose of law, justice and punishment. And specifically with reference to a terrorist, whether ANY punishment really achieves a purpose at all.
Just last night, our usual gang (which means Swati, Vallarie, Prasad and Mamata) met up at my place and late in the night the discussion veered towards Ashvatthama. The curious character from Mahabharat. Krishna 'cursed' him with immortality for his evil deeds (which were too many to recount here. Suffice to say that he committed heinous crimes, equivalent to a terror attack in today's times.) In Hindu mythology, there are eight characters who are considered to be 'chiranjeev', that is immortal. These include Parshuram, Vibheeshan, Hanuman and others. Out of these eight, seven were granted the boon of immortality owing to their good deeds. Only one, Ashvatthama, was CURSED with immortality. How does one explain this seeming contradiction?

Nobody wants to die. I am assuming of course, but I think its a safe assumption. Scores of people have spent their lifetimes trying to find the way to avoid, feign or hoodwink death. And an equal number of people have considered the search to be futile. As Albus Dumbledore tells Harry Potter a truth of life - "After all, to a well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure." I am no expert on world's religions, but I know enough Hinduism to know that it teaches us to consider death as a comma and not a fullstop. And in being a comma, it releases one from the trials and tribulation of life and living. Suffering, I mean.
So back to Mahabharat. Even Bhishma the great warrior was granted a boon that he could choose the time of his death. So hypothetically, he could have lived forever if he wanted to. He didn't. He chose the time when he was ready for the 'next great adventure', so to say. But Ashvatthama was cursed by Krishna - he was told that he won't die and thus be able to face the judgement for his sins. He would continue to live and roam the earth forever, burning in the shame and guilt of his deeds. The most horrible curse if you see it from the Hindu point of view. Imagine being told that you will never ever get a release.
What am I saying, then? Is keeping a terrorist alive a worse punishment than hanging? The Islamic fundamentalist view also compels a terrorist to seek heaven through death, so he/she is not afraid of going and committing the act of terror. On the contrary, he is quite sure of what he is doing, to reserve a berth in heaven. So is it a better idea to deny him that berth?
I have no answers, just presenting my confusion in its most raw form.
On a tangential note, this is my 100th blog post!!! I am glad that it is a thoughtful topic. The other topic I had in mind was Mayawati's garland. Ugh. She can wait for some time.


Asif said...

First Congrats for coming so far and I know very well what it takes to become a person with 100 posts. Three cheers to the century and eagerly waiting for Mayawati’s Garland. Just the thought of it is making me laugh.

Well I don’t know whether really there are places called heaven and hell. But I do know one thing that if people like such terrorists are living freely among us there is scope for other young minds to actually think of getting away with such heinous acts and start thinking about doing such crimes. I don’t know what good or bad it does to the terrorist if he is not punished ASAP but it definitely is doing a great harm to the man kind and the humanity.
And no religion says that by killing innocent people you can reach heaven. If you ask that to even Kasab, You might actually be shocked to know that he might not be following any religion at all.Let alone expecting to go to heaven.
People who do drug trafficking and people who enjoy life in wrong ways never have any religion. They just do it for the sake of money and pleasures of life. And people who make them do such things take the advantage of poverty and weak minds and ultimately give the name of religion to get on with their ways.

g2 said...

congratulations on the ton :)

Actually, I have also thought about this once in a different context but did not note it down... "By hanging a terrorist, aren't we giving him what he wanted the most?"

♥ Braja said...

Good point....despite what anyone's belief is, if the *terrorists* believe in heaven, then as you say, the worst punishment for them is to be kept alive....

Pushkaraj said...

@ Asif -Nobody know where they go later, to heaven,hell or some other place.But terrorist who stands up to the call of Jihad does believes he will go to heaven.
@ Thanks for the compliments.
@ Braja - Thanks. But the greater part of the society will find if difficult to agree

Nilam-the-chimp said...

At deeper lavel Mahabharata war was faught to liberate 8th vasu (Bhishma) from the boon granted by his father, the boon along with the vows had not served any other purpose except the serving the curse of vashishtha. So it was a boon whch was acting as a curse.
Ashwatthama is cursed to live for eternity with uncurable wounds becuase he tried to fail the very purpose of Vasu's liberation. But his curse is a boon as well, he is anointed to be next vayasa in the next mahayuga dwapar period. ( he did bad things but by repenting and sever penance he earned good karma as well, good karma and bad karma gives you separate fruits) After the passage of 43 more mahayugas, the next manvantar will start at that time his penance will be good enough to find place among seven greatest rishis. But he has to live on till the end of another 6 manvantara. before everything is destyoed along with him.

mahabharat stories are intermingled and have much deeper meanings, not hanging kasab is not the message from mahabharat. Killing of a terrorist is a absolute must, govenment spending carors of rupees for these terrorist is ridiculous. If all the terroist want to die why JUD chief want pak govenment to defend him in US court?

Pushkaraj said...

@Nilam-the-chimp - Firstly thanks for the thoughtful comment. My response is on three planes.
1. I find it difficult to believe that "Mahabharata war was fought to liberate 8th vasu". Sounds like a preposterous price for liberation of any sorts. To me, Mahabharat symbolizes a transition in the Indian society, leading firmly to the concept of a 'nation'. One can argue about the deeper purpose of it all, but this justification of liberation of one person is too much for my sensibilities.
2. If that is the fate of Ashvatthama, good for him. That's all I can say.
3. What about Kasab? I have already expressed my opinion that according to the laws of the present times, there is no doubt that he ought to be sent to the gallows. But that does not answer my 'deeper level' query - isn't death that he was already prepared for? In fact, he was brainwashed to take part in the act on the pretext of attaining a seat in heaven. So won't hanging him grant his own wish?