Tuesday, February 12, 2013

February 12, 2013

When we think of our government, what comes to mind is the avuncular and benign face of Manmohan Singh, who means well but is way out of his depth; Sonia Gandhi, who has experienced personal tragedies because of her family's involvement in politics, and who still perseveres in serving the country; venal politicians and bureaucrats, who engage in petty machinations in their quest for power and pelf.

But once in a while, something happens that changes our perspective; we see the government for what it actually is (whether this happens consciously or is, for want of better words, an epiphenomenon, or more accurately, an example of swarm 'intelligence'): a scheming sociopath. A government that keeps the rejection of a mercy petition secret and sets a date for the execution. A government that sends the intimation to the death row prisoner's family by Speed Post one day before the planned execution when it knows that Speed Post only guarantees that articles will be delivered anywhere in India in four to six days. A government that is so paranoid about its survival prospects that it is willing to end a person's life just to send a message to the voters that it is as good as the opposition in some nebulous metric like "Strong/Firm on terror". A government that pretends to be afraid of the backlash that would supposedly arise if news of the planned execution was released, but is strong enough and brave enough to face the backlash -- through curfews, preventive/house arrests and tear gas and lathi charges -- when the execution has been carried out. A government that is engulfed in white-hot rage because somebody dared to attack it in its own den, its seat of power.

Irrespective of how one feels about Afzal Guru's guilt and whether capital punishment should be abolished or not, one thing we don't want our government to be is a relentless, vengeful, all-powerful serial killer who also keeps stealing stuff, while occasionally shooting himself in the foot accidentally.

On a side note, Praveen Swami's demolishing of Arundathi Roy's melodramatic piece on the execution is a must-read, if only to avoid being misled by her half-truths and general BS (I know, I've said nice things about her in the past, so bite me).