Yesterday, the unnamed, then underage now 20-year old boy / man convicted of raping and killing Jyoti (Nirbhaya) Singh was released for resettlement in an undisclosed location under a new identity. The hype that this has caused is largely due to the inherent irony of giving a second chance to the criminal while the victim was provided none. Most of the rhetoric has been in opposition of the judicial loop hole that allows his relase, who I will refer to as Nishabd, a fitting pseudonym due to his particular circumstances. Everyone understands it is only a judicial technicality that has not landed him the capital punishment, a technicality that is based on a centuries old demographic that is very different from the society today. Today, when children are more street smart than their parents, more aware of their bodies, physiological processes and a part of a gender-irrelevant socially interactive community – they have probably – and I’m speculating here – attained a level of maturity and understanding their peers and forbears could never have. In that case, it would make complete sense if there was another technicality or judicial discretionary decision that denied Nishabd the safety net of a minor.
However, I’m here trying to imagine that even if it were not for the technicality, Nishabd deserves a chance. Now, I do not know him or his mental / emotional capacity, but I do believe in second chances. It was a rape, yes. It was horrific and almost unthinkable. But, this kid did something in the prime of his teenage years and I cannot accept that it is entirely his fault. This is not a scientific assessment but how do we determine how much of the decisions he made were not in some part dictated by the society he lived in, his neighbors, his school and lastly his peers who were the others convicted. Did he know he was doing the wrong thing? Most definitely, I’m not going to claim momentary loss of judgement or temporary insanity but he surely knew he was doing the wrong thing. Then, why did he do it? The same reason why we cut the red light, break a queue, bribe the politician, back stab a colleague and go on a pilgrimage on our knees to cheat judgement day begging for second chances. Only, we think our crimes are inconsequential or minor.
To all those people baying for his blood, don’t cast your stones yet. Nishabd deserves a new name and a chance. Truly, no one deserves the crime he committed but killing any number of people is not going to cure the Indian man’s criminal tendencies. There are no easy solutions, only difficult choices and realizations. It’s definitely not banning things, capital punishments or creating ‘clothing’ rules for our women. It should begin with unbridled freedom, dispelling of hypocrisy, religion-tainted social perception and imbibed gender equality that begins from our homes and not just left to a feeble rule in a dusty law book.
People are not always the choices they make, choices have always been part chance, so I say, let Nishabd have his second one.