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Death by hanging vs Death by shooting

Just as we campaign for abolition of Death Penalty , we must campaign for making death in police firing on unarmed demonstrations 'a rarest of rare incident .'
Peoples Voice on August 4, 2015 - 3:30 pm in Reforms

The campaign against death penalty is just and humane and needs to be appreciated and fully supported, but the silence on death by shooting of unarmed demonstrators is deafening and intriguing. We rightly oppose capital punishment even though it is awarded in the rarest of cases after affording all possible opportunities to the victims to defend themselves. They are also afforded the opportunity to appeal for mercy before they are eventually hanged. During this long process the society also intercedes on their behalf to prevent the noose in their necks. Capital punishment is sought to be abolished regardless of the horror of the crime the guilty might have committed.

In contrast, the crime of the victims of the firing on unarmed demonstrations might at worst be pelting of stones or throwing of soda water bottles at the police , and at best refusal to disperse after their assembly has been declared unlawful. They have no opportunity to defend themselves. In fact, they are shot and killed without a warning ,and sometimes after an excuse of a warning. The riot flag , which was always unfurled before the police opened fire and served as a real warning during the British Raj , is now history. The authorities choose the easier excuse of firing in ‘self defence . ‘They do not have to prove before a court that killing or maiming was necessary for their ‘self defence, as you and I have to do ‘. They cannot be prosecuted without the sanction of the government. Thus, the police have a license to kill. The number of people killed every year in such police firings ( excluding in encounters real or fake ) is far greater than those who are hanged. Dont they deserve the same concern ? If capital punishment is inhuman and should be abolished, should not the shooting and killing of unarmed demonstrator be made a “rarest of rare” incident ? Why should we , who place great value on human life discriminate between death by hanging and death by shooting ? Why should we feel less pain for the loss of life of those whose only crime might have been pelting stones on the police or disobeying the imperial (magisterial) order to disperse when we feel so strongly about the loss of life of those found guilty of grave crimes ?

One life is as valuable as another. We must not discriminate. Just as we campaign for abolition of Death Penalty , we must campaign for making death in police firing on unarmed demonstrations ‘a rarest of rare incident .’

Prof. Prabhakar Sinha
National President, People’s Union for Civil Liberties

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