Kill one get hanged, kill many get garlanded in India


It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.

  • —–Voltaire

INDIA IS a great country. You can do just about anything.

You can spit pee and crap anywhere. You can justify a fat ‘eco-development’ World Bank fund by letting builders shave forest and flatten hills to erect green-painted residential complexes.

To cut a long story short, you can get away with murder.

Not if you are one unlucky non-resourceful bastard – like Mahendra Kanta Das.

Mahendra, now 49, had on 24 April 1996 strode into the police outpost in Fancy Bazaar – commercial hub of Guwahati – with a severed head and a blood-dripping machete.

He had in a fit of anger beheaded Harakanta Das, 68, secretary of Guwahati Truck Drivers’ Association. The latter was sipping tea with his friends at a roadside stall a tad before 7am.

A local court prescribed death penalty for Mahendra in 1997. The higher courts upheld the verdict later on. Earlier this month, Indian President Pratibha Devisinh Patil rejected his clemency plea.

The gallows it is for Mahendra now. He would in all probability be hanged in central Assam’s Jorhat Jail. The last person to be hanged there was Kanpai Buragohain (27 July 1990).

Don’t get me wrong. I am not implying Mahendra should have been spared the noose.

Imagine him as a rich, brawny or influential murderer. Have him backed by the government, corporate, a non-government pressure group, political party or militant/terrorist outfit.

Imagine Mahendra as Dara Singh, who killed Australian padre Graham Staines and his sons. Imagine him as Ranjan Daimary whose militant outfit National Democratic Front of Boroland blew up 92 people in a serial blast on 30 October 2008. Imagine him as Paresh Barua whose rebel group United Liberation Front of Asom killed, among hundreds, 13 children on 15 August 2004.

Imagine him as the brain behind the Godhra train-burning, as well as the reactionary violence against Muslims in Ahmedabad and elsewhere in Gujarat. Imagine him as Afzal Guru, or as Islamic fanatics who chopped off the hands of “blasphemous” Kerala lecturer TJ Joseph (though severing hands isn’t the same as severing head).

Or imagine him as Ajmal Kasav, the lone survivor among 10 Pakistan-backed terrorists who went on a killing spree during their 26/11 siege on Mumbai.

Militants in the Northeast – I believe elsewhere in India too – give up arms, get rehab packages, are welcomed back into the ‘mainstream’, allowed to run business syndicates, inducted into political parties, and are even elected. Their ‘crimes’ are conveniently forgotten, because they fought wars against ‘colonial’ India.

Collateral damages happen in conflict situations, you might argue. And, after all, everything’s fair in love and war.

You can’t hang the Godhra criminals or Joseph’s attackers because you can’t be anti-minority. And you can’t eliminate the Ahmedabad rioters because the majority might matters.

If mass murderers can’t make money, the Indian government ensures it spends millions on them. Kasav, happily enjoying his stardom, is a prime example.

But Kasav can be an eye-opener for non-Indians yearning to kill by the dozens without the possibility of being punished. Just come to India, with or without passport and your murder weapons, and shoot, hack, spear, burn, strangle anyone you wish.

The more you kill, less is your chance of being hanged.

Out-of-the-box thinking can also make pro-globalization New Delhi get back more money than it spends on the Kasavs and their local variants. It can package Slaughter Sightseeing into its Incredible India campaign.

So let the psychopaths and murder-minded tourists come, pay to be taken to mineral-rich tribal areas or prime urban locations requiring eviction to go bang-bang (Can’t help if this idea is ‘inspired’ by a Jean-Claude van Damme film).

This will be a win-win situation for all players. Those that die don’t deserve to live anyway, and India will be rid of the scum and two-legged liabilities that come in the way of industrial growth.

And as for Mahendra… if only he had killed more or aligned with some party or group!

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About rahconteur

A mid-career journalist who's worked horizontally across India - from Arunachal Pradesh to Gujarat
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2 Responses to Kill one get hanged, kill many get garlanded in India

  1. sanat says:

    You have actually raised something extraordinarily complex question of justice by citing all the instances that interrogate the notion of natural justice. But somehow, I felt, as you trudged along towards the end, you veered into something different things, all jumbled up, leaving the reader lost in the web of your argument!

    That’s how I felt! At the end what’s your conclusion?

    • rahconteur says:

      Thanks for your honest assessment. Just couldn’t help the urge to sound satirical at the end, I guess. What I tried to convey is that if our system can’t punish the multiple offenders — with or without direct involvement but very much a part — it shouldn’t be partisan against the single offenders. Let them all be used to make money.

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