IN THE early hours of Friday, at 3 am to be precise, the Telangana police killed four suspects in the Hyderabad rape-murder case. The killing took place at Chattapally, where the body of the victim was burnt on 27 November.
The police claim they went to the ground zero to recreate the crime scene during which, all four suspects in police custody
, allegedly tried to escape after attacking the police team. The police states it shot them in self-defence.
The above scene is NOT a fictional account of a Netflix crime serial’s episode 1. It happened.
Since the news broke, the nation erupted in joyous approval.
"This is real super example, my salute to you Hyderabad Police” wrote one twitterer. "Can’t believe people have sympathy for the rapists” tweeted another.
Public figures including parliamentarians, Bollywood actors and sport players chipped in with their congratulatory messages and "salutes” for the police.
On TV, women are being seen distributing sweets and shaking hands with policemen for deliverance of what is being seen as "swift justice”. Eerily, there is also a tweet, from December 2, which actually asks the police to do what it did. Step by step.
The spectacle of countrywide celebration of the police action by adrenaline pumped public is NOT the Netflix crime serial episode 2. It is ongoing.
How are we as a country bound by law and principles of justice going to justify extra judicial killing by men in uniform of four suspects?
Were they even the real culprits?
It is quite probable that we will never get to know. And even if an investigation is ordered into extra-judicial killing and a few police officials get suspended, the public at large does not care.
There are several distinctive features to these developments.
What is evident is that by celebrating this kill by the Telangana Police, Indian citizens appear to be mesmerised by the drama and thrill inherent in the act of early morning execution and are overtly and covertly, applauding the "swift” justice that murder by the arm of the law represents.
Disenchantment with the reformative aspects of the law, the tiredness and ennui with the slow moving justice system, the despicable display of victim blaming, the helplessness in the face of denial of justice, the arbitrary grant of bail to rape suspects/convicts who often intimidate victims on their days out of the jail — relentlessly amplified across digital space — all have a role to play in the nation’s reaction.
The ideas of punishment are often rooted in the dominant forms of social and political power of a given era. India today is still deeply rooted to boundaries of caste, class, region and religion. It’s response is often violent, unforgiving.
The entitled classes in society and government reserve the power to threaten, discipline, coerce, suppress, destroy, calibrate punitive measures and mete out savage corporal brutality. The last, often outside the scope of immediate intervention.
It would appear that the defining character of our era, is that of vengeance. This primeval need to avenge, as Simone de Beauvoir suggested could be rooted in the need to obliterate the horror of dehumanisation from memory (for example, Dalit rage against Brahminical dominance) but it could also be argued, as Friedrich Nietzsche did in "Genealogy of Morals”, that it is an outcome of master-slave relationship:
The masters punish because of the pleasure they receive in venting their overflowing power on the powerless; for "the enjoyment of violation”
The punishment of the Hyderabad brutal rape and murder suspects (not convicts!) fits into the Nietzsche’s postulation. The joyous approval of the police action on twitter, on Facebook posts, the television camera, and public at large is shot through with perverse pleasure. Had it been a high ranking politician, popular godman or policeman rapist, the master class act would have played out differently.
In the eyes of these people the four men, all lorry workers, aged between 20 and 24: Mohammad Areef, Jollu Shiva, Jollu Naveen, and Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu didn’t deserve a chance of being tried by the justice system. As one twitterer said, "This is the final solution for their type of criminals”.
It was a death foreclosed.
Charu Soni is a senior journalist and historian.
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