Rationality vs Human Emotion

By Devika Mittal

The debate on the abolition of the ‘barbaric’ death penalty accompanies the “masala chai” these days. The sudden popularity is because UN has now declared it to be one of its never-ending missions to abolish this ‘draconian’ law . So now everyone everywhere seems to be discussing this ‘cruel’ law which exists only in few countries including India.    

The proponents of “Human Rights” argue about how it is cruel to take someone’s right to life away. There are others who feel that punishment is given to reform someone. Capital punishment kills the ‘hope’ of reform. Some others argue, “an eye for an eye makes everyone blind”. They all, uninously, agree for a life imprisonment.

When I talk about how AFSPA has violated basic civil liberties like right to life, people argue how it is an ‘unnecessary evil’. “Without AFSPA, Kashmir and the north-east states will secede so it’s important for the army to step in”, they argue. AFSPA is also important, according to them, because these states share an international border.

Naxals blowing up trains, blasts in crowded markets, communal riots…their source of ‘anger’ is explored. The ‘intellectuals’ analyze what must have ‘compelled’ the ‘grieved’ classes to have gone the violent way. They prove how the violence was reactionary and in a way, do end up ‘justifying’ violence.

The intellectuals view an issue with different lenses…there exists different schools of interpretation. The intellectuals are supposed to be having a broader outlook, unlike the narrow-minded commoners. But sometimes, in their outlook, the human angle is underplayed. It’s the battle between rationality and human emotions, for them.

On the debate concerning capital punishment, the grounds are human rights. They argue that criminals should not be killed because it infringes upon the basic civil liberties. But then are the human rights meant only for criminals?  They had also taken away someone’s right to life. What about that? They say, punishment is meant for reform. I think there is a need for a reality-check. This may still hold some truth, to an extent, for small criminals but I wonder if mass-murderers, serial rapists and especially terrorists can ever be reformed!

People justify the draconian law of AFSPA(Armed Forces Special Powers Act) which has led to extra-judicial killings, illegal detentions, fake encounters, rapes and torture of the civilian population in AFSPA-affected regions in India. They argue how it is important for keeping the people ‘together’. Without AFSPA, they will go out of the Indian union. I wonder if they would share the same belief if they would have personally experienced or had a relative subjected to such a rule. It is scandalizing to even imagine the situation but which is a reality in J&K and North-Eastern states.

The human emotion of grief, loss is unimportant. In their debates, the ‘Intellectuals’ do not talk about the human perspective. They do not talk about their sufferings. I, sometimes, feel that maybe they can no longer understand it.  Paradoxically, Marx had defined Ideology as “something which misinterprets reality”.

Sometimes I feel that the common people are stuck in between, with the oppressors above and the intellectuals below.

I now realize what Rousseau had said, “The ‘uncivilized’ man is much more humane than a ‘civilized’ man”.


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