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Thursday, June 1, 2023

This Indira’s heart bleeds for rapists

Those who wish to know why simple, straightforward, uncomplicated people hold in revulsion those fond of publicly flaunting their “liberal” credentials now have a ready referral: Indira Jaising, lawyer and human rights activist.  She is, of course, only the latest of her ilk to transgress the sensibilities of ordinary humans without in the least realizing the gravity of her affront.

The lawyer, a self-avowed champion of the downtrodden and exploited, had the gall to advise Asha Devi, mother of the 2012 rape victim Nirbhaya, in a tweet to forgive the dastardly deed of the four rapists awaiting capital punishment. And ipso facto sign into the hall of fame to rub shoulders with the gold standard in human compassion, Sonia Gandhi, who forgave Nalini Murugan, a co-conspirator behind husband Rajeev’s assassination in 1991.

In reality it is still not clear who “forgave” Nalini: Sonia or progeny Priyanka after a private meeting with the assassin in jail back in 2008. Reports of the emotionally cathartic encounter in which Priyanka and Nalini embraced each other and profusely wept have been in circulation. It is an incontrovertible truth that Sonia had Nalini’s death sentence commuted to life imprisonment on being informed that the killer was mothering a daughter born in jail, a gesture seen as an act of forgiveness. But since the plea for clemency by Rajeev’s widow did not extend to the other three convicted by the Supreme Court, the pardon was half baked in the real sense.

Asha Devi, understandably enough, was visibly piqued by the lawyer’s unsolicited counsel. The counter from Nirbhaya’s father that the “mentality” of people like Ms Jaising was responsible for the rising number of rapes cannot be faulted either on perception or fact. Because rapists still manage to be let off lightly despite the enactment of harsher laws.

Tersely put, here was a leading light of the liberal brigade wholly lacking in emotional capital advising the mother of a rape victim to forgive and forget a cruel crime. This, after being made to run in concentric circles for seven years to ensure death by hanging for those who tore apart her daughter’s vitals. And just when the order was out, proffered was the advice, unsolicited. Why? Because Ms Jaising and her breed are against the death penalty. Which begs the question: for whom does her heart bleed? Nirbhaya or her rapists? Criminals or their victims?

Ms Jaising could easily have avoided the backlash since her views on the subject are well known. It never struck her that this wasn’t the time to reiterate them given the harried mood of the victim’s family caused by the abnormal delay in the deliverance of justice in a case whose denouement was long overdue. But showcasing political correctness is an essential component of the liberal eco system. It almost always comes at the cost of sincerity.

Small wonder the fakery of Ms Jaising’s claim that she “fully identified with the pain of Nirbhaya’ mother” was seen through by the parents who said they had seen the lawyer a number of times during their innumerable rounds of the Supreme Court. But not once had she ever come up to express her commiseration.

Again, it is Ms Jaising’s flawed sense of political correctness which prodded her to recommend clemency for the rapists. It blinded her to the absurdity of drawing parallels between a political assassination and the rape and death of an innocent 23-year-old which left her parents grieving for life. The cliched argument that since the death sentence is an ineffective deterrent as well as a blight on the human soul, it deserves to be cast out from the statute book has never been properly contested. A simple counter can slay it: Can outlawing the hangman’s noose cut reduce murders and rapes? Can hardened criminals be reformed? Where is the numerical evidence?

Not for nothing have liberals been defined as a bunch of conservatives mugged by reality. Thick skinned and wooly headed as they are, they cannot be made to realize that a better preventative than fear of the law has yet to be found. And that crime and punishment will run parallel as long as humans exist — the more brutal the offence, the more severe the penalization.

The old wisecrack that it is difficult to find liberals who are liberal with their own money does not apply to Ms Jaising on paper. Her NGO, Lawyers’ Collective, which she runs with her husband and fellow human rights lawyer, Anand Grover, provides legal funding to the poor and underprivileged. Money is the least of her problems. As a former member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, she has a formidable network to sustain her work.

Ms Jaising is a hardened feminist and lifelong upholder of the leftist cause. Cases dealing with minority interests, child labor, environment, sexual harassment, extra judicial killings, and financial empowerment of women, especially of the Christian and Muslim faith, top her list. Her proximity to Sonia Gandhi can be traced to the latter. It resulted in her appointment as additional solicitor general during the UPA years, with a Padma Shri being the icing on the cake. Her crowning glory came in 2018 when Fortune Magazine ranked her twentieth in its list of 50 global leaders. Her public image, however, remains divisive. She’s no feminine version of the white knight in shining armor. Her NGO’s license was permanently cancelled by the Union Home Ministry for misuse of foreign funds though she did manage to get its bank account de-frozen.

Ms Jaising remains a formidable force in the legal world. But the core of her bleeding heart is cold. Her tweet confirmed it. Absolute honesty has never been a liberal trait.

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Sudhir Kumar Singh
Sudhir Kumar Singh
Sudhir Kumar Singh is an independent journalist who has worked in senior editorial positions in the Times Of India, Asian Age, Pioneer, and the Statesman. Also a sometime stage and film actor who has worked with iconic directors like Satyajit Ray and Tapan Sinha.


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