Thursday, April 09, 2015

The Atlas of Life

The sun was bearing down oppressively on the caravan.  The desert was seemingly endless.  Occasionally a scorpion or a snake slithered from under the sands, and soon disappeared.

The caravan was carrying children, thousands of them.  It was being propelled by haggard animals.  The adults sometimes rested on the carriages with their children, but most of the time they too were walking alongside the beasts.

The journey had been contninuing for many thousands of years.  As the children came of age, they were forced to jump out of the carriages and to assume the roles of adults.

And the adults were distressed, but found pleasure in their eating and copulating.  That it only led to an increase in the burden on the carriages was well-known but disregarded.  There were a few who were appalled at this absurd journey, and they took vows of celibacy and broke away from the caravan.  But they too could not drift too far into the desert.  The few mad ones who did, died of the heat.

The caravan had been traveling for many thousands of years.

A child in the caravan, barely eight years old, had been observing this macabre scene unfold before him.  He saw children becoming adults, adults producing more children, and then being burdened with them, with the only aim of keeping the caravan moving.  He could not see what they were destined for, and nobody seemed to know.

One night, that child lay wide awake, looking at the stars.  The stars were twinkling from a fathomless distance, and the cold desert seemed to extend into eternity.  A stellar mist was visible in that clear night.  Maybe it was a constellation, maybe a cluster of gas.  But he could not avert his eyes from it.  He was afraid to close his eyes, scared that when he woke up, it would be morning and he would miss that beauty before him.

He looked around at the sleeping, groaning, snoring caravan.  Mothers tending to crying babies, feeding them, trying to comfort them.  The men sleeping fitfully and dreaming of rivers and geysers.  The animals, listless and hungry, stoically waiting for the morning when they again would be put in harness.

Suddenly the child saw a shooting star.  It was a brief sight, ephemeral and momentary.  For a moment, something blazed, went through a trajectory, and disappeared.

The child stood up with great energy, shouted to his mother, dusted off the sand from his body, and started running toward the horizon, to catch the beauty of that star.  He was heartbroken that something so beautiful could just disappear into nothingness.

He ran and ran, but eventually the night passed and the sun rose, and the sky lightened up and the stars disappeared.  Crestfallen and angry, he trudged back to his caravan.

As he again settled in the carriage, with his eyes dry from tears which flowed no more, he looked at his mother and spit out the words: "I could not catch the shooting star.  Life is pitiless."

The mother was nursing her youngest, and affectionately answered him: "There will be another shooting star tonight.  Its child.  And so on tomorrow night.  And till eternity."

The caravan had been traveling for many thousands of years...

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Suicide and its "abetment"

The dictionary definition of "abetment" is: To approve, encourage, and support (an action or a plan of action); urge and help on.

Abetment to Suicide is a crime under Indian law.  The law states:

"306. Abetment of suicide.—If any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine. "

Indian courts and police have been routinely arresting and prosecuting people under this law when all they did was do something which caused another person a lot of agony - enough agony to commit suicide.  A husband having an affair, a boss transferring an official, a father refusing the demands of his son, a teacher failing a student, etc. are all situations in which the person at the receiving end can undergo an emotional upheaval.  If the upheaval cannot be contained by the person's inner or outer support systems, a grave outcome might result.  Such a person might harm himself or harm others.

But it is clear (to me at least) that doing "something" that another person strongly dislikes should not be a crime.  Even if the dislike is so strong that it leads to a suicide.  If that "something" is a crime in its own right (e.g. nepotism, theft, rape) then there are enough laws to prosecute the person for that act.  

But to prosecute a person because his acts pushed someone to kill themselves is a travesty.  Because emotional immaturity of one person should not be held against another.  Because otherwise, to indulge in something unpopular or offensive (not criminal per se) would be fraught with danger.  Because otherwise, any act can result in a person being jailed.

Suppose a woman has two lovers.  She ultimately decides to marry one of them.  The other man falls into depression and commits suicide.  No person in their right mind would criminalize the choice made by the woman.  But how is this situation significantly different from a husband who has an affair which pushes his wife into depression and suicide?

A non-criminal act which is not intended to hurt anyone but which ends up being unacceptable to someone does not thereby become a crime.  The law cannot be subject to emotion.

Emotional agitation of others must not be a factor in criminalizing someone.  We call a region a "police state" when people live in fear of being randomly prosecuted because someone in power disliked them.  Similar is this kind of "abetment state" where you have to be careful lest someone harm themselves because they felt bad about something you did.

Abetment of suicide must only mean a situation wherein a person actively encouraged someone to kill themselves, or helped them with the means for ending their life.  Merely doing something offensive is not the same thing.

I wish Indian courts and the Indian police understood this.