JUSTICE OR INJUSTICE – IT’S ALL ABOUT TWO EXTRA LETTERS

One thing that we see in abundance around us is Injustice. Every morning when you read a newspaper, 90% of the news reported are directly or indirectly related to some kind of injustice. Be it a rape, honor killing, domestic violence, female foeticide, money laundering etc. And what do we do about it? Read and forget? Sometimes, a bunch of citizens will arrange a candlelight vigil for protesting against a rape incident. Sometimes, a good lady may offer help to the maid to report the domestic violence to the police. But what is the end result? Do these efforts help? Are the efforts enough in the first place?

Raising voice against injustice is no joke. One needs a great deal of courage to stand for self or for others. And this is exactly where a common man lacks. Nation’s leaders have left a great legacy of fighting injustice. Contributions of Raja Ram Mohan Roy towards abolishment of Sati and Child Marriage, Mahatma Jyotirao Phule towards setting up education system for females, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar towards untouchability and caste discrimination go a long way in shaping up our nation. But are we capable enough today to continue this legacy? Another question that comes to my mind is, is our system capable enough today? Not enough courage coupled with insensitivity (of humans as well as system) is an even more dangerous combination and paves a stronger way to injustice.

So what do we need to fight injustice?

1) Reinforcement of Law: With all due respect to the judiciary system, our laws do need an upliftment. I fail to understand why we need 10+ years to convict a rape accused. Worse is, chances are high that he walks free on various grounds like mental ill-health, juvenile age etc. A crime is a crime, how can the accused be forgiven on such petty grounds? Why the accused is not executed, especially when we know that they are guilty, beyond all doubt? We have some excellent examples from our neighboring countries about how do they deal with rapists. Why can’t our laws be changed for better? Rape accused is just one example of many. There are various other areas where the accused though guilty are living a peaceful life while the victim is dying in misery. If the perception in the minds of the people is that the judiciary system is denying justice, there is no place a common man can go to asking for justice!

2) System Revamp: By “system” I mean any authority that runs this country selfishly and illegally. Be it police, politics, media, just anything. We need to have these completely revamped. Sure, there are a few honest exceptions, but it is indeed shameful that even today we hesitate to approach the police to report any kind of incident. It is even more shameful that the big fat politicians are filling up their own pockets in the name of needy. Recruiting inactive MLAs just because they are a dignified personality in sports or films and paying them a salary of lacs of rupees is a complete injustice to the citizens. While media may show that they are doing an excellent job by running with cameras and questionnaires to the targets, what needs to be questioned is the authenticity of the news that are released? How much of it is fabricated? How much of it is bribed? How much of it is true? These three are the clutches of a common man without which he is left crippled. It is important that these systems work together. They do, even today, the only difference is they work together (inter-connections) for the betterment of their own and not that of citizens.

3) Shift from Sympathy to Empathy: Indifference in humans is growing day by day. They witness an incident, sympathize and forget about it. Partially because they feel crippled because of law and order and partially because they are too self-centered. It is common to exclaim “Oh it is really unfortunate” or “so sad” as long as injustice is happening to someone else. But ever wondered what would such guys do when it happens to them? They won’t be able to do anything more than sympathizing with self. It is high time that we put aside the sympathy and feel the empathy. Unless we are able to really feel what the victim is going through, nothing inside us is going to prompt us to take any action. The most common example is accidents. People are busy making videos of the accident rather than helping the victim. The victim is literally left to die. And this comes from lack of empathy. Can there be a bigger injustice?

4) A Little more Courage everyday: Yes, we need to be braver than yesterday. And that cannot be taught. It has to come from within. We need to be strong enough to raise voice or take measures against any injustice done to us. There is no point in playing the blame game. It will take time to change the systems that run the country, but we can change our mentality faster. We must get rid of “It’s OK” attitude with which we swallow a piece of injustice every day. Be it getting chocolates in place of change at toll plazas, or touch and go episodes at crowded places. We must learn to stand up and say “NO, IT IS NOT OK”. It is important that we start to bring this change with ourselves. This small step will eventually lead us to have enough courage to help others in need.

5) Awareness & Education: This is the most important requirement for fighting injustice. It is very unfortunate that most of the victims of some kind of abuse do not know that they can raise the voice against the ill treatment given to them. They fail to understand that it is not the just the ordeal done by the stronger but it is injustice in reality and someone can help them (perhaps!) The most common examples are laborers who are denied the basic minimum wages, a housewife giving in to the hardships imparted by her husband. They feel it is just the way of life.  They need to be aware about how to distinguish the way of life from injustice. And for this, we need a solid awareness and education. While schools are doing their part of teaching children about good touch and bad touch, what are they doing to sow the seeds of courage in case of any unfortunate incidents? When media runs a campaign about reporting how a rape happened and how a prisoner (on account of some hideous crime) has had a tough life, what is it doing to let the common man know what their rights are or how can they safeguard themselves from injustice.

Justice or Injustice – It’s all about two extra letters. Screaming and whining because of injustice is very common, but we need to go a step further. We need to speak up; we need to bring in the change! If every one of us decides to take baby steps mentioned above, collectively we can remove those two extra letters from Injustice and get Justice for all.

CORRUPTIBLE POWER

We’ve all heard Lord Acton’s oft repeated quote –

‘All power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely’

Power is a tricky thing. We all covet it, yet very few of us know how to wield it and not let it get to our heads. How often have you come across examples of people in positions of power abusing their offices and exerting their influence when they should not? How many times have you come across a situation when you have exerted your power over someone inferior to you in some way, because you felt you had the power so you could do it?

Power is a word that has both positive and negative connotations. When it is exerted for a larger benefit, it becomes a tool for victory, like in the case of the public exerting it’s power over a government for certain reforms. Yet when the same government exerts its power to crush and demoralize the public, it becomes a tool for oppression. It’s in such instances when exerting your power wrongly and unfairly becomes a sin.

Consider these instances from everyday lives –

  • A boss exerting his power over his employees to push them into working harder or longer.
  • A teacher punishing her students for misbehaving.
  • A parent forcing a child to do their bidding.
  • A police officer exerting his power over a prisoner.
  • The owner of a gun threatening an intruder.

Some of you may say that exertion of power in such instances is justified. Aye, it is. But there is a very thin line between justified use and power abuse. In all of the above instances, one unwarranted step could lead to abuse of power.

But I won’t just give you random examples of how exertion of power in the wrong instances is a sin, I’ll give you an example from my own life.

I must have been 11-12 when this happened. My Grandmother owned a building where she used to rent out rooms. In one such room stayed a family of two boys, and their parents. The older boy was a couple of years older than me. He was an absolute tyrant and bully. He would go around the village terrorizing children of my age, beating them up, or calling them names or using them for catapult practice. I hated him because he used to pull my hair and call me ‘Pootna‘ (a mythological demon in India).

But I hated him most because he killed a bird with his catapult just to prove to me that his aim did not suck! And the worst part of it was, I goaded him into doing that because I wanted to prove him a failure. That incident is seared in my memory. I don’t know if the boy had any guilt over the sparrow’s death, but I did, heaps of it. And possibly that was why I was horribly sick for a few days afterwards.

But no sooner had I recovered than he was at it again, calling me names, making faces at me. My guilt and the anger I had for him was mounting. My 11 year old pride was taking a beating and I did not like any of it.

So while he was playing in my grandmother’s courtyard, I let loose my Alsatian dog on him. The dog bit into his forearm and left several painful scratches. It let go only when I told the dog to stop. I still remember feeling all mighty and powerful at the time. But when his parents came to take him to the doctor, that’s when it dawned on me that I had wronged him. His parents did not say a word to me, but the look on their faces told me just how unfair I had been. They could not have said anything to me because I was a child, and also because they were tenants of my grandmother and respected her. But now I find it reprehensible that I misused this bit of knowledge and my ferocious dog, to exert my power over someone, even if he was a tyrant and a bully.

This incident taught me that I abused the power I had, whatever little I had of it. It taught me that one could go quickly from using their power for good, to using it for being a bully. And that’s when it becomes a sin.

When a person gains power over others in some way, it is obvious that the subordinates will be in a disadvantageous position. It is also obvious that with the gain of power, a moral weakness develops in the power wielder, where they tend to veer towards using their power for personal benefits or self-aggrandisement. It manifests not just in the human realm, but in the animal realm as well. Like when the leader of a pride of lions exerts his authority over the females and the cubs in the pride. But this is when a power wielder must understand that they must maintain a balance between rightful use and abuse of power. Most positions of power occur over monetary reasons or in positions of trust. An abuse of power in such situations is not just a sin, it also breaks the faith of the subordinates who look to the power wielder for support, guidance and leadership.

This is also when the subordinates must realize that they have power over a power wielder. We must always have a foolproof system of checks and balances where any abuse of power brings serious repercussions for a leader. Most authority figures tend to keep misusing their positions because there is no check on their abuse of power. This is where the power of the masses comes into the picture, and the masses should not condone an unwarranted abuse of power. At some point, the sheep must turn on the wolf masquerading as their shepherd.

We all have relationships in our lives where we may be in an authoritative position over others. A parent, a father or mother in law, an older brother or sister, a boss, an employer, a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, a politician. There’s no end to such positions where one can wield power… and abuse it.

An authority figure must remember why he’s in power –

  • Because of the faith and trust reposed in him.
  • Because people look to him for leadership
  • Because he has the responsibility of protecting or providing for a group of persons

Breaking the trust of your followers and subordinates takes seconds, but good-will takes an age to earn, and regaining broken trust, takes even longer.

I think this quote from the Bible sums up what we must all remember when we exert our power, for good or bad:

1 Peter 5:2-3

“Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.”

 

Pradita Kapahi, 2017

 

ARE THE POLICIES LEAVING AN IMPACT?

Hi Everyone,

How are you doing?  Are you enjoying the winters or despising it?  Well, I had my share of cursing the weather when I was in Brussels.  It was grey and gloomy back there and worse thing is we have it for a greater part of the year😟.  Now I am in Delhi, enjoying “dilli ki sardi”.  India has always been colorful and winters have a different charm.  Aroma of delicacies traveling all the way from kitchen when you are in a place just next to heaven i.e. under your quilt, pure ecstasy !  And hot lip smacking street food has always been Delhi’s speciality.  Golden rays of sun filtering through the green leaves wishing you in the front yard of the house (Okay, make it balconies as yards are not seen everywhere in cities) along with the ever inquisitive and more than friends neighbours is a fun of different zone ( at least for me who see neighbours rarely at my place:) ) And dullness is not in Delhi’s air.  Always hustling and bustling.  So, coming to Delhi has always been an awaited event on my calendar.  More because I am a Delhite having spent nearly 24 years here.   And this trip is more special because it’s my brother’s marriage!  All shackles break loose for shopping as sister of groom.  Can you see me dancing?

And my shopping spree started on Saturday itself :).  It was during this shopping session I came across two distinct incidents that made me think “Are the policies leaving an impact?”

  • Incident 1:  A woman was trying to dispose of some litter in front of a shop suddenly encountered by a voice.  Along with her I turned my head to that combat “Mam can’t you see the dustbin right in front of you?  Would you do the same at your home too?”  She was embarrassed and I was surprised.  That incident made me think is this the impact of “Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan”or simply the instinct of that shop owner who cared to keep the vicinity of his shop clean?
  • Incident 2:  I went to a shop to buy some stuff for my kids.  After the items to be purchased were finalized of course with minimal discount (any amount of discount is welcome) I asked for the bill. To this the owner said “if you want the proper bill and not a rough one then you have to shell hundred more on your bill amount and explained some sales TAX concept.  It certainly raised my eyebrow.  I was quick enough to respond him “Aren’t we supposed to pay our taxes?  Isn’t it for our benefit in the long run?”  To this he quickly took out his billing book and prepared the final bill and said “It’s not like that we don’t keep our accounts regular but we wanted you to save some bucks”.   Shall I take his words at face value?  Let it be, I said to myself.  Paying out few more bucks won’t make me a pauper but trying to save that petty cash would surely dent the country’s prosperity.  No record for sale means no sale at all, I mean no income for that shop owner and no income means no tax.  Whatever amount we have paid for the purchase directly adds to the black money (unaccounted) and  lack of revenue at the government’s disposal would in turn burn a hole in our pockets in the form of higher taxes and prices.  Food for thought isn’t it?

Any policy from any government of any country would only be successful if it is ably supported by the people (talking about the democratic set up) Period!  But in both the situations mentioned above: accepted or denial; positive or negative – Impact is surely felt.  And my country is definitely moving, hopefully marching towards betterment.