Anjalisa — Open Letter: Shaheed Bhagat Singh's nephew appeals against Death Penalty

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Compliments of Multitudes:
Open Letter: Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s nephew appeals against Death Penalty
To President Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
Dear sirs
We are writing to appeal to you to commute the death sentence of
Mohammed Afzal, the only accused in the Parliament Attack case to have
been sentenced to die. We write just in case what we have to say has
not already occurred to you, or in case you are inclined not to act on
your own natural instincts because you have been persuaded by some
more cold hearted logic.
We wish to argue that our country can honour Mahatma Gandhi and
Shaheed Bhagat Singh by doing away with the death penalty altogether
as there are many valid grounds for this:
1. A civil society should not descend to the status of murderers by
preferring revenge over far better forms of justice.
2. All investigations, however meticulous, are subject to human error.
Such errors become irreversible in case the death penalty is imposed.
All over the world there have been cases of executed people being
proved innocent after their death.
3. In countries like ours where there is a huge gap between the
privileged and the dispossessed, the death penalty becomes the final
method of implementing class injustice. A cursory glance at the list
of all those executed in our country will reveal the blatant fact that
almost all of them were poor. The rich are rarely found guilty and
even if they are, they are rarely executed.
4. There is no international evidence to suggest that the death
penalty is a deterrent to violent and heinous crime. Countries like UK
that did away with the death penalty did not see a rise in such crimes
while countries like the USA that continue to impose the penalty, show
no decline.
Moving from the general to the particular, our main argument is not
that Mohammed Afzal is likely to be innocent, and we are not appealing
for a pardon but for the commutation of the death penalty imposed upon
him. Such a bold decision may or may not change the heart of Mr.
Afzal, but it is likely to send a positive signal to the world.
If Momammed Afzal is a terrorist today, he was surely not born one.
And he need not die one. Circumstances made him what he is. And
circumstances may change him. The death penalty will change no one.
Far from being a deterrent, martyrdom, as some will surely perceive
it, can only achieve the opposite effect. To recall a relevant
example, in comparison to today, the Kashmir valley was virtually
peaceful prior to the judicial execution of Maqbool Butt in 1984.
The meaningful dialogue for peace that you have initiated on all
issues should not be abruptly derailed by a mechanical approach to law
and order. We appeal to you to halt the cycle of revenge that has been
unleashed in our country and elsewhere in the world by making a bold
statement that India wishes to reassert the path of humanity, not
perpetuate the path of violence.
One of the signatories to this letter is a historian and a nephew of
Shaheed Bhagat Singh.
Signed: Professor Jagmohan Singh (09814001836), Anand Patwardhan
Bombay , 29 September, 2006