Once a well known writer and friend Yeshwant Mehta and an eminent poet and friend Yoseph Macwan came together on short ride in my car. I was at the wheel. Yeshwantbhai abruptly asked me a question: “Father, do you believe in the capital punishment?”
Hearing my answer Yeshwantbhai turned to Yoseph sitting in the back seat: “Yosephbhai, Do you believe in the punishment of death?”
Both Yoseph and I answered Yeshwantbhai in the negative. The author of more than 450 books and booklets were happy with our responses. A strong advocate against capital punishment Yeshwantbhai explained to us that he has written a series of 9 articles in his column in “Gujarat Today” a daily published from Ahmedabad. He said that he has discussed in his column entitled “Thinking Together” in great details about different aspects of capital punishment.
A few days after this conversation during our car ride Yosephbhai and I reached one early morning Yeshwantbhai’s home. We took rose flowers – symbol of love and friendship – to give him a surprise on his 75th birthday. But Yeswantbhai presented to us his beautiful small book “Capital Punishment: A Discussion” in Gujarati. The gift of beautifully printed book published by Yagna Prakashan in their science series was a great surprise to both Yoseph and me.
The string with hook of capital punishment and the title “Capital Punishment: A Discussion” in colorful art work on the cover were attractive. In its eight chapters Yeshwantbhai has discussed practically all aspects of capital punishment by hanging or by electric chair.
In the first chapter entitled “Everyone Discusses Hanging” Yeshwantbhai has articulated everyone’s discussion in the country about capital punishment and hanging (in the context of Nirbhaya’s rape and murder). In it on one side there was Sangh Parivar (Kesaria Brigade) in a hurry putting pressure on the government for capital punishment of the criminals. On the other side were humanists, rationalist upholders of justice and other such people opposing the death by hanging or other forms of capital punishment. In it Yeshwantbhai upholds that there is no humanness in capital punishment. Then, there are also instances of innocent people punished with capital punishment in history.
“How Shuddering this Punishment?” is the title of the second chapter in which Yeshwantbhai says: “The punishment of death and in that the hanging is most cruel, calculated shuddering way of execution” (pg.10). The detailed description of the punishment by hanging is traumatizing. So the author pleads for forgiveness and says that, “the purpose of such description is precisely to create in our heart a great dislike for such punishments” (pg.12).
In the third chapter “No Capital Punishment in 140 Countries” the author says that among 58 countries where capital punishment exists, 30 countries have never given capital punishment for last 20 years. Capital punishments have been abolished from the vast majority of the nations. But Yeshwantbhai reminds us, “that it is sad that the country which prides in eternal religion and ancient culture has not yet abolished the capital punishment!” (pg.16).
In the forth chapter “Capital Punishment for Rapists” the author says that the whole country is clamoring for capital punishment for the rapists of ‘Nirbhaya’ after she was cruelly raped and murdered in the capital city, New Delhi. But the author adds that there are also valid and humanist reasons to oppose capital punishment (pg. 20).
The fifth chapter of “Many Ways of Taking Human Life” Yeshwantbhai describes various methods of putting people to death in different countries. Finally the author says capital punishment is inhuman.
In the sixth chapter “The Country Which Cannot Give Life, Cannot also Take Away Life” (pg. 27). Yeshwantbhai agrees fully with clear reasoning and uncontestable arguments. In the same chapter Yeshwantbhai has presented humanist arguments against those who advocate for capital punishment.
As I see, those who cry out for capital punishment for rapists and terrorists should read the 7th chapter: “Do Two Murders Cancel Each Other?” In the chapter Yeshwantbhai has quoted the opinions of eminent politicians like Gandhiji, Vinobha Bhave, Jayprakash Narayan, etc. and national thinkers like Ceasar Bekeria of Italy, Arthur Cobesare of France and well known jurists like Jedmalani, Yeshvantrao V. Chandrachud and V. R. Krushna Iyar. Finally the writer says that, instead of giving the criminal death penalty for their enormous crime, punish them to remain within the prison walls for long years till they repent due to harshness of the prison life (pg. 35). That is the most suitable punishment according to the writer.
In the last chapter entitled “The Pleasure of Seeing the Death Game” Yeshwantbhai has given a short story “The Question Asked by My Son” edified by the famous creative writer Alfred Hichkock. At the end of the story and of the book the author has given in one sentence the gist of his belief. “The urgent need of humanity is to disapprove the capital punishment”.
The simple and lucid styles of Yeshwantbhai as well as his inspiring presentation with concrete examples and clear arguments are bound to bring changes in the readers in favor of those who oppose capital punishment. Those who advocate capital punishment may be persuaded to rethink about their strongly held position supporting capital punishment. Those who believe in abolishing death penalty may become stronger in their belief and may even attract to their side the advocates of capital punishment. In short capital punishment is an uncouth punished by the people who claim to be a cultured race. I believe that the time has come to do away with capital punishment not only from India but from the whole world!
Today there is a great need for a social movement against capital punishment not only from the cultured people of India but from the whole world. Yeshwantbhai’s book “Capital Punishment – A Discussion” is a suitable booklet which can provide sufficient inspiration and encouragement to such a movement.
Changed On: 16-04-2017
Next Change: 01-05-2017
Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017