Kuruvilla John, IAS (Retd.)
O judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason!
… If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.
These words of Mark Antony in the celebrated funeral oration in Julius Caesar should be reverberating these days in the mind of every right thinking person in Kerala.
In the recent Apostolic Exhortation, our beloved Holy Father, Pope Francis laments over:
“The path of holiness is a source of peace and joy, given to us by the Spirit. At the same time, it demands that we keep “our lamps lit” (Lk 12:35) and be attentive. “Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess 5:22). “Keep awake” (Mt 24:42; Mk 13:35). “Let us not fall asleep” (1 Thess 5:6). Those who think they commit no grievous sins against God’s law can fall into a state of dull lethargy. Since they see nothing serious to reproach themselves with, they fail to realize that their spiritual life has gradually turned lukewarm. They end up weakened and corrupted.”(no.164).
“Spiritual corruption is worse than the fall of a sinner, for it is a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness. Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centredness, for “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14). So Solomon ended his days, whereas David, who sinned greatly, was able to make up for disgrace. Jesus warned us against this self-deception that easily leads to corruption. He spoke of a person freed from the devil who, convinced that his life was now in order, ended up being possessed by seven other evil spirits (cf. Lk 11:24-26). Another biblical text puts it bluntly: “The dog turns back to his own vomit” (2 Pet 2:22; cf. Pr 26:11)” (no 165).
If none of these could stir up the dying conscience of the Malayalee, then it is a serious problem, needing a surgical solution for us to regain our sobriety.
Even at the cost of labouring the obvious, it needs to be reiterated that the two things we should avoid are unaccounted money and unquestioned authority. These two could make a Satan out of a Saint. Too often, we trust our leaders so much that we take things for granted. Thus, the leadership, that should lead by moral authority, decays into dictatorship that rules by absolutism. In spite of Lord Acton’s solemn warning, Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely…, seldom do we remind ourselves that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
Everyone knows all about everything. But none could act. For, every trace of evidence has been incurably tampered with, nay, destroyed. This is exactly the fatal status of every case in which the victim is a poor girl or woman and the offender is a powerful man in authority, who had the social, legal and moral responsibility to protect her, too.
This is the exact public perception, which has not been faulted on facts, on what happened in Abhaya, Suryanelli, Vithura and other similar cases. What is more pathetic is that the victims and their families continued to be harassed – mentally, financially, socially and even officially – so that they are bereft of all their human instincts and prowess to fight for justice, merrily trampling their human rights, too. The protection and support to the offenders remain directly proportional to their clout – political, social, financial et al.
The Indian Parliament was forced to make drastic amendments to the criminal law after the Nirbhaya case which shook the conscience of our motherland. Punishment has been made stringent, and a slew of confidence-building measures provided for, to embolden, protect and support the victim/complainant in every respect. The posthumous wish of the Daughter of India should have been justice for all victims, if not an elimination of this mindless cruelty against the female citizens of this great Republic founded on ideals that are the noblest anywhere in the whole world.
Notwithstanding all the above, we now see an unabated persistence of the criminality, with impunity, be it in Kottiyoor, Pathanamthitta, Jalandhar and Shornur cases. If the discerning public see a kind of ‘jerrymandering’ of investigation and prosecution, all those in authority who have overtly or covertly wielded influence to protect the culprits have unpardonably sinned before man and God, and are liable for the penal consequences. The dictum of Lord Denning, be you ever so high, the Law is above you, should indeed be a warning bell to them. Sooner the better, they will realise you cannot fool all the people all the time.
Hats off to the Brave Hearts of Kerala, who are the unsung heroines, unknown warriors, fighting losing battles, against all odds, so that the world will be a better place to live for others, if not today, at least tomorrow when the new rays of the Sun brings in fresh light and hope to this part of the world, after a spell of darkness.
What we now see is glorious proclamations, but an indolent enforcement machinery and an indifferent society standing aghast, not knowing what is happening, knowing least what to do, reminding one of Matthew Arnold’s words on Shelley, a beautiful and ineffectual angel beating in the void his luminous wings in vain. As a people we should hang our heads in shame, not just for all what has happened, but more the so for what is not happening, post factum. It certainly is an indication that our level of tolerance in these matters is certainly not zero. We do tolerate, we do put up with, and thereby aid, abet and promote all the misdeeds against ourselves.
Instances are aplenty where the men accused occupy positions of power, wielding influence to wash away evidence against them. The all too eminent and laudable basis of our criminal law and evidence law treating every person as innocent until proved otherwise, and that it is better that ninety nine … offenders shall escape than that one innocent man be condemned, no doubt, provides ample leeway for those culprits in power, and those who can manage powers that be, to easily escape from the trial and punishment they do deserve. Just as a fair trial is the right of an accused, an impartial investigation, fool-proof prosecution and fair trial are the rights of the victim, too, both as much inalienable and complementary to each other.
A society where there is no fear of punishment for wrong doing could steadily slip towards anarchy. Could a body politic with half the voters, women, accept such doubtful characters as leaders in responsible positions in any walk of life, culprits who manage to fudge evidence, manipulate investigation and prosecution to escape the penal consequences?
We, the followers of Jesus Christ, who sacrificed himself on a cross to save mankind, have a duty to save our girl children, sisters and mothers. By silently sitting on the fence, we become as culpable as the offenders themselves. Tomorrow, in utter desperation, like Lady Macbeth, we may have to mourn, Here’s the smell of the blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!
The Catholic Church in India has a glorious tradition of selfless service, and life of sacrifice. The fabled Sisters of Charity of Mother Teresa in the care of the destitute, the legendary Jesuits in education that is at once eminently high and down-to-earth, the Society of Don Bosco that cares for orphans and the Samaritan (Damien) Sisters in the care of rejected lepers, are only a few examples of the exemplary work being done by our revered Sisters and Fathers. They appear before the hapless millions of our poor and downtrodden, carrying the message of Christ – whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
It is a shame on all of us that such reverend Sisters had to move in vain from pillar to post in search of the elusive justice. And, driven to the wall, they had to air their grievances on the listening streets of Ernakulam, with an indefinite fast to arouse the conscience of the ‘chivalrous’ authorities. Are we living in a banana Republic, where justice is selective, subjective, to be meted out at the whims and fancies of the offender?
The least that we can do is not to dishearten anyone of them, by any of our actions or inaction. May be, those of us sitting in the cool comfort of air-conditioned rooms, in our dull lethargy may not understand the agonies behind the smiling faces with which they do selfless service in the name of Christ. But, let’s not burden them with embarrassments which they may have to face, thanks to our conscious defaults.
It is surprising that in these matters even political parties, with their own tightrope-walking compulsions and commitments, none of which should bind us, tend to show a greater sense of responsibility and accountability to the people, than us.
Let’s awake and arise from our comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness to see the clear stream of reason.