A proper, prompt, and equitable enforcement of the Laws ensures an orderly and harmonious society. Unimplementable or unequitable laws should be removed from the Statute books. Punishment or action against those disregarding or disobeying laws or orders issued by lawful authorities, must be seen by all as prompt, equitable and proportionate under the extant laws.
Expressing oneself to, or in dealing with, others in an orderly manner is what enables society to deal with diversity, disagreements, dissent, and dis-satisfaction of persons with their circumstances.
“The people’s will, constitutionally expressed , is the ultimate law for all”. and “There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob rule.” ‐ Abraham Lincoln
When our Country was a colony of foreign imperial powers, dissent and dis-satisfaction was exhibited by disruption, both covertly and overtly, and those that did so were seen as heroes by the general public, even if they were caught and punished. Gandhiji’s calls for non-violent civil disobedience movement motivated the participation of large numbers of people, many of whom were ‘lathi’ charged by the police and many others were even put into prison for a while. Even today, in independent India, we all see them as ‘Freedom Fighters’ and accord them due recognition.
However, such behaviour today, in a free and independent India, governed by a government, formed by the people elected by us, can no-longer be thought as necessary to express dissent or dis-satisfaction. Other orderly and effective ways, especially in these times of wide access to social media, now exist to do so without destroying private or public property, harming others, or disrupting the harmony in society. We should no-longer see such perpetrators as leaders or heroes to be lauded but as lawbreakers to be caught and punished.
Today, such disruptive and destructive acts are common as part of ‘Bandhs’ and Road/Rail ‘Rasta Roko’/ blocks and protests, with a few so-called leaders who seek visibility and recognition, even as they are careful not to be identified as being directly involved in the execution of any injury or damage but are clearly the motivators of the happenings.
The persons who actually do the bidding of such ‘Wannabe’ leaders, seek to hide themselves in the crowds they gather and claim that the disruptive and destructive acts were done by un-identified elements within such crowds. We therefore need to act effectively to tear away such camouflage and ensure that everyone involved, even as passive encouragers, is duly punished effectively and as promptly as possible, in a transparent and proportionate manner seen by all as equitable.
‘Bandhs and Road/Rail ‘Rasta Roko’/ blocks and protests, leading to destruction of properties and disruption of the harmonious functioning of society should be seen as criminal acts deserving of punishment, not praise, and all so-called leaders also be held responsible for the results of their calls that lead to such incidents. The ‘Leaders’ and spokespersons on the ground should be identified, even those behind such incidents, that are responsible for planning, organizing, and financing also be identified after such investigations as maybe necessary, and determined as prima-facie guilty and dealt with appropriately.
But, what about the many individuals in the mobs that that actually disrupt and destroy, and who get away by claiming to be innocent by-standers, and the many others who by their very presence at the site of such incidents encourage the perpetrators and allow such deception.
We, therefore, need to find ways to punish all such activists and even those present at the sites of such incidents, in a prompt, transparent, equitable and effective manner which will dissuade them and like-minded others from participating in, or even being present at, such incident sites in future.
Vandalism, stone-pelting, extortion, molestation, harassing and all other such activities can also be considered as disruption of public harmony and dealt with similarly. It may be noted that countries like Singapore imposed mandatory caning sentence of between 3 to 8 stokes for vandalism and even caned foreigners who overstayed their visa by more than 90 days to deter illegal immigrants, perhaps we, in India should do so too.
Caning is done using Rattan canes of specified thickness (6.5 mm to 12.5 mm) and length (about 1.0 to 1.2 metres), perhaps even extendable batons used by police in other countries can be used. The caning is done by properly trained police personnel, with due care taken to protect from damage the upper thigh and lower back region, perhaps by using protective pads, even as the clothed buttocks are caned to inflict severe pain. The pain and perhaps even some lacerations would remain for a few days making it difficult for the person to sit or even sleep comfortably, acting as a constant reminder to desist from such activities in future. Singapore limited the number of strokes to 24 in any one session, though most received around 6 to 12 strokes, this was done on naked buttocks in an enclosed prison area. Since we seek to introduce an element of shaming in public view, we can allow the minimum clothing/trousers to be worn.
Corporal punishment is illegal in India only in schools and other childcare institutions. If an indiscriminate ‘lathi’ charge is acceptable to disperse crowds, then supervised caning, as directed by a Magistrate cannot be objected to. For juveniles below 14 years of age, we should come up with other ways of punishment such as community service, and for the very young, counseling and warnings and fining the parents for not properly supervising their children can be resorted to. Females and senior male citizens and those found physically unfit, could be treated like juveniles, and if they are accompanied by children, they should be warned and additional punishment for dereliction of care be imposed as community service or even financial.
The objective should be to identify, isolate and inflict pain in addition to inducing an element of shaming. Repeat offenders get more strokes or in case of juveniles and females more punishment as appropriate., and if participating again and again should be taken into custody for judicial prison sentencing under applicable laws thereafter.