Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Breeding Ground for Violence?

My son was admitted to a hospital and needed treatment for a long time. I stayed with him and looked after him.

While there, I observed many other patients and their families. I also experienced their trials and tribulations.

There was this forest officer who had undergone neurosurgery and was recovering. His wife and son went to all kinds of trouble to bring him back to life and normalcy. Their hope, concern for the patient and the hardship they underwent smilingly were touching.

One of the problems they had was of course money, as the surgery and the months long stay in the hospital had taken their toll on their resources. They had spent a lot of money and were trying to get it reimbursed from the government, as they were eligible to. With the help of friends and the colleagues of the patient they moved the papers and finally it reached a stage where the district surgeon had to sign it so that the money could be reimbursed.

What happened next is unimaginable. The wife of the sick man travelled overnight by bus and met the district surgeon. The district surgeon demanded 20,000 rupees to sign the papers. When the lady pleaded with him not to demand that money his reaction was “when you are getting so much money from the government, can’t you part with even this much?” What sort of a sick mind can do that is beyond me.

Years ago, at the height of the Naxal movement in Kerala, during the seventies, there was the following incident. A woman was in labour and her relatives approached the local government doctor in the middle of the night for help. The doctor refused to budge till he was given a huge sum of money. My memory says 5,000 Rupees but I am not ready to bet on it. In any case, the relatives went around trying to collect some money and in the mean time the lady died and the baby was stillborn.

The next day, the Naxals walked into the village, caught hold of the doctor, tried him in public, found him guilty, hanged him to a tree and disappeared into the forests.

Now, was the doctor murdered or was he executed? Was what the Naxals did right or wrong? If there is a Naxal movement today in various parts of the country, is that a disease or is it the symptom of the disease society at large is suffering from. What punishment does the district surgeon of the present case deserve?

Now, let me make it clear. I abhor violence. All violence. No ifs and buts. I also believe that violence does not cure violence. “An eye for an eye…..” and all that. See the results of the “peaceful” war in Iraq that was supposed to bring democracy and peace to the whole region?

That said, whose is a greater violence - the doctor’s or that of the Naxals who killed him? The Naxals may truly believe, however wrongly, that they are ridding society of a pest that will eventually reduce violence in the world. Is it not the same reason that governments proffer when they assume the right to execute convicted murderers?

The admonition of the Supreme Court of India that the death penalty be used only in the “rarest of rare cases” does nothing to the fact that the state reserves its right to kill. But that stipulation is thrown to the winds when the Naxals are hunted in encounters, fake or otherwise.

The government, that does nothing about the doctor or even actively protects him and his misdeeds, is out to hunt the Naxals. Eliminate the symptom and not the disease?

How many people who saw the Tamil movie ‘Indian’ subconsciously sympathised with the protagonist who kills (executing?) the corrupt officials?

The answer my friend……………


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Very powerful and thought-provoking!

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  4. Let me understand your case correctly.

    a) Doc refused to treat/asked for bribe.

    b) That refusal either led to hardship or to death.

    c) Naxalites killed one of those doctors.

    combining a, b & c, the naxalites are correct, and naxal violence is really nothing to compare with to state or rich people's violence.

    Now, assuming we live in a democracy, I would say there are things called courts, police, administration officials.
    All of them can be approached for redress. Not to mention there is the media as well.

    So, accoring to you:

    None of them are necessary. or if necessary and not working, we dont need to set them right.
    We need to resort to vigilante justice.

    You say:
    "See the results of the “peaceful” war in Iraq that was supposed to bring democracy and peace to the whole region? "

    I assume you are aware of what's going on in Iraq, including the spread of IIF and their violence, funding by neighbouring countries and that bankroller of terrorism, Saudi Arabia?

    I also assume that you do know that Iraq had its first elections since tha Baath party came to power? and that someone who used chemical weapons on his own people is on trial?

  5. Disturbing post. This question of 'right' and 'wrong' violence is one of those unsolved ones that generations to come will continue to debate and never reach a consensus.

    Treating the symptoms and not the root disease is a problem not only in this case but in most of the circumstances in our lives. Many medicines cure the symptoms and not the cause and thats why no person can claim to have recovered 100% in most of the cases. The illness comes back.

    In a relationship, we treat symptoms of conflict and not the root of the conflict.

    This symptom and root thing is so deeply imbibed into our thought process and we unknowingly act accordingly and even when realisation dawns, hardly do anything abt it.

    A very sad state of affairs!

  6. Very thought provoking post here. I am not sure how to react here..


  7. I always wondered about the persuasiveness of leaders of these extremist groups. I wish if someone could channelise these spirited souls in a positive direction, like make them take the doctor to task in this case, by handing him over to the cops or informing the Lokayukta council, it could have solved two problems in one shot. Sadly, I think humans are driven more by immediate results than sustained and righteous solutions!

  8. Though im dead against violence, i would raise my voice against the corruption.

    One more incident i came across. A maid from singapore sent some stuff across to chennai (thru ship). It was a box filled with the stuff she was using here and some new clothes for her family and friends. The customs officer demanded 25,000 to release it. After crying and pleading for a few days to get her own goods released, she paid 10,000 bribe and got them released to find that the box was opened and all the new clothes were taken off by the officers!! How sick these officers can be?

    The same officers will let the real offenders go thru easily by taking some bribe without any problem. Its the common people who actually suffer by these rules and policies. Do we really need rules and policies like this?

    Well these sort of people are one among us. They are bred by the "Indian Mentality".

    When will we honour our fellow being? Is this called as Indian Culture?

    Well someone mentioned about the media, police, court etc in the comments.. but tell me

    "Beline eddu holana maidre....."

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  10. How can I not comment on this post!

    First - Anil, I must shamefully admit that I DON'T know who Naxalites are. Although, my mother has explained it to me a lot of times before, but I never really get it.

    Second - The hospital story touched me more than the Naxalites incident. My God knows how I survived when I was admitted to a hospital in Delhi, two years ago.

    Third - Naxalites may be those people who are convicted to set their own rules of living, no matter how aquitted our society maybe. Their call!

    But I still feel - the end does not always justify the means - and that's again something debatable, Anil!