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Justice Certainly Has Been Delivered But Is Himayat Baig”s Conviction Justified?

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By Vaishali Jain:

So, if we turn a few pages of our mythology books, it is evident that whenever a demon attacked Heaven, the Devs chanted the name of the supreme power to save them from the terror. The Hindu Gods would then measure their steps to Heaven from their meditation and bless the creases on the foreheads of the Devs. The Asurs would thence be slayed to be parcelled to the deepest pits of hell. Not once, but as many times as the Asurs dared to feast on the fears of the innocent Devs. Their mantra clearly would have been: You do evil, you get evil. Justice shall be delivered.

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, we mortals face the perpetrators of evil every day. We become victims of the terror as there is no other way, or is there? So we look expectantly at the doors of the state to do something and end this torture. The state measures its steps rather irksomely, such that the dead from the attacks are dead and their families are left with their death anniversaries and the remaining unaffected mortals wait for the next terror attack to pick up the pieces of the memories left and carry on with this wicked cycle of terror. Sad state of affairs. The Gods above must be waiting for us to solve our problems by ourselves, I suppose. Therefore, no intervention. Therefore, the decrease of faith in God.

pune

But I digress. A 2010 terror attack got headway with Mirza Himayat Baig, the lone convicted accused in the German Bakery blast case, getting sentenced to death by a Pune Sessions Court. Thinking about Baig, I wonder if he knew there would be so many sections that he would be held guilty under. I wonder if he were given the power to see his future once and had known he would be caught and convicted, would he still have assented to carry out the attack? I wonder if he were given a dark, aloof cell to be confined to for the rest of his life, would he have felt guilty about what he did — would he have apologized to the innocent lives and hopes he brutally murdered? I also wonder, though, if he really deserves a death punishment.

He wasn’t alone, after all, in this barbaric plan of attack. A conspiracy like this needs more minds and hands than one person’s. He is the lone convicted, yes. But there are many other names. The conspiracy that took place in Sri Lanka, according the police officials, has many other conspirators who haven’t been brought to court. What if he was not in Pune at the time of the blast as Baig’s counsel, Mr. Rahman, appeals? Of course, he could have been a conspirator and not have executed the plan but the possibility isn’t too obvious. There are others who are roaming free.

Not being an insider to the official reports, I have all the information a common citizen has. I reckon, if the state finds a criminal to be guilty without a speck of doubt and finds the crime unforgivable, the criminal should not be given an easy escape from the law. It’s unfortunate how many get away with nothing but minor charges on them because of high connections and good amount of money to bribe the hungry system. Those who find no way to escape get into the clutches of death. How is justice then delivered?

If I support the decision of a terrorist being hanged, it does not make me an advocate of violence. I don’t say it on some whim of ‘Kill all who are evil’ to save my head from thinking much. Deep inside, I do believe that death penalty leaves us morally bankrupt. I believe they will get what they give via their own Karma. I believe people can change. I believe ‘An eye for an eye turns the whole world blind’. I believe capital punishment is murder. I believe death is not a deterrent in cases like terrorism and rapes. I believe a death penalty to the convicts can bring a little closure to the case, but it cannot bring the dead back from the grave.

There are many who advocate that life imprisonment would have been a moral solution unlike death penalty. Their criteria are —

Two wrongs don’t make a right. They kill, we kill: what does that leave us with? Murders all around, for different reasons, of course.

The convict could have been innocent. There have been incidents in the past where after the execution was done, the innocence was proved. Now if it were a life imprisonment or any other punishment, the apologies could still hold good. After a person is executed, apologies cannot do any magic.

While I agree with the above points, one cannot deny the fact that the families of the 17 who were killed would find some sort of relief with Baig’s death sentence. German Bakery, one of the landmarks of Pune, would always remind the visitors and customers of the blotted day in history when Pune lost its title of a safe city. Even a refurbished bakery wouldn’t be able to capture that lively essence of the good old days when this city was not on the radar of terror attacks. Years go by, memories fade, lives are lived anyway, but the hollowness that a blast leaves shall be understood by the families that have lost not just a member but a bundle of hopes. The void that seeps into conversations shall be understood by their friends who can no more crack jokes on them as after a little mention of their names, a silent tear follows. Always.

Taking everything into consideration, I still don’t know if capital punishment is right or if it’s wrong. I cannot give my word. But ask yourself — if there were a wolf that lived on children’s mass and was hunting for your own child’s blood, would you let it roam free? Or would you cage it, when you know that it might get released someday, somehow, maybe by some unknown force? Or would you rather kill it so that your own child and the other little ones live safely?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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