By Namit Hans:
Who am I? What is it that makes me a certain kind of individual? Sometimes I am furious without any reason. Sometimes I am kind. Every individual shows different attributes of their personality. Each one of us is different from the other, yet similar. Who am I?
I am a hollow mind, a blank conscious; filled with the experiences of the past and dreams for the future, throughout this journey called life. The personality that I carry is nothing but an accumulation of what I borrow from the personalities of others around me, plus my own experiences in life. Being born in a particular culture, sect, religion, society, and other social determinants shape our personality and help us in becoming what we are as adults. We borrow all the ideas and thoughts in our mind from the outside world. Hence, what we become is because of everything around us and the experiences they bring along with them.
I am a little innocence of my childhood, naughtiness of my teens and politics of my youth. If gradually all my experiences are taken out of me, if everything that I learnt from this world is taken back from me systematically, what will be I left with?
A naught- ‘Shunya’
This is what I am in my true self – ‘Shunya’. Like an infant who enters this world is neither a Hindu, nor a Muslim. He is neither a believer, nor an atheist. Nobody is a sage or a criminal by birth.
So if I commit a crime, say a murder or a rape. Who shall be held responsible for that? Is it just me? On the other hand, is it everyone and everything that made me a criminal? Are those parents not responsible, who failed to impart basic morals in me? We all must have heard a story by Aesop during our childhood days. The story talked about a young thief and his mother. In the story, the boy is condemned to execution for stealing and on the day of his execution, he bites his mother’s tongue. He says that it is a punishment because she did not rebuke him for doing such things during his childhood. This is why he became a thief when he grew up. Now let us assume that the parents are innocent, because they brought up their child in the best manner and were ignorant about all my negative deeds. What about those friends who lured me into watching porn for the first time, those item numbers and derogatory songs in our movies, those neighbours who did not allow their girls to leave the house, the society which encouraged the attitude of ignoring the ‘mistakes’ of boys? Not to forget the system and the government, which failed to provide me a good education and robbed me the opportunity of becoming a better person? Are they all responsible? Should they get punished? Or not?
Greed – it is in our blood. Everyone is busy running after money and power. Anyone would jump to an opportunity of adding more money to his wealth, even if it is at the cost of others. However, the greed of getting more is in all of us, it has nothing to do with the people around us. This is what we all want to believe. But, what about that rich boy in my junior school, who could afford a bicycle, while I had to walk all the way to school? What about that condescending look on the face of a man whose luxury car stopped right next to my second-hand motorcycle? Moreover, that well equipped institution, which refused to take me in because I could not afford the hefty fees they charged; the whole society that judges you according to the number of zeros in your salary amount and not according to your talent or intelligence? Are they all responsible for my greed or do they all get away just because they are incognito?
So the point is that how is punishing a person going to change the society? How is it going to bring a shift in the thought process of people? Will the fear of gallows plant the seed of respect for women in the hearts of men? Can the fear of prison kill someone’s greed? If a criminal is hanged, or jailed, do we kill or imprison the experiences and influences that made him a criminal or do we just kill the Shunya?
I do not speak in favour of those who do wrong but it is dubious to believe that fear of death or imprisonment can stop all these crimes. Did the years old laws change our world for better? In fact, our society is becoming more evil, greedier and more immoral with time. Should our jails not be like a rehabilitation centre for the inmates? We all know about Ratnakar, the robber who used to rob people after killing them. Later, because of a lesson taught to him by Narada, he became a big saint. The world knows him by the name of Valmiki, the sageÂ who wrote the Ramayana. We have heard many similar stories, which are being taught to us by our culture or religion- the story of ‘Angulimal’ and the great King Ashoka being one of them. All these stories teach us that if given a chance, even the worst person can become a saint.
Is it not necessary that we shun this attitude of blaming others and start sharing the responsibility as a whole? Will it not be better that we changed ourselves before thinking of changing others? Will that not be a concrete measure to make ours a better world to live in? We all should understand that when a person commits a crime or does something wrong, it shows the failure of our society. It shows that there is a fault, a glitch in the society, and the way it is functioning is because a man is just a manifestation of the society he lives in.
It is time to focus on what Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change, you wish to see in the world”.