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Is Vengeance The Only Way To Seek Justice?

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In concurrence with the world’s attitude towards acting on revenge, response, vengeance, and peace, whether it is the Balakot-Pulwama incident or the Hiroshima Nagasaki-Pearl Harbour incident, the following write-up aims to ask everyone, most importantly the youth, is blood really the answer? Is vengeance really the solution? Is it true that after war, comes peace?

It all starts with the innocent whining of a little child, “They pushed and snatched the ball from me, so even I pushed them back“. This pervasiveness of vengeance, though commonly associated with combat in the darkest periods of political upheaval, is already catered to by a mere child, before the social evils within and outside the circumference of his perfect society are revealed.

The events that have taken place in history and the corresponding events that are occurring today have painted a rather ugly picture of vengeance and, according to me, completely smeared the very meaning of the word itself. Vengeance by definition is a form of justice that may be enacted against the norms of formal law as a result of wrongs committed against someone. Today, it is a tool or rather a weapon used by the person who was wronged to show that they aren’t ‘weak’ or perhaps ‘equalise’ the morality scale on both sides.

If we think about it, vengeance is the most common tool used to seek justice, but what is the objective of this justice in the status quo? Justice, I feel, can be categorised into two polar opposite schools of thought. The first where justice is used to show strength and to replace feelings of sympathy with that of fear, and the second where justice serves the purpose of warning the perpetrator from committing the wrongdoing again by causing proportionate damage.

The first stream of thought lends itself to the fact that one needs to make the other afraid of them in order to ensure that they don’t have the courage to commit such a heinous crime once again. If we think of it, it is the most common way to get vengeance and to become a single unit of destruction such as the demonstration made by India by bombing Balakot after the martyrdom of 40 CRPF soldiers in Pulwama.

Morally, was showing gratitude and mourning the martyrdom of our brave cavalry the best way out? No, absolutely not, the fact that people have even the slightest speculation on the successfulness of this mission proves that along with the intention of killing the terrorists responsible, India too wanted to move the hearts of its patriotic citizens by showcasing their muscle power.

However, if one were to hypothetically imagine the consequences in the case of absence of vengeance, we would stumble upon the fact that Pakistan would get an incentive to attack once more as they wouldn’t be held accountable. Thus, we can form a conclusion that one major purpose of vengeance is to ensure that the guilty ‘does not get away from their crime’ or are punished enough that in future, they would contemplate the repercussions before doing so.

On the other hand, the second stream of thought uses vengeance to equalise the scale of bad karma and seek justice, but one often forgets the magnitude to which a mistake can be repaid and end up punishing the guilty much harsher in magnitude. This paradoxical situation often prolongs the quest to seek justice and paints a dirty picture of vengeance.

Such an example can be observed in the case of the USA and Japan, where the bombing of Pearl Harbour resulted in over 2,400 casualties. Retaliation followed in the form of atomic bombs which killed over 1,00,000 people instantly in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that to date shows the damage in the form of abnormalities due to nuclear radiation. Hence, this type of vengeance is a gross answer in the name of justice and deems itself to be a genocide.

This brings us to a question that is often left ambiguous: how does one seek vengeance in a way that serves its rightful purpose of holding people accountable while also stimulating fear?

From my lens, I think the idea of retributive justice which seeks fairness in the protection of rights through proportionate punishment of wrongs, is a fitting answer. It is true that Mahatma Gandhi once said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” but observing this in the context of the 21st century and human nature, one does not get the sense of justice until they are avenged. Even though the first instinct of a country is to seek vengeance when its citizens are harmed, it should be performed in a manner that does not stain the name of humanity but at the same time shows necessary assertiveness.

Disproportionality in punishment in the name of justice and vengeance is in no way justified, as by weighing the scale of damage on both sides, the ill effects of mass killings, bombings, etc, accompanied by an uncertain and struggling future always trumps any other force of damage. At the end of the day, humanity is a virtue that stands before anything else.

While it is important to teach a firm lesson to wrongdoers, it is also our responsibility to not compromise human morals and ethics. While vengeance itself compromises ethics and morals to some extent, one must perform their duty as a sensitive and thinking individual, country or citizen to take such course of action that serves its purpose without surplus destruction.

This esteemed quote by Mahatma Gandhi gives sanctity to Gandhi’s most treasured belief which was Ahimsa or non-violence. Gandhi through this quote expressed his feelings towards vengeance by addressing that one bad action in response to another bad action leads to a vicious cycle that does not pedestal any person wiser or more humanitarian than the other.

However, I differ from this by a small margin by resorting to vengeance in a way that is retributive in damage in order to remain in sync with the changing society today and maintaining one’s own dignity. The choices we make in the name of justice, whether as a country, citizen or individual defines us as humans and only serves its purpose when the other is cautioned.

Vengeance is a double-sided sword; beneficial when used wisely and tragic when used as a forceful weapon that may paradoxically bring pain to oneself.

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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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.”

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Read more about her campaign.

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.

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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.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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