Is India Actually Ready to Demolish the Death Penalty?

Last week India hanged Yakub Memon, the man convicted of masterminding the 1993 bomb blast which killed over two hundred and fifty people in Mumbai. The Supreme Court rejected Memon’s final plea on July 29 and he was executed hours later. The blast shocked the country in 1993, with a total of thirteen consecutive explosions set off in the afternoon of March 12. Bombs were strategically placed in public buildings including hotels, the Air India office and the Bombay stock exchange building which killed two hundred and fifty and also injured seven hundred. The attacks were planned to explode during the busiest areas of Mumbai and the busiest hour of the day.

It was widely believed that the blast was a plot planned by the Pakistani Intelligence Agency; however evidence was gathered against Muslims living in India. Dawood Ibrahim, a suspected mobster and his associates including Memon and his brother Tiger, were accused of plotting and funding the attack. Memon, a chartered accountant living in Mumbai was accused of funding the entire attack. The attack was fuelled by resentment by the demolition of a Mosque by Hindus. The demolition was followed by several months of rioting that resulted in the deaths of almost two thousand people.

However, reliving the horrors of the 1993 Mumbai attack is not what is gaining the most media attention this month. It is the controversy surrounding the hanging of a convicted terrorist. India is facing both backlash and support for its capital punishment policy. India has executed terrorists including the Kashmiri separatist accused of the attack against the Indian Parliament in 2001, where thirteen were killed. That attack was seen as a warning to the nation over the disputed state of Jammu Kashmir.

Many believe that crimes, such as these, that cause immense damage deserve maximum punishments. However, international organizations conclude that capital punishment is inhumane. Executing a person for killing others is barbaric. A state simply acts like a murderer when capital punishment is implemented against a criminal. In other words, we act like criminals when we decide to execute them. Further, executing criminals does not deter others from carrying out terrorist attacks; it only “fuels the fire.” An example of this can be seen in the 2008 terror attacks, again in Mumbai. Ten Pakistani men stormed public buildings armed with machine guns, killing one hundred and sixty-six people. The attack was so terrible it was referred to as the “9/11 of India.” Terrorists executed by governments serve as a source of justification to continue the fight. They are seen as martyrs who died for the sake of their cause.

But, should criminals be spared the death penalty, instead being able to serve life sentences in jail? This would result in a severe burden on the judicial system as overcrowding would ensue. Dozens of countries function without the death penalty, including India’s neighbour Nepal. Retribution is by no means a solution for a civilized society. Killing is barbaric and the cycle must stop. It is up to the Indian nation to band together to find a solution to this controversy.