Report on “Stop Death Penalty”

The meeting cum protest organized by the New Socialist Alternative and Tamil Solidarity, focusing on the case of Perarivalan, Murugan and Santhan who have been unjustly handed dealth penalty, attracted a modest gathering.

Chaired by the renowned radical activist and filmmaker, K P Sasi speakers included Dr. Sitaram Karkarala (CSCS), Dr. Vijayamma (Feminist and Journalist), Thirumurugann Gandhi (17th May Movement) and T U Senan (International Co-ordinator – Tamil Solidarity). Thirumurugann Gandhi spoke on the case of Perarivalan who has been unjustly handed death penalty as an accomplice in the still murky details surrounding the infamous Rajiv Gandhi assasination 20 years ago. He highlighted the fact that the Indian government is trying to use this as a warning to others and punishing the three alleged accomplices more due to their political belief rather than their involvement in the assasination itself.

Dr. Sitaram Karkarala highlighed that the subject of death penalty should not be looked merely from a legal point of view. He also spoke of the ways the Indian state was trying to getting around the otherwise long wait to get a person executed by resorting to extra judicial executions that are usually orchestrated by the police themselves. He mentioned about the middle class mentality in India that always responded to the debate around death penalty by advocating “a lynch for a lynch…” without going into politics behind death penalty and spoke of the need for a newer approach by activists especially on highlighting a sensitive issue like death penalty in India.

Senan speaking on dealth penalty said that the question is always political and spoke on how the issue was linked to a host of factors that boiled down to the oppressive and unequal nature of society under capitalism. He gave examples on how the ruling parties like the Congress and BJP were able to get away from mass murders of innocent people whether in anti-Sikh riots of 1984 or theGujaratpogrom in 2002, while few individuals were being made scapegoats by the state. He mentioned on the crisis of capitalism globally that is leading to mass uprisings everywhere but also cautioned on never underestimating the power of the state machinery under capitalism. He pointed out that -like 9/11 current economic crisis is changing the world and the human rights campaigners should take that into consideration while working out a strategy. He insisted on the unity of those fighting to abolish death penalty and link it up with the fight agaisnt opressive Sri Lankan Indian State.

Jagadish Chandra and K P Sasi also spoke. Overall the meeting highlighted on the fact that death penalty has never dettered crime. The argument was not about whether crime should not go unpunished but who is punishing them. The issue must not just be looked upon from the point of view of race, religion, ethicity, caste etc., which do factor in but also must transcent boundaries beyond these categories. A radical new approach on how to tackle a sensitive issue like death penalty is the need of the hour given the socio -economic -political structure of Indian society.

Meeting agreed to continue the campaign against death penalty and link it up various campaign including war crime investigation of genocidal Sri Lankan government and the right to self determination of the tamil speaking people inSri Lanka. Meeting of this nature held outside Tamil Nadu is vital to strengthen the camoaign. Organisers announced that they will be organising a protest in coming weeks and continue the ground work. They also announced that similar meeting will be held in Kerala and other states.

Anand Kumar