At a recent event on Women’s day actor Rahul Bose made the following statement and he received sharp criticism for it.
“…We have to ask ourselves, of the five or six of the rapists of the December 16 (gang-rape), is there anyone who wants to change, who wants to reform … Nobody is saying about commuting any sentence, the sentence stands as it is, but while it stands, can we create a gender warrior among them? If anybody is open to reaffirmation, do we have it in us to subvert our patriarchal mindset and tell them that we are ready to confer even the right to reform to you, even if there is such a massive public upsurge against you?… If we have to… evolve as a civilization further beyond the boundaries of India, then we have to look at forgiveness,”
This was his statement the next day when he reacted to the responses he had received on various social media platforms.
“Don’t know whether my statement on reformative justice for ALL criminals was misquoted-(haven’t read it), but am tweeting it in a series. All criminals should be sentenced according to the law, but while serving time I believe if any of them show deep, genuine remorse they should be given a chance to reform in jail. Rapists included. But if the perpetrator shows no remorse, then neither should we. And for all those asking how I would feel if a person dear to me was raped, the answer is : very sad, even angry. But if, over time, the perpetrator showed, deep, genuine remorse while in jail, I would find it in my heart to forgive him. As a civilization, that’s the only way to evolve to a better, more peaceful place. Hate begets hate. Love, forgiveness even, stops that cycle. My timeline is full of hate. I understand, but will never apologise for my beliefs. Thanks for (if you have) reading. My beliefs never stem from a knee jerk reaction. They stem from reading, seeking counsel from those wiser than me, feeling, analysing looking at history, at context and into my mind and heart.”
My first honest reaction when I read the statement for the first time was that it was a radical thought but the words were weighed and thoughtfully put together. I value forgiveness but as it is human nature when our emotions are riding high on anger and grief, forgiveness isn’t the first option which comes to mind. Reading through the comments on the newspaper articles that reported Mr’s Bose’s two statements, I realised that forgiveness may be a difficult option for many.
Total forgiveness is two fold in my opinion. First part is to forgive the act that was done but the second part, one I have often found very difficult, is to not judge a person based on their past actions whether forgiven or not. It is difficult to understand the nature of forgiveness itself. The christian faith implores us to look at another dimension for forgiveness. We forgive others because we have been forgiven.
Mat 6:12 (TEB) “Forgive us the wrongs that we have done, as we forgive the wrongs others have done us.”
Luke 6:37 (NIV) “…Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Mat 6:14-15 (NIV) “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But, if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
A lot has been said and written on christian idea of forgiveness and a a simple google search would lead you to those articles. The point of this discussion is whether it is possible for someone to be remorseful and have a change of heart even while serving the sentence for their crimes. I agree it is difficult to measure someone’s remorse, to understand if it is real and if a change/ transformation has occurred , yet I feel a part of forgiveness begins with our own selves. Sometimes we forgive someone because of how we feel for them and at other times we do it for our selves. In forgiving others we can find our own depth (and vice versa too, if we are unforgiving in the face true repentance does it not show some hardness of our own heart?). In receiving forgiveness we also receive hope for tomorrow, a hope of redemption, salvation and a reconciliation with the divine. For someone living out a death sentence, that hope would be enough to make the days liveable and the death tolerable.
Even though it is a difficult option, Forgiveness is the stepping stone to change. We owe it to humanity to offer a chance of change and a hope of redemption to our fellow human beings. Although it is hard in times of tragedy, we have to peel ourselves away from our emotions and let peace prevail.
Shortly before I published this piece, the news emerged that Ram Singh, the 35-year-old main accused in Nirbhaya’s brutal gang rape, was found dead in his Jail cell. It has been termed as a suicide so far. The reaction to the death has been varied – from some people rejoicing for one less criminal to some lamenting yet another failure of the justice system. Some controversy theories of whether it was really a suicide have also begun doing the rounds. Was Ram singh so deprived of the hope that he could repent and be forgiven? Was taking his life the only way for him to show true remorse? Did he know he wouldn’t be ever forgiven and offered a chance to transform? The questions are all daunting.