Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Sanjay Dutt case

Looking at the debate over whether Sanjay Dutt should be pardoned or not, it becomes clear that the argument is taking place entirely because of who he is, not what he did. Had he not been the famous man he is, there would have been far, far fewer people speaking for him - or against. His case is being treated a certain way because he is famous.
So, let's accept that. And what result is it having? Well, on one hand you're hearing that he should be pardoned because he has been reformed. On the other, you're hearing that he should face the punishment meted out by the Supreme Court, because there should be no special treatment for the rich or famous.
I agree that there should be no special treatment for anyone regardless of fame. By that yardstick, he should not also be targeted because he is famous.
Let's for a moment forget his name, and see his story.

Dutt's story

A young man, growing up, encounters money, fame, and the loss of his mother to cancer. His father is a busy man. He himself is a troubled youth and takes to drugs. He becomes a drug addict and is sent for rehabilitation. He manages to clean himself up, and get married. He is turning his life around when his wife dies of a brain tumor. He is again shattered.
He tries to pick himself up and get back to work, but his money and fame bring him into bad company. Around this time, a mosque is demolished in a town in Uttar Pradesh, and riots start in Mumbai too. The initial fury of the Muslim community sees youth from that community in the role of aggressors. Then the reaction to the reaction starts, and with Balasaheb Thackeray and the Shiv Sena calling the political shots in Mumbai, it becomes a bloodbath.
Before these riots, Mumbai's famous underworld was largely secular. The big don of the day, Dawood Ibrahim, worked with his two lieutenants Chhota Rajan and Chhota Shakeel. He lived in Dubai, hobnobbed with visiting starlets and stars, and made the odd appearance at a cricket match in Sharjah.
The riots changed that. Legend has it that a box of bangles was sent to him at his Dubai house as an insult, because he had failed to protect his people during the riots, or avenge them after.
The revenge came in the form of the horrific 1993 bomb blasts. That was the start of Islamist terrorism in mainland India.
Sanjay Dutt is said to have met several of Mumbai's 'bhais' in Dubai during the shooting of a film. He is accused of allowing his house to be used for unloading weapons including the AK series rifle that eventually got him into trouble.
Eventually the only charge against him that was proved was under the Arms Act, for keeping that one rifle in his possession.

Equal justice?

Well, would anyone in this country have any idea of the number of 'kattas' and unlicensed weapons? Every villager in parts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh has one. They should all be in jail. The law does nothing about them, because they are not famous.
Does anyone in this country have any idea of the number of assault rifles circulating around this country? Nope. Every insurgent group in the Northeast and Kashmir has them, the Maoists have them. When one of those guys surrenders, the Indian government gives them a shawl around the neck, a cash stipend, free board and lodging, and withdraws all cases except the most serious ones like murder and rape. They are not charged under the Arms Act.
So, let's say our man was a bad guy, a khalnayak. He clearly stopped being one long ago. He went to jail, spent a year and a half there, and was released after none other than Bal Thackeray wrote a letter to the Supreme Court on his behalf. After his release from jail, Sanjay went straight to Thackeray's house and took his blessings.
He started his career again, got married, had children, and was leading a completely normal life within the law until this judgment.
If the aim of justice was reformation, it had already been achieved. So, why should the man be sent to jail once more? He is already reformed.
Just because the Supreme Court has said it doesn't mean the calls for mercy are wrong. After all, the system of reviews and pardons is there for a reason, and it is a former judge of the Supreme Court who is speaking of them.
Every case should be treated on merit. To react to everything the same way is the logic of 'andher nagri, chaupat raja, takey ser bhaji, takey ser bhaja'. If a case under the Arms Act has a man who was misled in his youth and is now reformed, it cannot be treated like every other case under Arms Act. The particular circumstances and qualities of the individual and his life must be taken into account - without regard to his fame or wealth.
Don't punish him just because he's famous.


saintcopywriter said...

Because I've known you always to speak the maximum sense, I'm commenting, especially on this one, because I do want to scream in deliberate anguish:
There is a device called an amplifier which takes the source object to many degrees of multiplied output. Like the most common amplifier that we all understand is a sound amplifier that increases volume manifold, there is, to my understanding, a concept of 'Social Amplifier'. Which is that "what is being done" gets reduced or amplified by "who is doing it".
Now, I don't think, if I just smiled and showed by arms, a million good looking girls would throw them at me. But we know that this would be true if I become Zuckerberg.
One's Social Amplification is a function of one's Social Quotient. And generally it follows a geometric progression.
So when we talk about a Salman Rushdie, or a Khan or a Sanjay Dutt being targeted because of their celebrity status, we often tend to overlook the fact that they enjoy most things disproportionate to their human qualities, just because of their social status. (Salman Rushdie, Padma Lakshmi, dude!)
When the 'superlative good' they enjoy is not a problem, why is the superbad that is a concern? It's the same super coin, isn't it? With two super sides?
I think this Dutt is a great human being. Now. But the previous avatar of this same Dutt was of a man who wasn't on the right track. You may say, it's because of losing his mother and wife and the drugs. But I don't think tragedy needs to be met with drugs and a wayward life. That way all the jews and most of Germany should have become The Joker.
Quoting what we have all heard, "with great power comes great responsibility" and adding something to that - that life, actually, is not short. 70 years is not short; it leaves us with enough time to do what we think we should do and then Newton's Law do its job.
Here's wishing Sanju baba a great air-conditioned cell, home food, books, music, dvd, tv etc and hoping that he has the power in him to be a Munna Bhai through it all. When he comes out, he'll be an even bigger star and far, far bigger human being :)

The Calumnist said...

Fair enough. This means you are saying, everyone should not be equal before the law. There should be special treatment for famous people.
Anyway, and more importantly, what is the aim of the justice system? Why does society send some of its members to jail?

saintcopywriter said...

Sometimes its just a question of deployment of legal resources and political aquariums. We all know that India is really not a single country with single set of deployable laws and rules. That's the aim, yes, but that's not the reality. Our past, present and future are fighting each other. Hopefully, the future will win. The ultimate aim, i guess, will be a larger nation with larger human beings :)