Here is a perfect example of what’s going wrong with India and its people. I have serious objections to the kind of message this movie promotes. This is the exact kind of path I DON’T want India to take up. Unfortunately, many young people that I talked to seem to like this movie and the message.
It is the kind of robin hood justice, not very different from how Naxalites operate, imposing their own version of justice onto the people, taking up a gun and shooting a guy without thorough investigation, based on perceptions, hearsays, and whims, and not very different from the kind of justice what Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia dole out in their countries. Take the gun, shoot the guy who you think is the criminal, do away with laborious and painful judicial procedures – that is the message of the movie.
Many young people seem to like that kind of justice. ‘You know he is the terrorist, why not just shoot him?’ they ask.
What India needs is not more of such heroic and robin hood kind of punishments, but more procedural investigation, and more rule of law. What we need is more people stopping at red light and not the other way round where every Indian takes law into his hands to take a decision right then and there whether he should skip the red light or not. What we need is more procedural arrests, not more of fake ‘encounter killings’. We need more accountability into our system, not more of doing away with it.
Some young Indians have justified Naseeruddin Shah’s (the common man) role in the movie. They believe it is OK to kill four alleged terrorists without due course of legal procedures, without providing the evidences, without having to prove them guilty within the legal framework. And why is it so? Just because they all ‘know’ that these four guys are terrorists.
What is missed out is the basic premise on which the entire legal structure, in fact, the very concept of a modern nation is based on – that every citizen has a right to justice, and a person is innocent unless proven guilty.
In the movie, a policeman is blackmailed into killing an alleged terrorist, who is not convicted in any court of law as yet, on the pretext that he is saving many innocents people from a non-existent bomb. The policeman creates a ‘fake encounter’ and disposes off the last alleged terrorist, and this is celebrated and hailed by everyone around him.
I don’t subscribe to such arbitration of justice. We have courts and we have a legal system in place. If people think that the system is really slow and inefficient, they have to fight the system to make it better, not take up the gun to kill the accused before they are even paraded into the courts. What’s the difference between the terrorist and the ordinary man now? (I have the same argument against Rang De Basanti).
We need to understand and believe that even a terrorist has a right to justice, because we do not know if they are criminals unless proven guilty. They are all innocent till they are proven guilty. Every accused person should have access to a lawyer, even the worst criminal, a serial killer, a rapist or a terrorist. Recently there was a hue and cry when someone suggested they are going to provide lawyers to the alleged terrorists who got arrested. We think that providing a legal support to an alleged terrorist is tantamount to condoning terrorism.
During most part of the movie, the audience view Naseeruddin Shah as a villain, who is trying to free four alleged terrorists by blackmailing the police with a bomb threat that could kill hundreds of people. But later on, Naseeruddin Shah kills three of those alleged terrorists with a bomb and the last one by blackmailing the policeman. As a twist to the whole movie, he gleams that he is a common man who is frustrated with the recent turn of events in the country with so many terrorist bombs blowing up everywhere and that he is only out there to seek revenge.
The police officers also feel happy at the turn of the events and they believe in Naseeruddin Shah’s new story completely without verifying it. All those who are working on the case give out a sigh of relief. There is a sudden change in the attitudes and nobody wants to track him down anymore because now they feel Naseeruddin Shah is like one of them, an ordinary citizen, just taking a simple and straight revenge by exactly following the methods the terrorists follow.
The people in the movie and the audience now sympathize with him, condone his actions, accept them and even congratulate him for that. He is allowed to go scot free. Even the police officer in charge of the operations goes to congratulate Naseeruddin Shah without making any investigations. The police is all happy because he made them dispose of those alleged terrorists.
Many people who have seen the movie felt it was OK to kill those terrorists because it was in some way handing out justice – a little faster mechanism without having to go through court-kacheri. They felt that Naseeruddin Shah acted in the best faith and he did nothing wrong. The fact that he has just murdered four innocent people goes unnoticed by the people in the movie and the audience.
The problem is when we mete out justice guided by feelings, perceptions, and impressions. They can be false sometimes. They can be constructed. That’s why we have a court, a legal procedure, and a due course of law to convict people.
I created a small scenario here to extend how fallacious our arguments can be if we were to go by those carefully constructed feelings and perceptions.
I would like to extend the movie only by a minute. As soon as the police officer leaves (after congratulating Naseeruddin Shah for the great deed he did), Naseeruddin Shah picks up a satellite phone from his grocery bag, and calls Abu Basha, a master mind terrorist, who is lounging in a big bungalow, and tells him that ‘kaam ho gaya hai’. Naseeruddin Shah informs Abu Basha that now nobody will be able to trace the bombings to Abu Basha since the four people that would have connected previous bombings to Abu Basha are now all dead.
Abu Basha congratulates Naseeruddin Shah and asks him to be careful next time around and make sure no lead comes to him in the next set of bombings.
I am quite sure that such a twist to the story would once again make the audience change their stance and now they may vilify Naseeruddin Shah for what he had done.
The problem with such stories is that the perceptions can change. That’s why we have a judicial procedure to take care of such problems of perceptions, media reports, and other constructed notions.
No matter what, whether we like it or not, we need to stick to judicial procedure in this country. We need a dose of more rule of law, not less of it. This movie is a bad example coming at a bad time.