Sunday, September 23, 2012

Peace or Justice?

If you had to choose between Peace and Justice, what would you pick?

Would you pick Justice, the limb of social protection that would let you run after and hunt down the one who wronged you, and punish him? Or would you pick a passive route where you do nothing, but seek closure by forgiving him from within? In the former, would his penalty make a difference to you? In the latter, would just forgiving him do enough for you to move on?

Whether in a country where war reigns and one can only hope for peace, for the indictment of a war-criminal makes no difference after all the suffering, or in a state of peace, where criminals commit a crime and are taken to court by the justice system, Peace and Justice spell completely different things. Back in the day when the Mahatma fought for India’s freedom, he fought for Justice through Peace. Jalianwalahbagh, Quit India – you name it, he fought it. But peacefully.

But as we tread slowly from a time where greater crimes were driven by self-determination and the oppression of it, to a time where greater crimes are hate-driven, the two concepts have moved terribly apart. In any conflict zone, though international tribunals want desperately to pursue justice, the people want to settle for peace – because there’s been too much war. That’s for a large-scale crime. But come closer home, to India, where there are crimes in the household – domestic violence, sexual abuse, deprivation and family feuds with cheating reigning strong – what works? Justice? Or Peace?

A survivor of violence simply wants Peace. Peace of mind, Peace to move on, freedom to move on, Closure. The country that we are, we have degenerated into punishing the victim, and not the offender. The victim is stigmatized and pockmarked, pushed into a dark corner because she is treated by society as though she committed the crime. But the criminal himself? He enjoys the company of socialites, parties to glory and wines and dines in style, while society still places him on a pedestal.

With all of this, who would want Justice, really, if a trial by society itself shuns the victim? We push for judicial trials, demand court-time, and then believe that everyone deserves to have their story told and have justice served. But for the real Indian victim, is this even possible, or is this even the right way? What justice can you serve to a woman who has been beaten so badly that she cannot stand up straight, by still protecting her from a trial by media? What justice can you give to a child who has been sexually abused that she aged before her time, by still protecting her from stigma? What justice can you give to an estranged father, whose daughter has been kidnapped by her mother, and kept far from him, by still protecting him from society’s predispositions and aspersions?

I don’t see progress happening unless there is a mix of the two. Having to choose between peace and justice is such a travesty of what the values themselves stand for. Justice is giving one what his due is. Peace, well, is a state of calm, a state of non-conflict. 

Where Peace and Justice are really, tangibly possible, capable of BOTH taking form, that would be a place where we are truly empowered, and that is where we should aim to be.