Anything that moves

The message is clear: The BJP is against terrorists only if those terrorists are Muslim

If it has got away with this blatant hypocrisy, it can only be because a substantial proportion of the population shares that view.

If Yakub Memon hangs, will it be because of his faith? That’s what Asaduddin Owaisi of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen suggested, setting off a predictable storm of outrage. On his news programme, Arnab Goswami called Owaisi’s statement, “Completely unnecessary, provocative and seen as an attempt at religious polarisation”, and accused the politician of, “insulting the supreme court of the country.”

Owaisi countered that the killers of Punjab’s chief minister Beant Singh and India’s former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had their sentences commuted thanks to political backing, which Memon lacked, presumably because he was Muslim.

Logjam on death row

To understand whether Owaisi is on to something, it is useful to look back at the history of capital punishment in independent India. The nation frequently executed convicts in the decade after independence but as voices against state sanctioned killing grew stronger around the globe leading to the practice being banned in over a hundred nations and moratoriums being placed in over 50 others, we became increasingly hesitant to use the gallows. However, although the Supreme Court ruled as early as the 1970s that death be awarded only in the rarest of rare cases, it wasn’t particularly reluctant to condemn criminals to hang. The combination of the willingness to convict and unwillingness to execute created a logjam on death row.

The last recourse for those sentenced to hang is usually a plea for mercy to India’s head of state. For almost a decade, between 1997 and 2007, such mercy petitions were simply ignored. KR Narayanan and Abdul Kalam were excellent Presidents, but both kicked the capital punishment can down the road. Narayanan didn’t decide on a single case during his term in office, and Kalam made a judgment on just two petitions, accepting one and rejecting one. Pratibha Patil, a controversial replacement for the inspirational Kalam, may have proved lacklustre in office generally, but considered dozens of mercy pleas, and gladdened liberal hearts by commuting a record number of death sentences. The damage to the process, however, had already been done. Rajiv Gandhi’s killers were spared the noose on grounds of inordinate delay, even though Patil rejected their mercy plea.

A similar commutation was offered to Devinder Singh Bhullar, a Khalistani militant convicted for planting a bomb that killed 9 people, though not its intended target, the Congress leader Maninder Singh Bitta.

Before the Supreme Court’s final verdict in those cases, politicians launched campaigns on behalf of the convicts. Tamil Nadu’s legislative assembly passed a resolution against hanging Gandhi’s assassins, while the Akali Dal adopted Bhullar’s cause.

The Akalis have also demanded mercy for Balwant Singh Rajaona, one of Beant Singh’s assassins. Astonishingly, Rajaona has been elevated to the status of Living Martyr (Zinda Shaheed) by the high Sikh religious authority, the Akal Takht.

Pratibha Patil’s successor Pranab Mukherjee has been even more energetic than she was in tackling mercy petitions, but with a very different perspective. He has ruled against commutation in the vast majority of cases before him. Of the 24 people thus condemned, three were convicted of terrorism, or political killings, while the others were murderers of a more common variety. The appellants in the three terror-related cases all happened to be Muslims: Afzal Guru, Ajmal Kasab, and Yakub Memon. The first two have since been hanged, the only individuals put to death by the Indian state in the past decade.

Double standards

It’s difficult to decide, based on the small sample size available, whether Guru and Memon were ill-served by the judicial process because they were Muslim (Kasab’s case was, of course, open and shut), or whether they were simply unlucky to be convicted in a period when presidents took relatively expeditious decisions on mercy pleas, thus eliminating the "inordinate delay" recourse. I find the attitude of the public to these cases more worrying than anything that happened in court. When Omar Abdullah spoke out against executing Afzal Guru, he faced a backlash that his DMK and Akali Dal counterparts had not. He tweeted about this and created a bigger stir. The BJP made hanging Afzal Guru part of its political platform even while condemning the supposed violation of the "cultural and human rights" of Hindus under trial for bombing civilians, and partnering with the Akali Dal that supported convicted Khalistanis. It’s difficult not to conclude that the party is against terrorists only if those terrorists are Muslim. If it has got away with this blatant hypocrisy, it can only be because a substantial proportion of the population shares that view.

I understand why people feel threatened by Islamist terrorism and extremism, but when they adopt double standards as a consequence, it only causes disaffected Muslims to be drawn to identity politics of the kind peddled by the Owaisis, or something far worse.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

The perpetual millennial quest for self-expression just got another boost

Making adulting in the new millennium easier, one step at a time.

Having come of age in the Age of the Internet, millennials had a rocky start to self-expression. Indeed, the internet allowed us to personalise things in unprecedented fashion and we really rose to the occasion. The learning curve to a straightforward email address was a long one, routed through cringeworthy e-mail ids like You know you had one - making a personalised e-mail id was a rite of passage for millennials after all.

Declaring yourself to be cool, a star, a princess or a hunk boy was a given (for how else would the world know?!). Those with eclectic tastes (read: juvenile groupies) would flaunt their artistic preferences with an elitist flair. You could take for granted that and would listen to Bollywood music or read Archie comics only in private. The emo kids, meanwhile, had to learn the hard way that employers probably don’t trust candidates with e-mail ids such as

Created using Imgflip
Created using Imgflip

And with chat rooms, early millennials had found a way to communicate, with...interesting results. The oldest crop of millennials (30+ year olds) learnt to deal with the realities of adolescent life hunched behind anonymous accounts, spewing their teenage hormone-laden angst, passion and idealism to other anonymous accounts. Skater_chick could hide her ineptitude for skating behind a convincing username and a skateboard-peddling red-haired avatar, and you could declare your fantasies of world domination, armed with the assurance that no one would take you seriously.

With the rise of blogging, millennial individualism found a way to express itself to millions of people across the world. The verbosity of ‘intellectual’ millennials even shone through in their blog URLs and names. GirlWhoTravels could now opine on her adventures on the road to those who actually cared about such things. The blogger behind could choose to totally ignore petunias and no one would question why. It’s a tradition still being staunchly upheld on Tumblr. You’re not really a Tumblr(er?) if you haven’t been inspired to test your creative limits while crafting your blog URL. Fantasy literature and anime fandoms to pop-culture fanatics and pizza lovers- it’s where people of all leanings go to let their alter ego thrive.

Created using Imgflip
Created using Imgflip

Then of course social media became the new front of self-expression on the Internet. Back when social media was too much of a millennial thing for anyone to meddle with, avatars and usernames were a window into your personality and fantasies. Suddenly, it was cool to post emo quotes of Meredith Grey on Facebook and update the world on the picturesque breakfast you had (or not). Twitter upped the pressure by limiting expression to 140 characters (now 280-have you heard?) and the brevity translated to the Twitter handles as well. The trend of sarcasm-and-wit-laden handles is still alive well and has only gotten more sophisticated with time. The blogging platform Medium makes the best of Twitter intellect in longform. It’s here that even businesses have cool account names!

Self-expression on the Internet and the millennials’ love for the personalised and customised has indeed seen an interesting trajectory. Most millennial adolescents of yore though are now grownups, navigating an adulting crisis of mammoth proportions. How to wake up in time for classes, how to keep the boss happy, how to keep from going broke every month, how to deal with the new F-word – Finances! Don’t judge, finances can be stressful at the beginning of a career. Forget investments, loans and debts, even matters of simple money transactions are riddled with scary terms like beneficiaries, NEFT, IMPS, RTGS and more. Then there’s the quadruple checking to make sure you input the correct card, IFSC or account number. If this wasn’t stressful enough, there’s the long wait while the cheque is cleared or the fund transfer is credited. Doesn’t it make you wish there was a simpler way to deal with it all? If life could just be like…

Created using Imgflip
Created using Imgflip

Lo and behold, millennial prayers have been heard! Airtel Payments Bank, India’s first, has now integrated UPI on its digital platform, making banking over the phone easier than ever. Airtel Payments Bank UPI, or Unified Payment Interface, allows you to transfer funds and shop and pay bills instantly to anyone any time without the hassles of inputting any bank details – all through a unique Virtual Payment Address. In true millennial fashion, you can even create your own personalised UPI ID or Virtual Payment Address (VPA) with your name or number- like rhea@airtel or 9990011122@airtel. It’s the smartest, easiest and coolest way to pay, frankly, because you’re going to be the first person to actually make instant, costless payments, rather than claiming to do that and making people wait for hours.

To make life even simpler, with the My Airtel app, you can make digital payments both online and offline (using the Scan and Pay feature that uses a UPI QR code). Imagine, no more running to the ATM at the last minute when you accidentally opt for COD or don’t have exact change to pay for a cab or coffee! Opening an account takes less than three minutes and remembering your VPA requires you to literally remember your own name. Get started with a more customised banking experience here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Airtel Payments Bank and not by the Scroll editorial team.