Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pint - Sized Offenders

Recently, in Mumbai, a 17 year old was murdered and his body dumped in a gutter. He had been kidnapped and a ransom of 2 lakh demanded. Thinking it was a joke his parents had not paid up and this led to his demise. One of the victim's classmates were arrested for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping and murder. Juvenile crime is so unbearably grim. The fact that a XII standard student who should have been cramming for his board exams, or making up crib notes, could have been actively involved in the lowest form of crime scares the hell out of me. I was reminded of an even more horrifying case - the James Bulger murder.
On February 12, 1993, 2 year old James Bulger was abducted and murdered by two 10 - year - old boys, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson. The toddler's mutilated body was found on a railway line, where the killers had left it hoping to make it look like an accident. The boys were tried publicly and sentenced to 10 years in prison. The are 20 somethings now and out on parole with new identities which have not been disclosed for fear of reprisal.
The James Bulger murder case is one of the most sensational and controversial cases of all time. Even now it is the subject of heated debate. On the one hand, the Brits have been criticized for their barbarism in trying children like adults in a public courtroom and on the other they have been slammed for their leniency in dealing with cold - blooded killers. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing.
It is a terrible thing to put two kids (they are kids) away for the better part of their childhood. And yet they did bloody their hands at the age of ten. One shudders at the prospect of those two roaming the streets with completely new identities. If they could kill at the age of 10 what are they capable of doing at 20? Are their parents answerable for what happened? What about the 38 witnesses who claimed to have witnessed the two boys beating up a toddler but failed to intervene? Are kids, the new face of evil or are the adults doing a lousy job as parents, teachers, and disciplinarians? Why did this happen? What are we to do? There are no answers.
Even Sherlock Holmes was baffled: "What is the meaning of it Watson? What object is served by this circle of misery and violence and fear? It must tend to some end, or else our universe is ruled by chance, which is unthinkable. But what end? There is the great standing perennial problem to which human reason is as far from an answer as ever."

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