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Thinking forgiveness, mother-to-mother

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On January 7, 2020, a Delhi court issued death warrants for the four convicts in the Delhi gang-rape case. During the court hearing, mother of one of the convicts, Mukesh Singh, approached the mother of the deceased victim known to the world as ‘Nirbhaya’, and asked for forgiveness: “Please forgive my son”, she pleaded, “I am begging you for his life.” Asha Devi, in tears, replied: “I had a daughter too. What happened to her — how can I forget it? I have been waiting for justice for seven years...” The judge asked for restoration of order in the courtroom and the date of hanging was fixed.

What do we make of this exchange between the two women? Does the plea for forgiveness have any space in legal process and courtrooms? Does it move the victim’s mother and disrupt her desire for retributive justice? Does law allow her to ever reach forgiveness? Asha Devi responded by saying “how can I forget”, but is forgiveness about forgetting? Is it even about condoning? Anti-apartheid and human rights activist, Desmond Tutu writes in No Future Without Forgiveness: “In forgiving, people are not being asked to forget. On the contrary, it is important to remember, so that we should not let atrocities happen again. Forgiveness does not mean condoning what has been done. It means taking what happened seriously and not minimising it; drawing out the sting of the memory that threatens to poison our entire existence. It involves trying to understand the perpetrators and so have empathy to try to stand in their shoes and appreciate the sort of pressures and influences that might have conditioned them.”

An act of forgiveness cannot be limited to religious terms, as merely a pious act ordained by God. It cannot even be decided and........

© Deccan Chronicle