The horrifying crimes in Kathua and Unnao remind one of the existential and perennial problem of evil in Dostoevsky 's novel
Brothers Karamazov in which Ivan Karamazov confronts his younger brother Alyosha, the young monk, and questions him on the justification of evil in this world, especially against children.
"A Bulgarian I met lately in Moscow,” Ivan went on, seeming not to hear his brother’s words, “told me about the crimes committed by Turks and Circassians in all parts of Bulgaria .... They burn villages, murder, outrage women and children, they nail their prisoners by the ears to the fences, leave them so till morning, and in the morning they hang them — all sorts of things you can’t imagine. People talk sometimes of bestial cruelty, but that’s a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel. The tiger only tears and gnaws, that’s all he can do. He would never think of nailing people by the ears, even if he were able to do it. These Turks took a pleasure in torturing children, too; cutting the unborn child from the mother’s womb, and tossing babies up in the air and catching them on the points of their bayonets before their mother’s eyes. Doing it before the mother’s eyes was what gave zest to the amusement. Here is another scene that I thought very interesting. Imagine a trembling mother with her baby in her arms, a circle of invading Turks around her. They’ve planned a diversion; they pet the baby, laugh to make it laugh. They succeed, the baby laughs. At that moment a Turk points a pistol four inches from the baby’s face. The baby laughs with glee, holds out his little hand to the pistol, and he pulls the trigger in the baby’s face and blows out its brains. Artistic, wasn’t it? ...."
The problem of evil in the world has agitated the minds of many great sages and philosophers since ages. How do you explain the existence of evil, where innocent people are tortured and children raped and murdered- this apart from the questions that arise when you look at pain and cruelty on animal life and devastation caused by natural calamities that maim and kill thousands of people indiscriminately causing senseless misery? But the torture and killing of children just numbs you and is beyond the pale of all understanding.
Ivan continues: " Listen! I took the case of children only to make my case clearer. I have narrowed my subject on purpose. Of the other tears of humanity with which the earth is soaked from its crust to its centre, I will say nothing. If all must suffer to pay for the eternal harmony, what have children to do with it, tell me, please? It’s beyond all comprehension why they should suffer, and why they should pay for the harmony ... I renounce the higher harmony altogether. It’s not worth the tears of that one tortured child ... And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price. "
Ivan goes on animatedly and asks Alyosha — How can he explain such cruelty and pain? " Is there a God? Even if there's one I do not accept him. I reject him on the plane of justice."
If there's an all powerful, beneficent God, how do you explain evil and the cruel crimes that the world has witnessed these thousands of years — wars , pogroms , hunger, pestilence, floods, torture, cruelty and killings of millions over centuries that we continue to see every day. God, as is commonly believed and conceptualised, is all beneficent, all good, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, and such a God can not be reconciled with a world that has so much evil, pain and suffering. It is a 'logical impossibility'.
As Epicurus, the Greek philosopher, expounded — famously called The Epicurean TrilemmaIs God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
A Futile Question
All philosophers and even mystics stumble at this point. When asked on many occasions about evil, Tagore said, 'Asking why there's evil in this world is like asking why there's creation! It is a futile question. You have to accept it simply as part of evolution toward perfection."
Charles Darwin said, “The sufferings of millions of the lower animals throughout almost endless time are apparently irreconcilable with the existence of a creator of unbounded' goodness.”
History has shown that the world is not evolving towards perfection on the lines the believers of theistic religions have argued with implicit faith. Evil has not diminished over the years but has only increased and with more ingenuity, novelty and heartlessness in methods of torture, cruelty, and in inflicting immeasurable pain, injustice and killings, aided by weapons and chemicals and modern technology. We have more blood and tears spilt as days go by toward eternity.
The Kathua rape of an eight-year-old girl and her gruesome torture and murder and also the horrific rape of a minor girl in Unnao who was only 17-years-old and the murder of her father by the alleged rapists and their cohorts have shaken the people across the country to its very core, not only because the heinous nature of the crime is so hard to fathom and goes against innate human nature but because of the apathy and depravity of those in power and their followers, in the way they responded to the crime and the religious and communal and caste overtones that is overshadowing the tragedies which is blood curdling and spine chilling.
The images of the luminous face of the girl in Kathua and the grief and despair of her parents and siblings, the helpless cries of the minor girl in Unnao for justice not only against those who violated her but murdered her father, and caused her and her mother unfathomable sorrow will haunt us for years to come.
Beyond the degrading politics on both sides of the divide, the people of India cutting across all religious, caste, and socio-economic divisions rose in one voice and unequivocally condemned the rapes and killings, which is heartening. Justice in this world is all that we know and what every one is demanding. There's no place either for justice and harmony in an after life or justification of the horrendous crimes through theories of karma.
Justice in India today is so long in delivery, it is akin to promised justice of many religions in the Heaven in another world no one has certainty of or the Utopia promised in the future by Communism where all crimes and evils are justified today for a future classless ideal society.
When there are crimes, which are crimes by demented and deranged people, they may at times be overlooked and treated as isolated cases of 'sick' individuals and can be considered extenuating. But what's deeply unsettling and terrifying is when crimes are perpetrated with brazen disregard to rule of law on grounds of ideological, religious, communal or caste differences or those crimes and acts of cruelty are carried out by those in power over the powerless, the weak and the defenceless with crass impunity. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can absolve any one from crimes against them, especially crimes of rape and murder when the victims are children and minors.
In the end, beyond all analysis of good and evil, crimes like these are simply unacceptable. It's organic repulsion by human nature. As Ivan says to Alyosha , "... all I know is that there is suffering and that there are none guilty; .... and I can’t consent to live by it! I must have justice, or I will destroy myself. And not justice in some remote infinite time and space, but here on earth, and that I could see myself."
GR Gopinath is the founder of Air Deccan.