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Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

Dalits and Muslims: India’s favourites for the death penalty

India's Supreme Court
India's Supreme Court
A study that will be published later this year by the National Law University shows that 75 per cent of all death sentences and 93.5 per cent of all death sentences for terrorism were given to dalits and Muslims. The obvious issue here is that of prejudice. The government shows no signs of acting strongly when upper-caste Hindus commit acts of terrorism, as the case of bombings in Malegaon shows. And there is no hurry to hang the killer of Beant Singh, while Rajiv Gandhi’s killers have had their death sentences commuted. They had also been convicted of terrorism, but not all of us are judged by the same rules. Let us leave aside the others like Mayaben Kodnani, convicted of murdering 95 Gujaratis and not even in jail.

The second issue is that of economics.

Dalit and Muslim are also synonyms for ‘poor’. Afzal Guru got almost no legal representation in the trial court stage. Given the reality, it should not surprise us that dalits and Muslims and their supporters are protesting against the government. They have every right to and are justifiably upset. They are seen as out of control and unbalanced, but they are arguing on fact. It is the BJP MPs who keep shooting off letters to Smriti Irani, demanding firm action against those who are acting on emotion.

The prime minister’s response to this has been to accuse the opposition of invention and lies. But the facts are absolutely clear on the ground. Dalits are getting a voice and are standing up for their rights. There is nothing wrong with that and if they use intemperate language, they should not be treated as criminals. It is important the Indian government engage them, and listen to their argument, not only their slogans.


Source: The Express Tribune, Opinion by Aakar Patel, February 14th, 2016

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