To reform or reverse?

The youngest man to be convicted in the 2012 Delhi gangrape will return to his life in Delhi this December, walking out of the Juvenile Welfare Home. While those who had rallied for ‘death-even-for-the-juvenile’ (prosecution claimed he raped the victim twice and violated her with an iron rod) wonder if he’s still a threat to women, the Intelligence Bureau worries that he may be a threat to all of society.

An infamous friend the now-20-year-old made while at the home, is posing to be the problem. The Kashmiri youth arrested for his alleged role in the 2011 Delhi High Court blast, housed in the same cell as the minor for a year, managed, says the IB, to convince him to join the jihad for Kashmir. To ‘reverse’ the radicalisation, the union home ministry directed that he undergo counter radicalisation. It’s only after they are certain he has been ‘reversed’, that they will release him.

Meanwhile, he has undergone another round of counseling for the three years he has been in a system meant to reform under-age criminals. But in an insightful, even if disillusioning interview his counselor gave to a news portal, the professional admitted failure. The minor who had shown little remorse at the start of his time at the home continues to be blasé, said the counselor, adding key processes of the reformation journey have not been applied in his case because of threat to his safety — among them, moral science tutoring and communication time with co-inmates.

While the intelligentsia debates loopholes of the Juvenile Justice Act, and the merits of the Modi government’s Juvenile Justice Bill — which if passed will allow for trying those between 16 and 18 under the Indian Penal Code in adult courts and, if found guilty in serious crimes, to be lodged in regular prisons — the question the counselor’s account demands is how effective is the reformation principle in the first place? If rape is an expression of power rather than an act of sex; if the minor brutalised the victim, egged on by the four adults ‘to be a man’, has the state succeeded in ‘reversing’ the most dangerous of radical attitudes — misogyny?

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