Posted on 18-01-2015
Filed Under (CRIME) by Shombit

From Discomfort Zone column by Shombit Sengupta in Financial Express and Indian Express

“If the world had no weapons, what would have been positive and negative today?” I asked a few of my close friends. A Swiss friend, Herve Luquiens, replied, “Hello Sen, your question reminds me of my youth! My grandfather was a socialist leader in Switzerland, Mayor of Lausanne. He insisted I never play with military dinky toys. I was unhappy, but that was his political belief! Seriously, I’m not comfortable with your idea. Talking about the real world, I’m scared about bad guys holding weapons and good guys not. In France, many military weapons were left after World War II. At some stage it was asked to declare them, a few years later, to give them to the police. You did that or you could go to prison. But today whoever wants to rob a bank or kill innocent people can get a Kalashnikov on the Internet for as little as 1500 Euros. Also, Nazis had weapons when the Jews were unarmed… So I love your dream, but I don’t believe it works in real life. Too bad!” Just imagine, 70 million Kalashnikovs sold to date, plus millions of other weapons to destroy people. To what purpose?

A Parisian friend responded: “It’s a trap question! But yes, a great wish.” Clearly a Utopian dream, yet for a few hours last Sunday, 11 January 2015, it became reality in Paris. Amazingly, State leaders from 44 countries were queuing to catch the bus from French President’s Elysee Palace to Place de la Republique to attend an International Unity Rally for freedom of expression.  This republican call by French President made people forget their political or religious divisions. An ocean of humanity, over 1.5 million, inched silently through Paris streets. Simultaneously, another 2.5 million marched in different parts of France, and across Europe, the Americas and Australia people paid street rally tributes to the 17 victims of 1-789-15 terrorist attacks. Such solidarity to condemn senseless killings has no parallel.

I’ll never forget the incredible weaponless union between 2 arch enemies, Palestinian Authority President and Israeli Prime Minister. Leaving aside religious and political problems, they marched together to endorse “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity” human rights the French had installed since 1789. Leading the rally, all arm-in-arm, were the King and Queen of Jordon, German Chancellor, British and Italian Prime Ministers, President of Mali, among other leaders. Their peaceful protest was against terrorism killing innocent people, 10 French artists of Charlie Hebdo, a publication illustrating satirical opinion irrespective of religion and politics that French liberty allows, 3 security personnel and 4 Jewish shoppers. These statespersons made no speech, but showed terrorists that their vile acts instead brought people of all religions together. Paris Grand Mosque Imam Boubakeur attended mourning prayers at the Jewish synagogue with Catholic President Hollande and Jewish Israeli PM Netanyahu. This strong symbolic expression of peace showed the power to win without weapons. Can the world become weaponless? I’m not enamored of non-violence where the opposition is armed; it’s unnatural, inhuman, exposing weakness. My dream is a non-violent, weaponless world where both sides have no weapons.

Hate, jealousy and power exist in our DNA, characteristics that cannot be erased. Weapons feed and empower hate, jealousy and power to become explosive, to endlessly kill people. When somebody commits an unsocial violent act, society sends a force to kill the killer. Doing so, have we stopped violence? Revenge will come from numerous quarters starting a domino effect of violence, and making us live in perpetual terror, insecurity and violence everywhere in the world. If we actually had no weapons, social beings would challenge one another through intellectual weapons expressed in various media. We’d experience creativity wars that kill nobody. Styles of expression in different societies would be extraordinary, replacing the physical punishing world we know now. A 6-year-old boy at the French rally was asking, “Why will I be killed for making a funny drawing?”

Unfortunately, all of France is in limbo now in spite of the rally’s success in symbolizing unity. French Muslims are wary of Catholics and Jews, and vice versa. Ironically, all 3 religions are often referred to as Abrahamic, tracing their history to Abraham in the Hebrew Bible. Judaism and Christianity were founded in Palestine, Islam in nearby Mecca, Saudi Arabia.  Since prehistoric times, Palestine has been ruled by Hebrews, Egyptians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Turks and now warred over by Israel and Arab Palestine. Jews believe it’s their Promised Holy Land, it’s significant for Christians as Jesus spent time there, and as per Muslim tradition, the Prophet’s ascent to heaven was from Jerusalem. I don’t know if this close connection is what makes the 3 religions passionately love and hate one another. Liberal French democracy has welcomed the largest Muslim (8 million) and Jewish populations (half a million) in Europe to France (total population 63 million), but this does not mean that France has to change its high secular value system and freedom of expression.

“We are French first” is the feeling the Unity March hoped to ignite amongst French minorities, just as US values are successfully implemented on immigrants who say, “I’m American before anything else.” French Jews migrating to Israel for fear is a new phenomenon that’s shocked me: 12,000 since 2012 anti-Semitic terrorism struck France, and 15,000 estimated in 2015. I’d never before heard my French Jewish friends, clients and artists express alienation. Personally, I’ve always received great affection in my adopted homeland so never understood what racism is.

That last Sunday’s Unity March displayed no turbulence means we want to live under a beautiful sky with strong fraternity, mixing with different people, different religions, different world cultures. Switzerland with 35% population with migration background and high priority on education, has never faced trouble. Shouldn’t we invest in education instead of weapons to protect ourselves? My question to you, my valuable reader, is: “What if the world had no weapons?”

Download a FREE PDF copy of the article.

Source : The Indian Express / The Financial Express


(0) Comments   
Posted on 11-01-2015
Filed Under (CRIME) by Shombit

From Discomfort Zone column by Shombit Sengupta in Financial Express and Indian Express

“Papa, do you remember when I was a kid I used to watch Dorothee’s programme? There used to be an artist-painter called Cabu. They killed him.” I got this text message from my son, born and raised in France. I called him, he could barely talk in his grief. You can watch Channel 2’s animated children’s programme clip by Dorothee called Vive les vacances (Long live the holidays) of 30 years ago here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJhetHo_zfo. Cabu’s live drawings had kept a whole generation spellbound. It’s incredible how my generation, my son’s generation, younger French generations I’ve seen in solidarity gatherings condemning the horrible shootout at Charlie Hebdo premises were all so heavily influenced by intellectual satirical poetic cartoonists.

Gerrard, Jose and I were colleagues working in a design firm at Nation, Paris East, in the late 1970s. We would lunch at La Grignoterie on Boulevard De Picpus, good meat with salad or French fries cooked by the husband of the woman who ran the small restaurant. The dessert was always delicious caramel custard or profiteroles. Particularly on Wednesdays, we would delay the owner because that’s the day Charlie Hebdo was published, and we would get engrossed arguing over its contents.

This satirical paper challenged us with intellectual entertainment. What auto-censored traditional media could not say, Charlie Hebdo ripped apart without any frontier. Their lampooning spared no one, from politics and presidents to religious symbols like popes and prophets, to high-profile celebrities and extreme right culture. They rebelliously took on subjects they disapproved of. Without sugarcoating, they often appeared crude, but with simple pencil strokes, they aroused both great laughter and intense anger. The three of us could never agree on any Wednesday topic. We would always have triangular fights or two-against-one fight. Lunchtime was just an hour, but hot Wednesday debates made us rush through the last 10 minutes. The best part after a big fight was that Jose and I would face each other across a worktable, where immediately we would become friendly colleagues again. Gerrard sat separately in the architectural design department. Often on Wednesdays, he would arrive at 4 o’clock at the coffee shop behind our office to restart our Charlie Hebdo subject fight for 5 minutes, then return to work.

On 8 January, 2015, Jose and I nostalgically spoke on Skype, watching TV in shock, he in France, I in India. We mused over how Charlie Hebdo’s non-conformist illustrators had engaged us on terrific debates every Wednesday. Provocative cartoons of Jean Cabu, Georges Wolinski and Philippe Honore could express satire with a few lines within a few seconds, something that would take a thousand words to write or half an hour to film. Having seen their live graphical palette as they drew cartoons in reply to different questions on television programmes was unforgettable. I was asking Jose why we are feeling we’ve lost our friends because we had never met them. Jose figured it was the power of their pencils, their humour and extreme modesty that endeared them so. As fellow artists, we connected easily to their simplicity and artistic, expressive minds that showed a tangential perspective. They were not known outside France, as they communicated in French, but just look at how the whole world is mourning their deaths. This shows how creative ideology and liberty of expression can never die.

The power of crayons led people of all ages to 26 Rue Serpollet, Paris 75020. They put boxes of colourful pencils as memorial remembrances for those the terrorists gunned down at the Charlie Hebdo office on 7 January, four of whom were considered among France’s most ingenious cartoonists of all time. “I would rather die standing than live on my knees,” is what editor Stephane Charbonnier had earlier said. Watching a TV interview of his companion, Jeannette Bougrab, really moved me. She served as French secretary for youth and community life in Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP Government. Remembering Charbonnier with tears, but elegantly, she said she’s from the Right wing, while he was totally Leftist, but their love was above politics. She was dreading the next few days because two tough jobs awaited her; she had to see her companion’s bullet-ridden body after the autopsy and see him get into the grave. I will never forget her expression of the pain she is going through.

Satirical caricature has been a revered tradition in French journalism since before the 1789 revolution. In this world’s first revolution, where the French motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” emerged, radical and liberal publications played a decisive role in replacing France’s absolute monarchy. Subsequently, there arose modern political ideologies globally and democratic republics. Satire’s core aim is to make people laugh. The printed press spread cartoons and liberty of artists across Europe. But censorship was not unknown to France in recent times. When satirical magazine Hara-kiri published some mockery after president Charles de Gaulle’s death in 1970, it was banned. Most of Hara-kiri’s illustrators then started an alternative, irreverently calling it Charlie Hebdo. Aside from barbing de Gaulle, Charlie also references Charlie Brown who is lovable, but a never-give-up loser created by American Charles Shultz in comic strip Peanuts. Hebdo is abbreviated hebdomadaire, meaning ‘weekly’.

Charlie Hebdo was the heart of French culture, admired for super-stroke creativity in spite of the contradictions they provoked. Other French publications are contributing to keep Charlie Hebdo alive, a million copies will be printed of its next Wednesday’s edition. Although barely known outside France, young cartoonists worldwide want to join it today. France is hosting an international rally against terrorism on January 11, 2015. All this demonstrates that artist-intellectuals have the power to break all political divisions to unite for a cause. Voltaire, an 18th century French satirical polemicist and philosopher, had criticised intolerance, religious dogma and French institutions during his time. What he said sums up the solidarity people feel today: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

Download a FREE PDF copy of the article.

Source : The Indian Express / The Financial Express

(0) Comments   
Posted on 20-03-2011
Filed Under (CRIME) by Shombit

From Discomfort Zone column by Shombit sen gupta in Financial Express and Indian Express

“Do you really want to die today?” asked the nurse, a small glass of deadly barbiturates in her hand. Michele Causse on her 74th birthday on 29 July 2010 was lying in bed dressed in a white suit, complete with a rose on her jacket buttonhole. In the backdrop of classical music, she replied cool headedly, not a trace of hesitation or regret in her voice, “Yes, it is my wish to die.”

My hair stands on end every time this incredible preparation of death flashes through my mind. I call this murder, killing someone even though they are asking for death. Do you think it is mercy killing? Just see how it happened with Michèle who went from France to die in Zurich. A French radical lesbian theorist and author, Michele’s criticism of heterosexuality is well known, "As long as a woman wishes to please a man, she is inauthentic… She does not have the integrity, the un-corruptibility that comes with not wishing to please." Accompanied by her girlfriend, Michele enjoyed a boat-ride at a Zurich lake, sat on a park-bench chatting, laughing, drinking coffee. Looking elegant with Dior dark-glasses, Michele then entered a home where a white-haired woman greeted her like she was welcoming a friend home. In reality this was Erika Luley, a nurse from Dignitas, an assisted suicide organization in Switzerland. Suffering from a non-lethal but incurable and extremely painful bone disease, Michele was here because she decided she had “the liberty to die.”

A video recording of her last minutes showed her voluntarily coming to bed, while Nurse Luley prepared the poisonous potion. The way the little glass exchanged hands, it appeared like Michele was accepting a stimulating shot of Cognac. Perhaps to obliterate pity and help Erika do her job, Michele asked, “Are you again going to remind me this will be my last drink? Of course, I know it.” Erika Luley smiled, warmly kissed Michele on both cheeks, Michele reciprocated. “How long will it take?” Michele queried with no anxiety on her face. “Two to five minutes. It will make you sleep, but I’ll give you some chocolate to sweeten your mouth.” Swallowing the fatal drink Michele chortled, “I want another chocolate, this is bitter.” She then chatted with her girlfriend, the official witness of Michele’s suicide act, hugged her goodbye, the nurse too, and closed her eyes. About 30 minutes later Erika took Michele’s pulse to ascertain her death, called Ludwig Minelli, the Swiss lawyer who founded Dignitas in 1998, and informed the police. As has happened for the over 800 suicide cases that Dignitas had assisted, the police, prosecutor and coroner opened an investigation that concluded with a dismissal.

In early March 2011, the controversial subject of euthanasia made headlines when India’s Law Commission decided to recommend that the Government allow its passive form. This joggled me back to when I first read about it. In my initial career in Paris I’d sought and got advice from famous Russian artist Maitre Arte. But more than that, I owe to him the big idea of reading a few classics all at the same time, but keeping an economic viewpoint, to develop a wider perspective of the world in different areas. I’d rush to FNAC at rue de Rennes and WH Smith, and will never forget their kindness in allowing me to pour over books for hours in their bookshops. I simultaneously read Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Sigmund Freud, Mao Zedong, Adolf Hitler, Victor Hugo, Bhagavad Gita, Koran and Bible. My biggest learning about life and business came from these nonstop readings. While doing so, I was shocked to find the devil’s workshop of euthanasia was crafted as early as 1924 in Mein Kampf: “He who is bodily and mentally not sound and deserving may not perpetuate this misfortune in the bodies of his children. The völkische (people’s) state has to perform the most gigantic rearing-task here. One day, however, it will appear as a deed greater than the most victorious wars of our present bourgeois era.”

In 1939, the German parents of a severely deformed child wrote to Adolf Hitler seeking his permission for their child to be put to death. Hitler approved, obsessed as he was with “racial purity.” He then used this as precedent to establish euthanasia, his euphemistic term for systematic killing of the mentally and physically disabled in a clandestine Nazi murder program called Action T4. In Hitler’s words, such people were “unworthy of life.” The Nuremberg Trials after World War II found evidence that upto October 1941, about 275,000 people were killed under T4.

Greek word euthanasia, meaning “painless, happy death,” raises questions today of the morality of killing, whether a pain-suffering person’s consent is valid, what are the duties of doctors. Euthanasia is a pressing issue because advanced medical technology such as dialysis, intravenous feeding and respirators can sustain and extend life. Active euthanasia means assisting in the direct act of ending life, while passive euthanasia is discontinuing life-sustaining medical treatment for the terminally ill. But can helping people to die be a profession? With the motto, “To live with dignity, to die with dignity,” Dignitas charges patients €4,000 for preparation and suicide assistance, or €7,000 for funerals, medical costs and official fees.

Switzerland’s mountains and lakes conjure up everyone’s dream vacation. At the same time Switzerland also maintains a kind of hypocrisy. It’s the only country in the world that allows foreigners to come to commit suicide or to launder their ill-gotten money. Somehow staying profitably afloat by being neutral in the 2 World Wars, Switzerland became a haven for refugees, revolutionaries and espionage by Allied and Axis powers alike. Everyone banked with the Swiss, including the 6 million Jews that Hitler exterminated in the Holocaust.

Personally, I believe in the importance of human breath. Nobody can give life at will, human beings have human value. You may or may not agree, but I don’t believe any person has the right to cold-bloodedly take the life of another, whether in mercy killing or death sentence. Let’s hope India doesn’t take a decision in favour of euthanasia. That’s because, aside from moral, religious or human rights issues, there’s likelihood of it being misused.

To download above article in PDF devils workshop legalised

Financial Express link : http://www.financialexpress.com/news/devils-workshop-legalised/764835/0

(0) Comments   
Posted on 06-06-2010
Filed Under (CRIME) by Shombit


The symbol of America’s dark side is Alcatraz. But this former military prison and dreaded high-security federal penitentiary in California for 104 years also demonstrates the ultimate success of marketing action, that even this “Devil’s Island” of despair can be made into a tourist location.

Walking down San Francisco wharf is very enjoyable. There’s the famous organic food farmer’s market, restaurants offering fresh seafood, curio stores and you can see sea lions up close slide and growl with different gestures. The misty distance has small islands and a mysterious big ship-like rock that’s Alcatraz, which has inspired apparel outlets here to showcase prison-inspired fashion for men, women and children. The crowds in Pier 33 alert you to the rush for Alcatraz, a mile and a quarter away, used over time as a fort, a lighthouse and a prison. It’s now a part of the Golden Gate National Park that preserves its buildings, protects its birds and other wildlife and interprets its history. Visitors can go for a cellhouse tour to Alcatraz island.

The US Army first established a fort in Alcatraz in 1853 to protect the Golden Gate from Confederate raiders. It became a military prison from 1859 to 1933. As it was not a place with maximum security, several escape attempts were successful. Ingenious get-away methods included commandeering boats, using disguise and forged documents, drifting away on logs, smearing grease on the body to protect against the cold sea water and swimming away. But attempts by stealing a butter vat from the bakery or a bread kneading trough to paddle away in were unsuccessful.

When in 1934 the Federal Government took over Alcatraz, they made it escape-proof to correct dangerous criminals. But 14 escape bids have proved that daring crooks have extreme intelligence, breakaway thinking and will go to any length for freedom. In fact these attempts have inspired hundreds of novels and Hollywood films such as The Rock, Escape from Alcatraz, The Birdman of Alcatraz and Murder in the First.

To discourage escape attempts they used psychological tactics like revealing to prisoners that dangerous sharks abound, the frigid water was too cold at 58 degree Fahrenheit and the strong current at 6 to 8 mph would wash away swimmers. But that did not stop 36 men from trying to flee to freedom.

The first attempt was very desperate, the prisoner climbed a fence and was shot down. So other inmates realised that real escapes will take real planning. The tenth escape attempt was called the Battle of Alcatraz. For three days six inmates overpowered the guards, captured weapons and took over the cellhouse, but they could not get the keys to the exterior door. The battle ended with five dead, two guards and three prisoners, and two convicts were later executed. By the thirteenth escape bid, much more sophistication was used. Dummy heads were made with soap and human hair, left on the bed to fool the guards while three convicts climbed to the roof along a ventilator shaft, entered the water with floatation devices made from raincoats and were never seen again.

On a day-to-day basis Alcatraz was different from other prisons and more expensive. Each inmate had his own cell with a bed, toilet, basin, stool and table. Their clothing and bedding were frequently changed and laundered; meals were good and plentiful because officials realised that adequate food was conducive to good behaviour. After the 1950s, the well-lit cells were individually equipped with radio headsets that prison officials monitored and edited. From portholes inside, inmates could see San Francisco, and hear New Year celebrations, which probably inspired their dreams to run away.

“Hellcatraz” for some prisoners, life here was highly regimented, hard, with limited privileges. Pitch-dark solitary confinement for the most disobedient public enemies was meant to be for a maximum of 19 days, but rumour has it that it was more. In fact, prisoner Henri Young, part of the fourth escape bid with three others that sawed through window bars, scrambled to the water’s edge but were captured, made Alcatraz infamous when a 26-year-old rookie lawyer called James Martin MacInnis fought his case in court. After his escape bid, Young was allegedly confined to the underground “dungeon” for a long term. On return, he one day killed a fellow prisoner at the dining hall. His lawyer argued that this murder was not Young’s own doing but a consequence of the inhuman conditions at Alcatraz. In a landmark judgment, a 12-member jury found Young guilty of involuntary manslaughter, but added that the treatment of prisoners at Alcatraz was unbelievably brutal and inhuman. Young did not get the death sentence but was returned to Alcatraz.

By the 1960s, US Attorney General Robert F Kennedy ordered reevaluation for Alcatraz. Among other problems like escape bids becoming too powerful, Alcatraz was too expensive to run, needed heavy maintenance expenditure, and a national campaign to rehabilitate inmates was gathering momentum. The prison was closed on March 21, 1963. Since then, fanfare has been built around Alcatraz the museum. Tourist memorabilia include steel replicas of prisoner cups, prison keys and Alcatraz-branded chocolates.

To download above article in PDF Please Prison as irresistible tourist attraction

(0) Comments   
Posted on 30-05-2010
Filed Under (CRIME) by Shombit

From Discomfort Zone column by Shombit Sengupta in Financial Express and Indian Express

It’s a country where everybody is allowed to have a gun. Would you say danger lurks at every corner in the US so that a gun becomes a necessity? Crime is rife across world, but only in the US does it seem magnified as an extension of socio cultural life.

Of course Americans are scared of crime too, but they seem to lap it up as entertainment. Like mythological stories that every child listens to, American crime stories about gangsters and the Mafia, bank robbers and serial killers, drug cartels and bootleggers, guntoting cowboys and any number of tales of criminals have become the subject of films, comic books, TV shows. They cover bad Great Depression and prohibition times to famous prisons like Alcatraz, created to punish the most dangerous of criminals. Millions of American tourists and other foreign tourists have visited Alcatraz Island prison museum. Here you learn that disobeying society’s law gets you to prison, but disobeying prison laws takes you to Alcatraz. This maximum security federal penitentiary, jail to 1,576 crooks for 29 years upto 1963, overlooks San Francisco Bay where, in contrast, opulent American lifestyle is visible. I’ve never seen any museum so crowded that you don’t get a ticket on-the-spot. You have to do advance bookings. Even as you queue up to buy advance tickets or board the boat you can see crooks being hero worshipped. They are in large billboards with their quotes. “It looks like Alcatraz got me licked,” inmate 85 Al Capone, among the most dreaded criminals, had said. George ‘machine gun’ Kelly, Alcatraz inmate no. 117, recorded, “These five words seem to be written in fire on the wall of my cell: Nothing can be worth this!”  Just imagine, Americans like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs who’ve contributed so much to changing thought processes across the globe still don’t have a museum on their lives where the public can get inspired, but the famous crooks do. Alcatraz houses memoirs of these dangerous anti-socials. Banner stories abound of escape bids by 36 prisoners caught in the crossfire of bullets and strong undersea undercurrents. You can join an audio tour of former inmates, correctional officers and residents as they reminisce about life in Alcatraz. The thrill you experience is like visiting Disneyland or Universal Studios. But let me narrate that to you, blow by blow, next week so you enjoy the thundering storm of Alcatraz during the tenure it was open.

Can crime be a cultural phenomenon? American society has evolved from the killer instinct, from fights and battles that united 51 states. Of course their pioneering and inventive spirit that’s changed the world cannot be questioned. A multitude of crimes are committed here not for money or drugs, but because the criminal was psychologically or socially misbalanced, depressed or just plain bored, lonely, angry or wanted to kill. From real crime in high protection American prisons, writers write books that get translated into Hollywood blockbuster films, or programmes that get spectacular TV TRPs. Let me portray 3 live examples where FBI professionals have displayed deep sensitivity and the art of making prisoners talk for TV reality shows with eye-to-eye emotional conversations.

Case 1: Thirty-four-year-old Joe Rifkin told the FBI he was a serial killer. He brutally strangled 17 prostitutes and dumped their body parts all over the New York metropolitan area. “There were nights I’d be with two girls and then a third girl, and she would be the one I would kill,” he recalled. His bloody murders went unnoticed for four years until 1993 when he left the 17th girl’s corpse in his family garage for three summer days. The decomposed smell gave him away to the New York Police when he went to dispose of the body. Rifkin calmly recalled details of each of his murders. In his bedroom they discovered scores of items he collected from his victims. He said he would use these items to remind him of the crime and relive that sexual pleasure. He is serving 203 years in jail.

Case 2: Ron Luff followed Jeff Lundgren’s fanatic religious cult without hesitation in Kritland, Ohio. Lundgren used guilt to manipulate his 20 followers to eternal damnation mandated by God if they did not follow his every word. He would test their devotion by holding Bible classes from morning to 2 a.m., and making them fast while he ate lavish dinners in front of them. “The whole Ethiopian famine was personally attributed to my failure,” said Luff. “I remember tears coming out of my eyes and thinking, Oh my God, it’s my fault people are dead. I felt these things and they were real to me.”

Lundgren convinced Luff that Christ’s second coming will only be possible through human sacrifice. To “quench the fire of God” he chose to murder his followers, the Avory family. He made Luff dig a huge hole in the farm barn. Luff first brought the adults, tied their hands, mouth and eyes with duck tape while Lundgren shot them. The same routine was followed for their three small children, and they were all buried. Months later, Luff realised, “I began to doubt whether I could continue because God had gotten too ugly to follow anymore.” He gave himself up to the police which led to Jeffrey Lundgrens’s end too.

Case 3: Reginald McFadden, just out of prison two months ago in 1994 for two previous murders, gave his broken down Cadillac for repair. Shocked to hear the high cost of repair, he loitered around the Long Island railroad station. “There was rage, full rage in me. I decided to go ahead and go back into my hell. I got to a platform and there was Margaret Kierer,” he recounted about 78-year-old Margaret who become his third victim. McFadden attacked her, bound and dragged her to the backyard, brutally raped her and stabbed her to death. “I’m not remorseful. I’m not sorry. I don’t fear death. I have learned to hate white people. You mark your own fate,” he said.

To download above article in PDF Crime as cultural phenomenon

Financial Express link:http://www.indianexpress.com/news/crime-as-cultural-phenomenon/626906/0

(0) Comments   
Posted on 23-05-2010
Filed Under (CRIME) by Shombit

The Indian EXPRESS/ The Financial EXPRESS article

Let’s watch a Broadway show called “Times Square circus and crime.”

Act 1. Overflowing with digital billboards and neon lights, New York’s Times Square at night looks like Las Vegas, the vibrant US gambling city. An amphitheatre seating gallery has been built under the famous Coca Cola advertisement landmark where people sit only to watch other people, illumination, billboards and street entertainment events. In 12 degree Celsius temperature, a very handsome, muscular playboy in just a v-shaped underwear and cowboy hat is creating showbiz, singing with a guitar. With “naked cowboy” written on his backside, he’s got women of all age groups joyfully flocking to him. He reaches out to the women, and creates an erotic pose for a souvenir photograph they carry back home. Holding a woman chest-to-chest, he takes off his hat and puts it in front of her face, as though he is pushing through a strong kiss on her bent body. Another much loved photographic pose is bottom-to-bottom. He takes the woman’s hand, places it on his exaggerated sitting-in-the-air “naked cowboy” backside, takes his own hand and puts it on her backside even as he pouts a kiss to her. Sometimes he does a tango dance putting his leg in an erotic gesture between the woman’s legs. The woman’s companion clicks the picture while she happily gives him some money that he puts inside his guitar as though it were a piggy bank. In return he gives her a post card to remember him by; in actual fact it’s his business card. Police presence is high here, even mounted police on horseback, but they have a very public friendly attitude, and everybody is in a hearty mood having a rollicking time.

Suddenly a beautiful woman passes by manifesting a picture of President Barack Obama in a billboard hanging on her neck. She has a tray of condoms at the bottom of Obama’s smiling face. She’s proudly selling “Obama condoms.” Men and women criss-cross her, open up their purses and buy Obama condoms with no qualms, complexity or fuss. You may argue that this shows genuine liberty in the hands of American people, that anyone can brand even an intimate product like condoms with the President’s face and openly sell it on the street. Perhaps it could mean the President is passing on a friendly message on AIDS prevention. That’s breakthrough action really. We can never imagine that any politician in India would allow his or her name to be associated with AIDS; in fact AIDS is a subject we fear continuously and try to hide its existence.

Suddenly in another corner, a highly decorated pink collapsible van, almost like a festival float, drives in slowly. Dramatically made up poster girls give live demonstrations of a color cosmetic brand. Women walking on the street suddenly get up and sit on gaudy chairs outside the flashy pink van to experience what it feels like to be made up and look like Hollywood stars being watched by adoring crowds. In such ostentatious surroundings there is unexpectedly the irony of homeless people carrying their worn out luggage in trolley bags. They ask people for money and sleep on the road. Beggars are commonplace in India, but in Times Square it’s shocking to see beggars.

Act 2. As my colleague and I were walking down Broadway through Times Square, I was telling her about how the advent of terrorism has made European countries like France change even their street dust bin systems. They now use huge, transparent, plastic bags as dust bins on the streets so everything discarded inside is very visible from the outside. But the US still uses hard, opaque plastic dust bins on the street. We reached Juniors restaurant on West 45th Street, had a quick bite and stepped out at 7 pm. Suddenly the police had cordoned off the Times Square area with a yellow ribbon to stop passers by. I always carry my video camera in hand to collect social aspects in society when I travel so I was covering this incident even as it unfolded. It appeared fun at the initial stage and went on to become dramatic.

Act 3. We were made to walk back towards 8th Avenue. Lots of cameramen started to shoot the scene. The police first used a yellow ribbon then pushed us back a little more. The original yellow ribbon spot now had a red ribbon. We smelt danger. Suddenly fire brigades were bracketing the road. Ambulances started to make their appearance.
Manhattan’s Broadway, the theatre district, was about to swing into action at 8 pm, A few young actors and actresses were seen trying to negotiate entry to the barricaded streets as they had to rush for their theatre performance. Theatre musicians with their huge cellos and violins did not know what to do. An actress was pushed aside by a burly fire brigade man, and she fell down on the road. A rumor ran through in lightning speed amongst this public that a building on Times Square was on fire. Part of the public speculated that terrorists have struck while others ran for cover. The cynical ones suspected that the police were running through a dummy test to keep themselves busy instead of enjoying the fun activities of the street. Electronic shops on Broadway were vociferous in voicing their gripes. Here finally it was a bright sunny day and they expected to make some money. As it is the Icelandic volcano had depleted their business on account of low tourist arrivals, and now this loss. They proactively offered 80% discount but there were no takers. People were scared, irritated, concerned and angry, and even having some fun with this heavy police action. Every now and then they’d try to defy the cops by pushing at the red ribbon, and the police would retaliate with warning words and gestures.

But my colleague and I were totally blocked on 8th Avenue for nearly 3 hours. In a corner of 45th St and 8th Ave I spotted a woman police officer. She whispered to me that they are expecting some heavy explosion somewhere in Times Square. I called my sister-in-law in San Francisco and my wife in India to check out what’s happening from CNN breaking news. At 10 pm we were allowed to walk in the periphery of the heavily populated Times Square area, now totally vacant and eerie.
Conclusion. On returning to my hotel I got the news from CNN at 2am on 2 May 2010 that it’s no more a hallucination of my Broadway show, it’s a reality show. I was dining on 45th Street, even as the action happened between 44th and 45th Streets. A robot was directed to conduct investigations and defuse any bomb in the suspected car which had smoke spewing out from it. This was the real Broadway show in the heart of Times Square with NYPD (New York police department) as the actors. The curiosity of the masses was still high. Everybody wanted to watch the show from the sidelines, and it certainly was a hit in real life. Only in America can you see things so spectacularly. In world famous Times Square where the New York Times originated, unique things can happen, from entertainment to catastrophe. We were enjoying the different acts, and saw the face of the policemen change from indulging people’s fun to controlling them towards safety without causing panic so as to ensure that Times Square will never become a deserted place in future. It’s commendable that they controlled the vast crowds with skilful and sensitive police work.

A recent American TV program I saw had an administrative authority request citizens to help by immediately reporting whatever suspicious moves they see, as it’s not always possible for a central source to detect acts of terrorism which are extremely vulnerable. It’s a good suggestion that we too can take up in India to save our people’s lives.

To download above article in PDF Please Times Square circus and crime

(0) Comments    Read More