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Power of forgiveness

Many have forgiven their tormentors, assassins of their own family members to lead a peaceful life. Sabrina Lal, gladys staines, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi are some of them

The burden of anger seeps into life and makes it bitter. Evolved people understand this simple fact. Forgiveness is a virtue. Mahatma Gandhi forgave his assassin. Pope John Paul II made peace with his own failed killers in a prison cell two year after they tried to assassinate him. Perhaps, this is the reason why Jessica Lal’s sister Sabrina Lal earlier this week, speaking to ANI, express her ‘no objection’ to the release of her sister’s assassin Manu Sharma from Tihar Jail. Sabrina holds no grudges against Sharma, any more.
Manu, son of former Congress leader Venod Sharma, had shot Jessica on her forehead when she refused to serve him liquor at Tamarind Court restaurant, owned by socialite and designer Bina Ramani, at Delhi’s Qutub Colonnade on April 29, 1999. Sabrina was driven by sole motive to have Manu convicted. “I have been fighting for this since 1999. He has spent 15 years in jail. You need to let go off anger. I thought it is okay if Manu Sharma walks free. There is no specific reason. You need to rest your mind and move on with your life. I have no objection if the court releases him.” Sharma has already spent 12 years.
However, the social equations of a stratified society – the rich and influential are privileged — pervades the jail. He was never an ordinary prisoner of Delhi’s Tihar Jail; his stay was marred with controversies. He got seven paroles in nine years, for various reasons like grandmother’s funeral, writing examination, and many more. On one occasion when he was out on parole to attend to his “seriously ill” mother, he was spotted at a nightclub and had to return to jail 12 days earlier when it came to be known that the then Sheila Dikshit government allegedly ensured a month-long parole. Last year, he was shifted to an ‘open jail’ where he’s allowed to go out during the day and return in the evening.
Forgiveness and reconciliation are preached in all religions of the world to be able to lead a positive life. It’s not unprecedented for people to pardon their tormentors, assassins of their own family members. Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a woman suicide bomber of LTTE, led by Prabhakaran, in 1991. In 2008, 17 years later, Priyanka Gandhi, his daughter, met Nalini Murugan, one of the women serving a life sentence for her role in the assassination conspiracy. It was “a purely personal visit that I undertook completely on my own initiative,” Priyanka had clarified. Later in a statement she reiterated, “I don’t believe in anger, hatred, and violence. And I refuse to allow it to overpower my life.”

In this undated file photograph, Indian model Jessica Lal poses for a photographer. Lal was murdered in a trendy restaurant in New Delhi, shot in the head at point blank range 30 April 1999, by a guest to whom she refused to sell alcohol to. AFP PHOTO / AFP PHOTO / STR

More recently, while interacting with IIM alumni in Singapore last month, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, said that he and his sister, Priyanka, have “completely forgiven” the killers of their father. “We were very upset and hurt and for many years we were quite angry. But, somehow, completely…in fact, completely (forgiven)…..” and contextualised it by saying, “We knew that my father was going to die. We knew that my grandmother was going to die. In politics, when you mess with the wrong forces, and if you stand for something, you will die. That’s pretty clear.”
Violence and loss in his family has not made Rahul bitter for he can emphathise with the family of anyone killed. When Rahul saw Prabhakaran, head of LTTE, lying dead on TV in 2009, he felt bad for him and his children. “I understood deeply what it meant to be on the other side of that thing.” He’s acutely aware that there’s a human being involved, who has a family and children. “I have been through a lot of pain to get this and it is something I consider very valuable. I find it difficult to hate people, even my sister does,” he added.
Forgiveness doesn’t change the past, but it makes future better. Eva Kor, an Auschwitz survivor, who was administered toxic injections for almost a year as part of the Nazi human experimentation programme, pardoned the Nazi doctor, Hans Munch, who wrote to her and other survivors seeking forgiveness. She used every bad word she could find in the dictionary to describe him. Then she forgave him.
“I could not think of anything appropriate,” Kor had said. Ten months later, on the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in 1995, Kor decided to forgive all the Nazis who had worked on the experiments. “I discovered that I had one power left in life,” she said in an interview,
“I felt such freedom. I was no longer a tragic prisoner. I was free of Auschwitz and I was free of Mengele. Forgiveness is the seed of peace.”
Back in India, in 2003, when Dara Singh and 12 others were handed out death sentences for filling Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons, his widow Gladys issued a statement that she felt no rancour. “I have forgiven the killers and have no bitterness because forgiveness brings healing and our land needs healing from hatred and violence. Forgiveness and the consequences of the crime should not be mixed up,” she said from her home in Baripada town of Orissa, where she continued to run the leprosy home run by her husband.
“God in Christ has forgiven me and expects His followers to do the same. The Bible says: “To whomsoever you forgive their sins will be forgiven”. Therefore, in the light of eternity we all need forgiveness of our sins to enter heaven,’’ Gladys Staines said.