Swami Gulagulaananda asked:
"Given the ability to kill a person at will, would you kill all criminals or would you feel that killing criminals is a crime, and that would put me in the same basket as them?"
A very interesting question, this is also the theme of very popular anime series, "Deathnote" and popular TV show, "Dexter". This question is being asked to each of you, because there is always a difference between the politically correct answer, and the answer that you feel crying out from within, which is often suppressed, because you don't want others to look at you in a weird manner, although, many times, they also feel the same.
If you know that a certain person has committed a crime, should you allow the justice machinery to take care of it? Or should you step in and take law into your hands and serve your version of justice? Let me give you some simple real life examples.
Consider the infamous Mumbai attacks of 26/11. We know that certain terrorists have committed the heinous crime, and most of them, thanks to our brave warriors, are dead. However, we have one surviving comrade of theirs. There is always a debate about what needs to be done with this man. The initial answer was to get as much information out of him as possible, in order to get to the bottom of this. Now that we are at the bottom of it, and after squeezing all the possible juice of information out of him, must we allow him to live? This question enters many minds. He apparently sucks out a lot of money from the treasury, for his maintenance and food. Is it not simpler to kill him? After all, we already have a lot of evidence aganist him, and yet we let him live. Ok, we'll keep this aside for the moment.
Let's take another "popular" figure down here in the South. Mr. Pramod Muthalik, the chief of Sri Rama Sene. He committed some crimes of beating up women for whatever reasons he had. Now, a lot of people were aware of the crimes, but then, people were not satisfied with the type of justice dispensed. So, what needs to be done about it becomes the question...
That's the difference between Gandhi and the others. Gandhi had a tremendous amount of patience and non violence flowing in his very veins. So, though Gandhi saw a large number of atrocities happening around him, he always took it in the chin, and never resorted to, nor incite
others to resort to violence. Why did he take this approach? It's simply for the 'moral right' as it's plainly put. Moral rights and moral courage are two words that are quite interesting. What I am trying to say is, if Pramod Muthalik beats up people, and you go beat up or put ink on Muthalik's face, then you automatically lose the moral right to comment about his violence. Or rather, that is the topic of this discussion - Whether you do lose the moral right or if it's justified to hurt someone who is wrong and has hurt others.
Deathnote puts it very well, by giving the protagonist the power to kill anyone by giving him a book with supernatural powers that allows him to kill anyone he pleases by writing their names in the book. He uses it to kill criminals by dispensing his version of justice. Such people develop God complex, similar to a dictator or a king, because the entire power of life and death comes in their hand, and they get to kill whoever they please, and we should trust in their judgement.
There is another group, similar to Gandhi, which says that if you go around killing people, perpetrators or otherwise, then you yourself are a criminal. Unlike the first group which feels that they don't mind becoming criminals for the sake of "cleansing" the society, the second group believes in keeping a clean conscience. They claim that there is no guarantee that the first group will not get corrupt because of their power. This is the reason you shouldn't do the very same thing that you are opposing - You will lose the moral right to talk against it later on... This sounds a lot like practice what you preach. Interestingly, this is against, contradicting, the other famous quote of Swami Gulagulaananda, when he said
"If I am a chain smoker and you are one, and I ask you to quit smoking saying that smoking causes cancer, you should be verifying if what I said is true or false, and then if true, quit smoking for your own good instead of telling me to mind my business as I smoke myself. The advice is for your own good, and you are the one who will suffer, irrespective of whether I suffer or not. We should be looking into the truth of the matter. " [in this post]