A rattan used for whipping approximately looks like this
Countries pay anal attention to details while creating their penal system.*
The high profile Indian editor Tarun Tejpal, currently in prison on charges of rape, has now been booked for possessing a mobile phone inside the prison in Goa. Mobile phones are a prohibited article under the Indian Prisons Act of 1894. Like many laws in India this one too dates back to the colonial British times.
Out of morbid curiosity I decided to read the act because what is more uplifting than reading a prison act early morning? Like all acts, once you get past the painfully legalistic language, this one too gives you a glimpse inside the minds of those who seek to rule. I was particularly struck by this very precise provision in the act which prescribes punishment for possession of a prohibited article.
“Whipping shall be inflicted with a light ratan** not less than half an inch in diameter on the buttocks, and in case of prisoners under the age of sixteen it shall be inflicted, in the way of school discipline, with a lighter ratan.”
The attention to detail is depressing. The Englishman/men who would have originally drafted this would have thought about everything, including the possibility a light rattan smaller than half an inch in diameter might break or bend or become tattered when repeatedly used against the colonized buttocks. I am fairly certain the British would have conducted experiments with rattans of different diameters again an object approximating human buttocks to ensure at what precise diameter the cane breaks or bends.
The reason why the provision prescribes punishment “in the way of school discipline, with a lighter ratan” is because corporal punishment was often a part of the British education system.
It is not my suggestion that Tejpal’s buttocks be introduced to a light rattan no less than half an inch in diameter although his accuser may not mind that too much. The reason why Tejpal and others might allegedly possess inside the prison is because there is corruption in the prison system that willfully lets such articles slip in for a consideration.
From Tejpal’s point of view, being accused of illegal possession does not necessarily make things any worse than they already are. He is facing rape charges and, if found guilty, getting whipped on the buttocks would seem like a distraction.
* This sentence is fraught with Freudian possibilities. It was born fully formed in my mind as I began writing the post.
** The more widely accepted spelling of ratan is rattan but the British used one ‘t’ which of course does not reduce the severity of whipping.