Opinion: A Defense of Dharun Ravi

Rutgers student Dharun Ravi, whose online spying on his roommate, Tyler Clementi, has been blamed for Clementi’s subsequent suicide, has became a nationwide symbol of anti-gay bullying, even as a debate has raged over the appropriate punishment for the young man. After he was convicted of charges that included invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, tampering with a witness and evidence, and lying to law enforcement officials, Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

But throughout the public controversy, Ravi’s support in one community has not flagged: South Asian immigrants have rallied for Ravi, and defended him against his harshest critics. In News India Times last week, Sunil Adam lashed out against the judge who admonished Ravi during his sentencing, and accused newspapers that have criticized Ravi of hypocrisy.

Photo via The News India Times

The judge should have also known better than to chastise Dharun for not apologizing and not showing remorse considering that it could have been the defense strategy to keep Dharun silent, along with the decision not to let him testify during the trial and not make a statement during the sentencing. Particularly bewildering is how Dharun, setting aside the legal implications, was supposed to have conveyed his remorse, beyond what is already evident in his demeanor before the court and his conduct outside. The judge also seemed to have ignored the unsuccessful attempts by the Ravi family to reach out to the Clementis.

Adam is also skeptical of The New York Times editorial urging Ravi to “take responsibility for his actions and demonstrate he is worthy of the justice he received from Judge Berman.”

Really?

Consider this: The kid who beat up and cut the hair of his gay schoolmate can run to become the president of the United States and the guy who experimented with all kinds of drugs, including cocaine, gets to be the president. But the child who has no history of any kind of bias, or is guilty of any bad habit, let alone an illegal one, plays a prank on his roommate who was making out with a “dude” for a few juvenile giggles, has to show remorse and apologize? For what? Just so he can get to live the life of a convicted felon?

Everyone seems to agree with Judge Berman’s characterization of Dharun’s actions as reflecting “colossal insensitivity,” but no one seems to ask themselves how many 18-year-olds are capable of showing “colossal sensitivity” in a dorm, that too, toward gay sexual behavior that even mature adults struggle to come to grips with.

Adam expresses sympathy for Ravi’s ordeal.

Looking at Dharun all through the trial, all I saw was a child who was petrified by all that was happening to him and around him – the police, the prosecutors, the media, the isolation, the alienation, the anguish of his parents and, aside from all the legalities and whether he admits it to himself or not, the latent guilt by association in the death of his roommate. In that stoical composure, I could only see him bottle up all these emotions, fears, bewilderment and, most of all, defenselessness.

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