It was with helplessness that I read an article in one of the newspapers about how school kids in certain areas of Karachi were not able to attend their school safely because of prevailing tensions between two ethnic groups- both Pakistanis, both Muslims of the same sect. A kid claimed he was friends with his schoolmates from the other ethnic community and they even played together after school, but now the same friends say they could not play with him anymore.
Another article read of how Hindus in Baluchistan who have been living there for centuries were fearful of sending their kids to schools due to escalated kidnappings for ransom and killings of the community. Although they have no animosity with the Muslims in neighborhood, they all scared to mingle.
In brief, the hatred of a handful prevailed over the helplessness of the lot.
Before I could finish, the news broke of Karachi blast in the DHA where along with others, an innocent passerby mom and her 5 year old son got killed.
What prevailed here too was nothing but hatred.
I know first hand, exactly how it feels to be helpless in the face of hatred.
I was a first year medical student in Lady Hardinge Medical College, situated in the heart of New Delhi, when Indira Gandhi was assassinated on 31 October 1984. The mayhem spread as faster than the spread of the news. As if a riot button was switched on. Delhi’s panorama was puking smoke of hatred from every direction.
Parents were coming to pick up their daughters, from the college hostel, and narrating the harrowing tales of watching limbs and other body parts splattered across the killing fileds that Delhi roads had turned into. I remember how a Sikh girl from my class sat cautiously frozen in the crowd of girls in the hostel’s TV room. She broke down when she learnt that her brother had left home an hour ago to pick her up. No one reassured her not to cry or to worry for her brothers safety. Not a single parent even offered to drop her home. Why would I blame others, when I felt the same helplessness, and feared what will happen when my parents come, will they be reluctant to take her too.
Ultimately, along with her and a few other girls, I ended up staying back to spend the terrible night in the hostel. The city had turned into an open house of looting and rampage. Next day on my way back home, all I saw was roads stained with fresh blood, a charred and empty shop after every few well preserved shops and selectively burn’t buildings along the way to home. Though I did not have the courage to give a second look, but I did see a glimpse of most likely a charred body lying inside a burnt shop.
At home everyone shared their eye witness accounts. Our house boy Jung Bahadur described how the shacks(jhuggis) in the slums of Mangolpuri and Sultanpuri were stocked with stacks of VCRs, TVs and other electronics. He even shared how some dead bodies were piled together, doused with kerosene and burnt to ashes. Papa had witnessed a headless body being carried in an autorickshaw.
I do not remember how and when did the Sikh girl go home, but we learnt days later that her brother could neither arrive at the college, nor ever return back home. His body was identified some days later in the morgue.
Again, amidst the helplessness of us all, hatred prevailed like a king.
The same story was repeated with my parents, as they were left in the cold, during the riots in December 1992, that followed Babri Masjid demolition. Many Muslim houses were chalked in Delhi, including those of IAS officers, doctors, cricketers, poets etc.
In fact some like Bashir Badr’s house in Meerut was actually attacked. It was after this incident that Bashir Badr wrote this shair:
Log toot jaatey hain, ek ghar banane mein
Tum taras nahin khaatey bastiyaan jalane mein.
Being staunch beleivers of Indian secularism, my parents had proudly built a house in 1977 in a University housing cooperative compound where his colleagues and other University professors resided. We were only 2 Muslim houses in a colony of 238 lots, but that was besides the point. However, that cold and lonely December night none of our neighbors, his University colleagues or friends came forward to even reassure them of support in case of any danger. There was a criminal silence from friends and neighbors.
As my mother narrated later, that was the first time she saw my father cry with tears, not for his life, but at the ‘sudden’ transformation in hearts of trusted and indeological friends for several decades. My parents had packed their car with valuables, in case they had to leave. Once the crisis was over, a few friends did come up, begging their helplessness.
Once again, amidst the intelligentsia of the society, hatred took an upper hand .
My grandfather often narrated of an incident when during the 1947 riots a Sikh boy had come to drop a pregnant Muslim woman to Matia Mahal, Jama Masjid area, but was not let to go back alive, despite the helpless cries from the woman’s family to spare her saviour.
The helpless family members could do nothing as the hatred reigned.
I know I can never be able to guess from where this business of hatred all began, but can we really dare dream a day when the hatred propagated by a handful of vested interests will not prevail over the helpless masses ?
This reminded me of a discourse I had read about the controversy between Tagore and Gandhi during the non-cooperation movement against the British in 1930s.
Tagore had warned Gandhi by saying: “….besides, hatred of the foreigner could later turn into a hatred of Indians different from oneself.”
Gandhi on the other hand believed that this non-cooperation would dissolve Hindu-Muslims differences.
Ultimately Tagore was proved right, and Gandhi had to shift his non cooperation against the British into a non violent movement.
The same corollary of Tagore’s could easily be applied to the situation in Pakistan, too.
What began as a hatred for the foreign faiths has turned into hatred among Pakistanis different from each other.
And ironically a handful of vested interest first made the helpless common Pakistanis hate the foreign faiths and now have turned the Pakistanis of different sects and ethnicities hate each other.
This business of hate has to stop somewhere. Whether it is for a fellow Indian/ Pakistani of different ethnicity, of a different faith or of a foreigner of different color, we have to shout in the face of hatred: “Enough is enough”.
Or else, as poet E E Cummings lamented: Hatred bounces.