I said it before, I will say it again: if you were to open up a textbook, it will give you the elaborate details on why the Muslims of the subcontinent ended up demanding a separate territory. It was perceived that when the British were going to vacate India, the Muslims would face the hegemony and persecution from a more vocal and dominant Hindu majority. The religious angle was exploited to the core at that juncture and, needless to say, it serves as a rallying cry till this day. When you look at it very closely, it is hollow and, at least in this scribe’s unpopular opinion, a brazen eyewash.
Independence is celebrated with utmost fervour and people get tangled with clichés, catchphrases, patriotic songs, couplets, slogans and dialogues. Yet, very rarely, people reflect what it truly means to be independent, to lead one’s life without fear, persecution, exploitation and within the ambit and framework of law — all constitutionally protected freedoms, such as religion, assembly and free speech, without any negative influence of the state or any other actor. There needs to be access to the basic necessities of life like food, water, clothing, utilities, access to education and the potential of elevating life on the basis of economic opportunities, where competition is fair and innovation thrives, where law is respected and justice is truly blind. If this narrative sounds very utopian and as if it is taken out of some movie script, then I am afraid and very respectfully say that we are enjoying make-believe independence.
What an irony that, in this day and age, the same country is under constant threat and fear from its co-religionists and the ‘misguided’ citizens. Peaceful citizens are afraid to assemble in their places of worship or celebrate certain days without constant intimidation. A prevailing sense of insecurity looms over the shoulders of many, not knowing if they will make it back to their homes from school or work. The mouthpieces of the holy government shrug their shoulders and act helpless and hapless, reminding ordinary citizens how this is a fact of life. Roll the tape back to let us say March or April 2013, and it was all because of a careless man called Zardari that this country was in such a mess. No, this is not my opinion but the ones who wanted the people to shell out their vote — this was the perfect piñata to beat. Now, with Zardari removed from the front seat and his colourful interior minister, with his equally colourful neckties gone, it sure seems like the traffic of reality hits a new glitch every day.
The current interior minister is focused on the pitch of ‘talks’. He wants to ‘talk’ the walk and knows full well that when it comes to the ‘walk’, you have to just do it. This man comes up with new ideas every day to convince his fellow co-religionists, who are ‘upset’ about something, to take these overtures of peace very seriously. The other side has given the interior minister a clear rejection on any such offers but he is one man made of one heck of a thick material, thicker than steel. Unaffected by any such rejections, he tries to improve on his ‘pick up’ lines. Heck, the Maulana who has a strange relationship with sandwiches and the other who is hell bent on sending dogs to heaven have been approached to mediate as well. One sits and wonders how in the world these two holy men became near and dear to unholy warriors. This is of course a million dollar question, and no one dares to answer it.
The state is busy bestowing the title of martyr on daily victims. The newswires show a new martyr a day. The land has become self-sufficient in producing this group of people without fail. Sometimes it is soldiers, sometimes women and children, sometimes police officers and occasionally schoolchildren who are supposed to be inside their classrooms, battling with suicide bombers and, of course, earning the title of ‘martyrs’. People take comfort in this martyrdom business because it gives them something to feel good about. In the prevailing sense of despair, if nothing else, the people are creating and supplying a daily army of heroes.
Without diminishing the role of such victims who become martyrs every day so that they become the basis of a new hash tag on Twitter, one is compelled to ask: freedom where art thou? The citizens come together to better their lives and the lives of their loved ones in a country. Here they end up giving their lives for the sake of some ‘feel good’ cliché. When it comes to bestowing the title of martyr, everyone is for it but let me ask a few painful yet extremely simple questions: who are you at war with? What do they want and what do you want? If you are at war, then accept and own this war. Do not play the confused lamb. Admit it and go all the way. Let me part with another painful reality. Day by day, the grip on the capital is eroding. At this rate, that day is coming closer when our enemy will be in the capital — provided we consider them our enemy. The people claiming to be right at this moment will keep their heads buried deeper and deeper in the sand. It sure seems like they are talking. The fact is it is always good to talk, especially when you are talking to yourself.
The anthropologist Jack Weatherford once wrote, “Every society produces its own cultural ...