Oppression survives through silence

Two young boys are brutally killed in broad daylight. The killers ferociously thrash the innocent boys to death. They drag the dead bodies in the street and finally hang them. A throng stands closely watching the atrocity. It is a huge throng, of elderly, adults, young, tender age children. Yet, not a single soul has a shred of humanity to raise a cry, let alone stop the vicious manslaughter.

Who is more condemnable: the heinously silent crowd; the cannibal killers or both evenly?

I once read a quote by Dante Alighieri “the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality”. Having read it a long time back, I did not understand it much then, but after watching the footage of this incident, its meaning clearly revealed on me.

This event may not have caused so much fury and distress nationwide had it taken place in the confines of a house. What gave to this incident grievous and agonizing overtone is the fact that it happened while a large crowd stood by. Everyone watched standing at their places, weak to do anything. No one felt sympathy or pain for those boys being violently beaten. As if no sense of morality and humanity ever prevailed.

Dante’s quotation most probably alludes to such people who witness crime and injustice but maintain their protective silence. Hence, they are equal culprits of the crime, rather more despicable. Their silence not only gives tacit approval to criminals that they can carry out the crime but also condones them. In the Sialkot incident, people who stood there while the violence ensued entirely undeterred in their presence, and who had all the power and muscle to prevent it, should be as severely punished as the main culprits. While the killers flayed the innocent boys mercilessly, it was the moral and human responsibility of the bystanders that they should have stopped those who were executing the massacre, and were only few in numbers.

The other most disturbing aspect about this incident is that how could people mishandle law that blatantly. The foundations for this gruesome murder were probably laid when people immolated a thief and then paraded the corpse in the city, without any response or punitive action from the government. A policeman stood gallantly in the patrolling car amid the caravan of people, as if this act of sheer barbarism is heroic. What rationale could there be for such acts in any civilized and educated society? Poverty, frustration, present condition of Pakistan, et al but isn’t the feeling of humanity and compassion above all this. Media also showed that disconcerting footage as if it is an illustration of bravery, instead of reproaching and castigating it. There was no hue and cry from public against those responsible for ensuring law, are abusing it themselves.

But that is not it. Take a look at the bigger picture. Every day we hear news about drone attacks and the scores that get killed. We conveniently assume that those dead are always terrorists and that contends us back to our snug lives. Neither our politicians nor members of civil society stage any outcry or demand that terrorists should be tried in court, rather than inhumanely killed in air raids. After all, justice should not be elusive-even to terrorists.

What kind of society are we becoming? This is a thought-provoking and solemn question to every sensible citizen who wishes to preserve the basic human values and wants to see the society safe and secure for generations yet unborn. While justice becomes a quaint notion in our society, oppression and violence is becoming the norms. Martin Luther King, in his essay ‘ Three ways of meeting Oppression’ leads a discourse on the three ways to resist oppression namely through acquiescence, through hatred and violence and lastly , through nonviolent resistance. Few lines of essays are notable in the context of the issue in hand, which are ‘to accept passively an unjust system is to cooperate with that system; thereby the oppressed become as evil as the oppressor. Non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good….. Religion reminds every man that he is his brother’s keeper. To accept injustice or segregation passively is to say to the oppressor that his actions are morally right.’

Thus, whether the act of oppression directly affects us or is remotely linked to us, it is trivial or significant; whether it is an isolated incident like the one in Sialkot or the recurring as drone attacks; whether it relates to people of different religion, for example the Gojra killing and attack on Ahmedis holy places, or it is the sectarian violence; we need to condemn it and its perpetrators. This is only possible if we think on human level, irrespective of the faith, race, creed we belong to and also, this is the only way to make justice possible.

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