The silencing of Samina Sindhu

Published: April 14, 2018
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The writer is the co-founder of Women’s Advancement Hub and tweets @AishaFSarwari

The writer is the co-founder of Women’s Advancement Hub and tweets @AishaFSarwari

In Larkana, boys will be boys. This feudal town, where oppression is linked to how landed you are, festers a super-bug kind of misogyny, one that no feminism can antidote. In Larkana, boys will be misogynists because they invariably get away with it. In Larkana, boys will be cruel to women because no woman they know has dignity. The meek deserve pain.

The women they know live in their deleted internet histories, in four walls of women’s quarters, in the darkest of veils, in their mother’s submissiveness, in their sister’s silence and in their wives son bearing abilities. In Larkana, the boys know only of women who can never say no. Can never challenge their privilege. Can never make them feel like they need to put in an effort to earn women’s trust or God forbid, respect.

In Larkana, boys only earn the respect of other men. More landed men. More powerful men. Men who can certainly hurt them more. Men who can enforce more order. Men who can instill more fear. Men who have far more ways of erasing them than they will ever come up with. Men who can shame them for generations to come.

In Larkana, Tariq Jatoi is such a boy. He shot a young eight-month pregnant mother while she performed and sang on stage for what was supposed to be a merry event. Samina Sindhu sang sweetly into a hand-held microphone, sitting cross-legged, hoping at the end of it all she could go home with a wage for her folk art. He silenced her instead. It is harrowing to see her in a viral social media video, singing one minute, dropping to the floor the next.

Tariq Jatoi murdered her because he’d asked her to dance on command and she’d said no in public. Instead she only stood up and continued singing. He silenced her because she only obeyed him half way, and half way is not good enough for boys from Larkana. It has to be all the way, because their power is absolute.

I say their power is absolute because Samina Sindhu’s husband who was behind her playing the harmonium said that Tariq Jatoi was inebriated and provoked to be violent by the reader of a sessions’ court judge, Niaz Junejo. As another Larkana boy, Niaz went bro-talk on Tariq Jatoi and asked him the question: “How dare she say no to you?”

The ‘how dare’ question is a very Larkana question, but it is one that reverberates with almost all Pakistani men. The nerve. A woman cannot have nerve. The reason she cannot have nerve is because she will not have anyone save her. The patriarchy is not going anywhere, so where did she get the nerve and dare and spunk. Who put that idea in her head?

Her husband is too marred by class struggle to instill fear in either Tariq Jatoi or Niaz Junejo. The FIR that was lodged, didn’t even mention Niaz Junejo’s provocation despite her husband’s repeated instance that it is included. Jatoi is going to walk away scot-free because the diyat laws in Pakistan allow the family to be bought off by blood money. As a reader of the sessions court judge, Niaz, the Larkana boy, knows this much – his patriarchy has impunity. He too walks away, not even a slap on the wrist.

Just like these Larkana men know of no woman who commanded respect, said no to a man, and lived to tell, they know of no privileged landed man, who abused his privilege and got punished for it. It just never happens. Not in jirgas, not in literature, not in folklore.

Women who sing, also analogous to sin, deserve even less patience from drunk angry men. Men who have their masculinity threated by their peers, need not put reason over passion.

Unless something drastic happens, like an already misogynist judiciary, intervenes with a suo moto, Larkana boys, and boys across the country will sit around a desert bonfire and regale each other with stories of how yet another woman forgot her place.

The music will stop. Someone else, beautiful and kind, in need and weary from the long day will sit up on stage and obey. She may even dance. Who knows she may be shot for dancing. Either way the music will go on.

I wonder what song Samina Sindhu was singing. I wonder if it was about intimacy or love. I wonder if it was about happiness. Singing in front of drunken dirty men of tenderness and care, can only feel like a sham. We are all Samina Sindhu. All women – we think we can push against a flawed system and get a breakthrough, if only we work harder, get more empowered, be more desirable, more polite, more famed, stronger, more articulate, faster, wealthier – but there are Larkana men everywhere. They just shoot us down mid song no matter what our strategy.

Rest in peace, Samina Sindhu. Your silence rings louder than your song.

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