Is it because of our feudal mindset that we have instinctive disregard for the lives of the poor and the weak? Besides various incidents of inhuman treatment of poor men and women, harassment, beating, sexual exploitation and killing of housemaids occurring on a regular basis in our country point to the existing sad reality in our society. On January 21, the police arrested a woman, who is a bank officer, her daughter and her sister-in-law on a charge of killing their 18-year-old maid, Uzma Bibi, in Lahore. The maid was tortured and killed for helping herself to some meat from a curry. According to the police, the bank officer hit Uzma on the head with a kitchen utensil after which her condition started to deteriorate. Instead of taking her to a hospital, the bank officer’s daughter and her female relative strangled her and dumped the body in a sewerage drain. The bank officer has confessed to committing the crime. The bank officer called Uzma’s family and told them that the girl had disappeared after committing a theft. The maid was paid Rs4,000 a month as salary. Live-in servants work long hours and yet they are treated so harshly.
In a related development, on January 29 Prime Minister Imran Khan lifted the ban on entry of maids in elite clubs. In a tweet, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi described the step as removing symbols of elitism and colonial mindset. We welcome the decision as it removes the long-persisting abominable practice of the colonial era where the British rulers kept themselves aloof from the inferior natives. Here a cautionary tale is in order. When Gulliver returned to London from Lilliput, he used to warn people to move aside to avoid being harmed by him for he thought that he was still living with the Lilliputians. Habits are difficult to overcome.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2019.