Violence is now a characteristic of South Asia. Our people do not hesitate to kill and plunder and terrorise the minute they are confronted with views they do not agree with, resistance that they want to subdue, as increasingly weak governments fail to meet the growing challenges of the times.
The perpetrators of violence are a mixed bunch. There are the extremists insisting that only their way is the right way as they kill and attack to promote their limited ideologies. They kill women for seeking education, they attack the minorities for being ‘different’, they preach sectarian and communal violence as they insist that the only salvation lies in a theocratic state ruled by ‘them’, the hate mongers who do not hesitate to rape and kill and maim human beings. And what is worse, they generate violence through lies and distortions and propaganda that pitch communities against each other as in Muzaffarnagar in India recently. On the other side they resort to terrorism and attack peaceful crowds with guns and bombs, shooting to kill. And spread this terrorism to other countries as well.
There are the politicians who are really no different from the extremists, in that they invoke hatred and divisiveness to garner votes. They make common cause with the extremists and fanatics, giving them a boost instead of arresting and putting them in jail for inciting violence and resorting to hate speech. They provide the platforms for the fanatics to spew their venom, be it against the other sect, the other community, and of course, against women at large.
There are the feudal overlords who hold meetings with the sole purpose of legalising murder. They attack and kill their women brutally, for exercising their own freedom in marriage and love. They hold large panchayats where they give the call, and as all go indoors, the ‘offended’ family kills their daughter in what governments bow to as ‘honour killings’. Action is rarely taken against these killers with India and Pakistan being the worst offenders. Just recently a young girl who had eloped with a boy from the same village in India was lured back by her devious parents with the promise of marriage. The girl was brutally killed, while the boy was tortured and beheaded. And this by supposedly respected members of the village fraternity! Some arrests have been made, and it now remains to be seen whether these hold and the killers, who include the girl’s parents, get a life sentence or are freed to live comfortably after the gruesome crime.
With South Asian governments becoming increasingly weak, violence is growing as it remains unchecked. Of the hundreds of incidents in Pakistan where thousands have been killed, the arrests have been minimal if at all. The killers of important leaders like Benazir Bhutto remain untraced. Young girls like Malala are targeted for doing little more than seeking an education. People are scared of speaking out lest they be hit. Young men are missing, such as Salmaan Taseer’s son, but his family has been forced into silence lest others meet with the same treatment. There is complete lawlessness and no checks, just rhetoric.
In India, communal violence is growing, more so as elections are around the corner and the political parties are looking at consolidating votes to win. Large scale violence is thus being planned by the communal organisations and political parties, with the minorities facing the brunt of the attack. In Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, over 50,000 Muslims have been displaced in the violence that went into the countryside within hours. The poor villagers who had lived in harmony since Independence, were twisted and manoeuvred with deliberate rumours and lies, until they did not know the difference between the lie and the truth, and emerged as attackers even while they believed they were defending themselves from the ‘other’.
It is a bleak situation and hence imperative now for South Asian countries to understand the larger threat the region is facing, and work together to promote liberal thought and strategy. There is no point in denouncing terrorism or communal violence publicly and then working from the back to ensure that the industry of violence thrives either through direct state support or state inaction. Both are crippling and dangerous, and the people of the region must understand the need to vote in and support those committed to weeding out these violent forces from their polity through concerted political effort. The last requires prevention and control whereby the progressive forces that are present, fortunately still in large numbers in the region, are strengthened and not weakened by the states.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2013.
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