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The value of life!

By Sharique N Siddiquie | Last Updated: Thursday, November 10, 2011 - 19:23
Sharique N Siddiquie
Common Man

“They killed him in broad daylight on a road for speaking the truth and nobody is doing anything about it,” my mother shouted over phone leaving me shocked on the other side. I had no idea how to react to her new found interest in the social malice of this country. At a loss, I searched for proper words to answer her question. I could find none!

My mother is a typical Bihari housewife. Always caught up with household chores and ‘Saas-Bahus’ of the idiot box. She never talks about politics, crime or anything else. All she discusses about is the forthcoming marriage of my cousin two months later or the ‘Tulsis, Prernas and Parvatis’.

So, this kind of sudden social enlightenment was unexpected.

She was talking about the murder of RTI activist and witness of 2002 Gujarat communal riots, Nadeem Saiyed. Nadeem was killed on November 05, in Juhapura area of Ahmedabad in Gujarat, when he went out for his daily morning walk.

For me, it was just another crime story, but its reaction was coming from a place approximately 1500 kms away from Gujarat.

“These things happen. It’s all politics. These politicians do all these things to remain in power,” I tried to evade her.

“You have become insensitive to the plight of the people,” she shouted back and hung up.

I later figured out that she saw a moving human angle story about the activist’s fight and murder and was high on emotions. But this incident, like always, gave me the fodder to ponder over.

The question that crossed my mind was-- “Have I become insensitive?”

Probably! The magnitude of bad news daily and the number of ‘deaths’ that we count world over on a day to day basis as a journalist has probably reduced the importance of people to just numbers; thanks to the unrest in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Peru, Africa etc. etc.!

Accepting my insensitivity, I moved on to another question—“Are Muslims world over tyrants or victims?”

Well, that was a complicated question. It’s a very subjective issue that is being debated world over, ever since those twin towers fell in New York.

I started to weigh my arguments based on the facts available to me.

Muslims were involved in 9/11 attacks, London bombings, Godhra train burning, attacks on NATO forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and so on. The list is pretty long. How can they be the victim when they are actually killing innocents?

However, there is another side of the story too! In retaliation, thousands of innocent people were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq in the bombings by the NATO forces. These people had no clue about those who were involved in 9/11 attacks or London bombings but paid the price for being Muslims. The West called it ‘collateral damage’.

Similarly, approximately 2000 Muslims were killed in Ahmedabad, Vadodara and other parts of Gujarat as a ‘reaction’ to the train burning in Godhra. These people had no idea about the people who set the train on fire. They neither knew them nor could they have done anything to prevent the massacre, but they paid the price for being Muslims. The chief minister of the state once famously and ‘allegedly’, called it an act of ‘reaction that should not be curbed’.

The common logic says that only the guilty should be punished. If someone commits a crime, then police will arrest him, and not the entire community that he/she belongs to. But as I mentioned earlier, this common logic is set aside even at the slightest provocation and we go on to wipe out communities for the misdeeds of a few.

As far as my understanding goes, the value of each and every innocent human life is same, irrespective of the religion that it follows.

So, I want to ask everyone that why is it so that killing of an innocent Christian in 9/11 attacks or London bombings is an act of terror but killing of an innocent Muslim in bombings in NWFP in Pakistan is an act of ‘collateral damage’?

When the train burning is Godhra is an act of crime and terror, then how can the chief minister brand the state sponsored genocide of the Muslims as ‘retaliation of the majority community’ that could not be curbed and then go on to win the successive elections?

Ironically, the state I am talking about was previously famous for being the birthplace of the most non-violent human the world has ever seen—Mahatma Gandhi.

Like every question, these too have answers. It is time we think about them as well!

First Published: Thursday, November 10, 2011 - 19:23

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