Marria Qibtia S Nagra
IT was not a sight to behold. Apathetically mocked and beaten to death, he lay in a pool of blood that reeked of the scathing ire and abhorrence of the people who had conveniently murdered him. Discriminated against since the day he started school, this morbid picture of his demise was nothing but a direct reflection of the collective psyche of the violent mob that killed him. This was Sharoon Masih. A young boy, tragically silenced by his classmates who deemed his position as a Christian to be offensive enough to qualify for murder. The horrendous attack could have easily been averted had the class teacher, who was then “busy reading the newspaper”, stepped in and taken matters in his own hands but what the teacher did was exhibit apathy to the suffering of a minority child, who was labelled as a derogated ‘churha’ by all of them.
Such bigotry finds frequent manifestations in our communal bearings. A recent case in point being the chilling murder of Chanda, a transgender, by unidentified gunmen on the streets of Karachi, simply because her conflicted gender identity was something well beyond her command and control. Where the minorities constitute only about four to five percent of the entire population, a safeguard of their economic interests and security should not be a herculean task for the state institutions to render. The frequency in instances of such vile encounters of discrimination and prejudice necessarily entail the collective regression of the Pakistani nation to a point from where it seems to have lost the potential to acknowledge the very humane existence of its social and religious minorities.
It is rather deplorable to witness such exhibitions of violence which stand in dire repugnance to the vision for minorities that Jinnah envisioned at the time of the creation of Pakistan where he categorically stated that one “may belong to any religion, caste or creed-that has nothing to do with the business of the state”, thereby mandating impartiality, that serve as a prerequisite for a progressive democracy. Democracy and minority rights are not mutually exclusive. A state that disregards the plight of minorities can only promise a fractured democracy shaded with cracks and crevices. The same holds true for Pakistan..
Harvard political scientist James. A. Robinson and MIT economist Daron Acemoglu in their coauthored book Why Nations Fail reflect upon the major reasons that propel state failure. Amongst them, one of the most poignant ones that ‘economic inequality translates into political inequality’ befittingly applies to Pakistan, where the minorities are not only physically discriminated against, but are economically on the margins, and generally manage menial, low wage employment. Discrimination of such sorts is not only despicable but is deadly enough to create an augury of lawlessness. In the light of this reality it becomes imperative for us to work towards the creation of an inclusive social environment.
For this fore mostly of all, bigoted social attitudes need to be overhauled. This best starts from the home and the school, which in reality are the prime seats of learning a child is exposed to in his formative years. While growing up, if a child conceives of violence and flagrancy as the prerequisites for accomplishing tasks, he will conveniently resort to them in his adulthood. Eminent Psychologist Bandura’s Social Learning Theory pivots around this central concept of the transmission of aggression in children who tend to be exposed to such belligerence during their childhood. In late Sharoon’s case, it were the young students who beat him to death. In doing so, these young children laid bare the indoctrination of violence and discrimination in their mindscape’s, which becomes all the more problematic for a society that is already struggling with combating extremism.
Moreover, the rights accorded to the minorities in the constitution must be rightfully granted. Unlike the US Constitution 1789 that tragically contained the dehumanizing three-fifth compromise clause , which necessitated that African –American slaves constituted only three-fifths of a person , Pakistani constitution grants full liberty and equality to its minorities .Article Twenty of the Pakistani constitution calls upon for granting freedom to the minorities and other denominations to profess religion and however little has been practically rendered to engender such equality. Furthermore, it also needs to be comprehended that deterrence in cases of violence against minorities can only be possibly attained if the offenders are duly punished .Also officials under the state machinery, who fail to ensure justice for the minority segments must be penalized. This would preempt them from partaking in such discriminatory postures.
I have long maintained that for Pakistan to evolve as a democracy, bigotry and prejudicial postures need to be immediately done away with. While attempts may be made by the leadership to “modernize’ the nation through the construction of advanced infrastructure, the heart of the matter is that the wall of silence erected in response to the cold-blooded murders of innocents like Sharoon and Chanda unravel the façade of tolerance , modernism and democracy. It needs to be duly realized that true modernism is related to idea of state welfare which is practically reflected in the attitudes of the people -in the heart that feels and in mind that understands, since discrimination only dehumanizes the target, making him a pawn in the social scuffle for authority and hegemony, an itinerary for which history may never forgive us.
— The writer is a freelance columnist with profound interest in English Literature, Psychology & IR.
Marria Qibtia S Nagra