HOW CAN YOU CELEBRATE WHEN YOUR COUNTRY BURNS?by HUMRA QURAISHI July 22 2023, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins, 42 secs
The video surfacing reveals the torture and humiliation that not just the two women faced but thousands in Manipur have while the government remained silent, writes Humra Quraishi
The government can pretend sitting in faraway Delhi that what happened in Manipur is normal, that it happens in every other state. It can believe that the media it controls will shift to whataboutery and start questioning opposition parties about rapes, molestations and killings in the states, which they are governing. But deep down in my heart I can say with confidence that there is no escaping this horrific event of which the video has gone viral. Nowhere else in any part of the world will a government take 78 days to respond to such a heinous hate crime against the two women.
How can any sane person believe that the police and state are not complicit in this crime against humanity. Two women are abducted by a mob while they are in police custody, barely a couple kilometres away from a police station, they are paraded naked by sick men, groped and gangraped and then abandoned? It is unbelievable that nobody said a word, even after a complaint and FIR were filed with the police about this incident, until the video went viral on social media weeks later! Will the police that buried the file with the complaint for so many days be punished? Will those who continue to shamelessly govern Manipur be made accountable? It’s been three months since almost every political leader in opposition has begged the central government to speak, but there’s been silence.
Let us also not forget that this is only one of the many cases that have taken place, as told to the media by none other than the Chief Minister of Manipur himself, which has been reported. What about the other victims? How will we ever know the extent of this violence that still remains hidden?
There seems little relief as the violence continues to spread. Could there be a bigger irony that all this was taking place when the Prime Minister of India was touring abroad, to the US, to France, signing deals and making announcements about how India will become the second largest economy in the world in 2047, by the time it completes a hundred years of its independence? People were dying, they were killing each other in a civil war like situation, intellectuals and respected citizens of the state of Manipur like Ratan Thiyam were telling talk show hosts like Karan Thapar that such events have never happened in Manipur before. Scores of people pleaded with the PM to take charge, to end the violence.
In fact, the video gone viral reminds me of the film ‘Hotel Rwanda,’ where as the civil war raged, rape was used as a ‘weapon’ by the two warring tribes of Rwanda to ‘settle’ scores with the other. Disasters and destruction of the worst forms unfolded. Uncontrolled was the horrifying situation, with the powerful politicians flying away Westwards! Nowhere near the masses!
What we see today is less governance and more politics of age old tactics of divide and rule. Setting one community, tribe or section of society against the other for votes, and watching them destroy each other, to gain from it. Bluntly put, this present situation in Manipur required immediate and urgent action to reach the ground but that didn’t happen. So many questions arise to which there are no answers.
Months of people’s unrest was left unattended and nobody reached out to the state to settle the issues. Even the naïve do realize that no people’s grievance can be settled by arrests, encounters, razing homes, burning abodes and playing stale political games. One can’t, just can’t, suppress people’s anger by the boot. Yes, one can frighten and threaten the people, but for how long? Anger, like blood, has the tendency to spill out…to spread out like a poisonous killer…killing so many around.
Catching hold of the foot soldiers is no solution to settling the grievances of the masses either. That is merely a sham. Mere mockery that the state has indulged in. Stuff the foot soldiers in hell-holes and declare that the culprits have been caught, killed in encounters, problems are settled and the situation is under control! Really!
Till the master minds are not exposed and stripped off their camouflages, the silencing of people’s just claims will carry on. People’s grievances cannot be settled in the thick of politics, with political games surmounting. Serious issues require earnestness and genuineness and not well-crafted shrewd strategies and distractions.
There cannot be a sadder and more shameful day for us, for me and my fellow citizens.
I leave you, today, with this verse of Sahir Ludhianvi:
“If there is a reason for my angry songs, it is this/That when I see the hungry farmers/The poor, the oppressed, the destitute, the helpless/My heart cannot participate in assemblies of pleasure/Even if I wish, I cannot write dreamy songs of love.”
And, these lines, too from his poem ‘Khoon phir khoon hai’ (Blood, however, is blood):
“Tyranny is but tyranny; when it grows it is vanquished/Blood however is blood; if it spills it will congeal/It will congeal on the desert sands, on the murderer’s hand/On the brow of justice and on chained feet/On the unjust sword, on the sacrificial body/Blood is blood; if it spills it will take root/ Let them hide all they want, skulk in their lairs/The track of spilled blood will point out the executioners’ abode/Let conspiracies shroud the truth with darkness/Each drop of blood will march out, holding aloft a lamp//Say this to tyranny’s worthless and dishonoured destiny/say this to coercion’s manipulative intent/say this to Laila, the darling of the assembly/Blood is wild, it will splatter and stain your garment/It is a rapid flame that will scorch your harvests/That blood which you wished to bury in the killing fields/has risen today in the streets and courts/Somewhere as a flame, somewhere as a slogan. Somewhere else as a flung stone/When blood flows bayonets cannot contain it/When it raises its defiant head, laws will not restrain it/ Tyranny has no caste, no community, no status or dignity/Tyranny is simply tyranny, from its beginning to its end/Blood is however blood; it becomes a hundred things/Shapes that cannot be obliterated/Flames that can never be extinguished/Chants that will not be suppressed.”