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The Taliban and the Engineer ...


We wake up to the awful news about K. Suryanarayana, the engineer from Hyderabad with a Hubli connection, being found dead and mutilated in South Western Afghanistan.    It makes the head spin the kind of violence this kind of act entails and it is worsened, in a sense, by the media spotlight we are forcibly exposed to.  Forget TV - I don't  watch any - but even the allegedly 'balanced' newspapers I read (The Deccan Herald and the Hindu) and the internet are enough to make me feel buffeted.

 

A torrent of thoughts courses through my  head.

 

First, shock and revulsion at the awful thought of a decapitated body. Grief at what his family is going to go through as the reality sinks in, and the body arrives, and the last motions are gone through. Then life, after.  Extreme despondency at the wanton violence that we are capable of, as people.

 

I start getting worked up that this event - highlighted as it is by the media as its 'top story', with saturation coverage, full format pictures of the family and so on - will cause another pulse of polarization to pass through the mass-media-addicted Indian public.  Many millions, in India, will shake their heads and clench their teeth and blame 'the muslims', yet again, for being blood-thirsty barbarians.   'The muslims' (reduced to one homogenous blob, losing all sense of diversity and individuality in the dangerous process of generalization) will be blamed along with the demented Taliban.

 

I worry about this because I constantly find myself (to my own surprise & dismay) in a miniscule minority, in middle class social situations, pleading a liberal, more balanced view about  'the muslims'.  This is a shame, really - but its true.   It seems almost like India's "liberal" ethos is being preserved mainly by our poor and 'uneducated' these days - for whom the business of living decently, itself, is such a massive project that it must be fostering a greater respect for fellow humans.

 

So, this incident will be used against me in a 'we told you so' kind of way in conversations, as another piece of 'proof' that this muslim 'menace' has got to be firmly dealt with like 'America' is dealing with it (however deceitful, misguided and disastrous a failure that may be proving to be).  To me, these are, and will remain, irrelevant and dangerously fallacious positions to take.  The family of Suryanarayana has been a victim of terrible hatred and there needs to be an end to such violence rather than its

further propagation and amplification through misdirected retribution and reprisal. 

 

Mahatma Gandhi was once asked if he really believed non-violence was  the best way to resolve conflicts.   He is quoted to have replied: "No.  Non-violence is not the best way.  It is the only way".

 

I also then begin to wonder why this particular story is the only one to bother us when hundreds of people are being killed each year in Jammu & Kashmir, ostensibly in a similar context of territorial, religious or communitarian 'struggle'.  Each of  those stories  is somebody's personal tragedy of equal proportion.   So, indeed, are each of the tragedies 'we ourselves' are guilty of having perpetrated in Gujarat in 2002 or in the post-Indira-assasination riots of 1984.  So, indeed, is the death of Graham Staines, burnt alive in his car along with his young sons, as is the mowing down of nearly sixty inhabitants of Laxmanpur-Bathe in Bihar by the upper-caste Ranvir Sena.   None of these terrible wrongs, in any way, renders the other right - and they all wallow equally as the darkest moments of violence humans are capable of towards another.

 

All they tell us is that uncontrolled hatred seems to be a disease that none of us have the distinction of immunity from.  It is stirred up further by demagogues and fascists using misinformation and self-conferred religious sanction to further their murky agendas and who are intent on making us stop thinking for ourselves

as self-conscious human beings.