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Chaining back the monster of intolerance

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By Shafqat Aziz

 

What else could engulf one with a more dreaded feeling than the intense fear of getting lynched while at the mercy of a mob that may inflict violence upon you considering it a moral/religious obligation? You may have been regarded as a person with higher authority and position just a moment before you (Knowingly or unknowingly) happened to cross an imaginary ‘red line,’ a taboo you have touched with all the dire consequences to be followed. It would now be sole discretion of the crowed, just turned into a mob to ascertain the level of your ‘transgression,’ the level of ‘blasphemy’ you have just committed in their eyes and what ordeal you have to face now as a consequence of uttering some ‘unholy words’.

Many of such instances were flashing back in my mind while seeing the horrible images of a young lady civil servant surrounded by charged and aggressive students.  They were seen questioning her faith and demanding explanation and apology on what she had said just moments ago while highlighting the importance of peace, tolerance and co-existence as well as equal citizenship. She was speaking at a ceremony held at a school in Attock, a city of Punjab bordering Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.  The lady who found herself in a sudden hostage situation here was Jannat Hussain Nekokara, Assistant Commissioner Attock.

Everything seemed normal to her until a few moments ago. After all, she was here supposed to address a small gathering comprising innocent young minds, ready to listen to and learn some good things from one of the very able young civil servants. She would have thought that an event in connection with International Human Rights Day would be an excellent opportunity to introduce young students with the ideals of equality and equal rights. Of course, it’s a need of the hour to tell our youth that it’s dangerous to link the rights of a citizen with her/his faith or for that matter any other identity. Your religion and beliefs have nothing to do with the statecraft. Instead, you are required to be a law-abiding and responsible citizen.

There was nothing wrong on her part. There is nothing wrong with seeing students as a group of harmless young people eager to learn. Its how it should be as by all logics, what young student has to do with judging others’ faith and harassing and intimidating them for sharing their views, even if they didn’t like it. Hence, with such assumptions in mind, she started lecturing them on equal rights for all as citizens of the state. While mentioning different faith groups and denominations, she included ‘Ahmadis,’ in the list and that was the moment turning an otherwise quite a calm looking audience acting as zombies with uncontrolled wrath directed towards the baffled speaker.

While still being threatened by different groups despite the forced apology she had made to an angry group of students, she somehow managed a safe ‘exit’ from the scene that ended the immediate state of agony. Many however were not even that lucky. The people from weaker social status have long been facing the tyranny of widely rampant and quite accepted mob mentality for quite a long now. People have been and are lynched to death or rotting in jails for the crime of sharing an opinion or having a dissenting viewpoint on how society should be governed. The extremist tendencies and viewpoints were systematically allowed to be mainstreamed and now the Frankenstein’s monster is hinting to come back to home for even its very creators.

While looking back at what and from where it all started going wrong, we can see that a populace with a narrow worldview was deemed easier to control by hegemonic rulers and their accomplices. The same served to some global agendas. The breeding grounds of intolerance and violence were used as a weapon to silence, intimidate and eradicate the voices for democracy, freedoms and equality. Endless appeasement to bigotry was done by sidelining progressive voices. Distorting education and patronizing hate speeches in an institutionalized manner.

Nothing could be more ironic that the politicians that were supposed to resist the culture of intolerance and creeping fascism, found jumping on the bandwagon of the hatred easier to achieve their objectives than taking some principle stand. Politics now has been reduced to hurling abuse on political rivals, demonizing each other and using the religious cards to insight hatred and violence against the opponents. The political rivalries are now turned into enmities and youth emulating and equalizing such leaders, have become devoid of the ability to engage each other in a rational dialogue.  Violence is considered a solution for every issue on earth. What could save us from the situation we are now is the most pertinent question of the hour. The strict adherence to “the state and statecraft has nothing to do with the faith” could be one answer in addition to zero tolerance for mobs for mob bullying in any context.


Shafqat Aziz is Assistant Editor, The High Asia Herald. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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