in the colors I see your image;
Ya Musaviro! the unconventional protagonist
that I want you to be
of the story you started for us.
I don’t have you in control though
while others splash their crimson blood,
I seek a red tilak for love, a pinch of blue from the sky
and a little silver from the moon
to define me.
I am not an infidel, nor must I be labelled as one. My love for colors is not my crime. My crime is my indolence as a spectator of undue treatment that even I could nakedly feel while belonging to the mainstream religious Muslim community. Regardless of what beheld many intrigued minds–the festival was beautiful. To those following Hindu religion, it is a ritual of festivity and co-existence, bringing all class and creed together. To me, it was not merely my curiosity, but also my intent to fill in the void that has been systematically created in me about my own fellow non-Muslim citizens. That was the night when I allowed the void to be filled with colors, and I am glad I allowed it.
But at the entrance of the Temple in old Lahore, the security guard wouldn’t let me in after seeing my National Identification Card.
“You can’t go in”
“ Because you are a Muslim”
Does it mean I lead a dull life?
Aware of my land’s history only through textbooks based on the ideology bred on the narration of exclusivity, stench of bigoted notions towards non-Muslims, and in particular towards Hindus heavily propagandized as enemies of Islam in the region—there is not a trace to be found through Social Studies textbooks that Hindus are our fellow citizens too. Nor is there any mention in the Pakistan Studies how in the world has more than 70% of Hindu population disappeared since the time of its inception? The low numbers show a shameful trait; much to the “boast” of the militant mullah who consider it their victory over an already weakened segment of society. Every other day am I to receive a text message demeaning Hindus for their faith; declaring them enemies of Pakistan and justify not just verbal abuse, but murderous rant against them as well. There are reports of forced conversions of Hindu girls to Islam who have been raped and then married off to their very perpetrators. There is never a mainstream news about how their property and businesses are taken over. As the media keeps decrying America/Jewish/Hindu domination based on unfounded speculation implanted here for justifying enormous defense budget by demonizing India, no one is willing to point out the harms of marginalizing own communities within Pakistan by the very state that remains benign in its efforts to pay heed to their plight. We are a damaged nation, and it does no one any good if more hate and bigotry is used as balm to heal our wounds; nay, it will only make us more sick.
I refuse to remain sick. The prejudice had to be removed, and the first realization came when I too had suffered degradation for my religion when I briefly left for abroad for further studies. Though the sort of prejudice I faced was nothing compared to discrimination I witness here at both societal and state level, the sense of relationship and relativity to suffering is perhaps most important to understand in order to know what grave humiliation means to an individual and his/her community they ascribe to. My brief interaction took place with a lively young lady, Pinky, whose smile told a story of herself. The joy and an obvious hint of curiosity at the presence of an outsider at the temple where she met me. She said all treated her fairly, though there was no Mandir to visit in her home town about 60 KM from lahore. A little more introspection reveals a grimmer picture; according to a rough estimate, there are only 26 temples functional out of a mere total of 428 in Pakistan, the rest of them are in ruins. Yet Pinky never indicated nervousness in her smile as she splashed a pinch of yellow on me.
A little more close look and more suspicion arose. The temple was filled with media men, and at one point, the TV crew appeared to be more in numbers than the actual Holi participants. It made one wonder whether all of them were really required to film this occasion, knowing that the widespread incidents against minorities hardly get any coverage. Though the whole sequence made it look like a happy affair on screen, whereas, their very presence seemed to have taken away the natural gaiety of Holi. How awfully balanced the mainstream media would be if only it could also focus on the number of gruesome violence leveled against this community as well. But this doesn’t seem to be the case here. With genuine exception of my friends and those trying to reach out and struggle for their rights, the whole media coverage was suddenly concerned about creating a “soft image” of Pakistan, yet at the same time subtly debasing the Hindu community for raising their voice over a Hindu girl’s alleged forced conversion to Islam.
The very essence of respect and dignity seems to be the privilege only for those who follow the specific brand of a misinterpreted Islam. Every day we are faced with the dilemma of what to be considered acceptable and what is to be discarded, bringing us to stark irony of how marginalization of our own citizens can collectively harm us all economically, socially and morally. Progressiveness is determined through inclusiveness, not exclusiveness, and it is a shame how vigilantism stands stronger than already discriminatory laws of the land that have designated only second class status to our religious minorities. Constitutionally, our minorities can become easy victims of violence and subject to “blasphemy laws” which further push them into extra cautiousness and intimidation, because any untoward thing dared uttered can easily get them framed at the slightest hunch. Perhaps the reason why Pinky couldn’t open much.
We can’t form judgments unless we feel ourselves in their pain . It is high time we realized the pain we have been inflicting on ourselves, let go of our inhibitions and explore who we are. We can’t allow colors to be snatched from us, we can’t remain regressive. We have to appreciate our beauty within, for it is only through colors around us are we able to see God. Consider that as an appeal from one individual to fellow citizens. Thank you.