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A deafening silence

by Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

The atrocities in Balochistan are just as bad as Indian atrocities in Kashmir or Israeli atrocities in Palestine. While those are vehemently condemned here, the silence on this dirty war is truly deafening.

Arundhati Roy, an intrepid novelist, essayist and activist, focuses on social justice and economic inequality issues; she deserves accolades for her fearless persistence. Undeterred by the right-wing Hindu extremists’ goons, she relentlessly highlights the plight of the oppressed sections of society and neglected regions in India. Her contributions towards securing rights for the indigenous people and human rights in general are admirable.

She is, by and large, the darling of the Pakistani media, civil society and even the establishment and the right-wingers because she speaks up fearlessly for Kashmiri rights. Her recent support for Kashmiris created a furore in India but was highly appreciated here, especially by those who considered it a vindication of their Kashmir stance.

Anyone who has the moral courage to speak her/his mind in the face of state and goon intimidation should be wholeheartedly supported but this support should not be selective. If someone is appreciated when she/he speaks up on issues of this state’s liking but is condemned if a sensitive issue here is scrutinised, then that is hypocrisy of the highest order.

Metaphorically speaking, if perchance an Arundhati here demanded the same right for the Baloch people then would these very supporters of the Indian Arundhati support and defend this Arundhati too? I fear this Arundhati would possibly face the fate reserved for a blasphemer because society, the media and sadly the enlightened intelligentsia here are so taken in by the state’s ‘manufactured consent’ that she would be unreservedly condemned.

The situation in Balochistan today is exactly similar to the Chilean and Argentinean ‘dirty wars’ of the 70s and 80s. The only difference is that there the generals conducted them while here, theoretically, parliamentary democracy is supreme. The atrocities in Balochistan are just as bad as Indian atrocities in Kashmir or Israeli atrocities in Palestine. While those are vehemently condemned here, the silence on this dirty war is truly deafening.

The likely result of this silence will be as Pastor Martin Niemöller said: “When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist. When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat. When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist. When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I was not a Jew. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.” He was sent to a concentration camp in 1937.

In the past 11 months, more than 50 Baloch have been extra-judicially murdered to instil fear in the people. Notes found in their pockets said, “Eid gift for the Baloch nation.” Outside Balochistan there has been no protest and not even a demand for an inquiry from the judiciary, civil society, politicians or the media here or elsewhere against these atrocities. This deafening silence condones these abominable crimes and makes all complicit.

Raisani, in a recent BBC interview, admitted that these killings are carried out by security agencies but tried to justify them: “They [insurgents and security agents] have been targeting each others’ activists.” Who does he represent, the Baloch or the security agencies?

The secular west manufactures consent with the help of its powerful media — Hollywood included — glorifying transgression as heroism. The west also deviously creates an atmosphere of fear to coerce public acceptance of its vilely vicious policies and actions. The US got away with its inhuman and barbaric nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki without condemnation by presenting the Japanese as war-mongers.

Dissent is possible when the manufacturing of consent is secular because this carries no opprobrium for the dissenter, and high profile dissenters like Bertrand Russell defied the US with the Vietnam War Crimes Tribunal, though the US paid no heed to it.

Here they manufacture consent through the agency of religion. The supremacy of vicious fundamentalism has been blatantly patronised. Pakistan considers itself the custodian of the legacy of the glory of Islam and the Mughal Empire. Naturally, this demands the overpowering military strength with which the Muslims conquered countries and the Mughals conquered India. Failing to comprehend that the world a millennium ago had entirely different needs from today’s world, it has become a fiend. Little wonder they force all nationalities here to conform to their delusions.

Zero-tolerance is the name of the game when the manufacturing of consent is religion-based. Dissenters are labelled as the enemies of Islam and are dealt with accordingly because opposition to state policies becomes sacrilege. The atrocities in Balochistan are motivated by the state’s concept of the religious necessity of making the Baloch accept Pakistan as the epitome of Islam and forcing them to remain a part of it. The atrocities against the Bengalis too were similarly motivated as is apparent from the al-Shams and al-Badr involvement.

The South Asian people in general are so overawed by the state and its manufactured consent that they hardly challenge official contentions or actions. People submit unconditionally and fear questioning tyranny. Challenging authority is an extremely rare phenomenon even in our poets, writers and other intellectuals. This submissive conformity has encouraged the state, the fascists, the corporations and the fundamentalists to ride roughshod over norms sacrosanct in all civilised societies.

The plea taken by the people for being neutral or balanced in conflicts is unjustifiable. It is immoral to take a neutral position when one of the adversaries is handicapped in a million ways and the other is an all powerful state. The shameful way in which western politicians, the BBC and CNN try to be balanced and impartial towards the Palestinians and the Israeli state is an example. Unfortunately, this bug of neutrality (read criminal apathy) does not only affect the politicians but also civil society and the media here.

Civil society, the media and the intellectuals here have all been cowed into submission and, unlike Arundhati, barring a few exceptions, fear raising their voices because of the possible consequences. Unless the people raise their voice against the unabated atrocities in Balochistan, the onus of this dirty war will fall on their shoulders as well.

The Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan was announced a year ago. Instead of fulfilling promises, intensified repression has been unleashed with the brutal killings of abducted Baloch persons. Packages, promises and apologies are just smokescreens to conceal atrocities and deceive anyone gullible enough to believe them.

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at mmatalpur@gmail.com

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