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Pussy in the well

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

by Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

Unless the dead cat of economic injustices is removed from the well of human relationships and the world system, no amount of observance of days and promises and platitudes are going to matter in any way or make the perpetrators of injustices oblige the great mass of humanity

Propitiously, February 20 is celebrated as the World Day of Social Justice to be followed on the 21st by celebration of an equally important and sensitive issue, the International Mother Language Day, but unfortunately observance is limited to paying lip service without effort or attempt to further these sacred causes in their true spirit. These ‘days’ are forgotten even before the sun sets or even before the shamianas (tents) are rolled up and the participants reach home. Celebrating them is laudable and but they do not seem to be helping liberate people from the shackles of physical and cultural oppression.

The progress made so far, on both fronts, is less than negligible and not much progress is expected in future because those most at risk have very little or no influence or voice in countries where furtherance of both rights is urgently and direly needed. Those who have the say are firmly against these ideals because this would endanger the status quo they thrive on. People’s rights frighten the establishment because their power base is brittle and fragile; a good knock demolishes it. Recent events in the Arab world prove this.

Surprisingly, the symbol and representative of the comity of nations, the UN, was itself very slow, lethargic and procrastinating in promoting these basic essential ingredients of civilised life. Indeed it awoke to the need for ‘social justice’ very late. It was only in 2007 that the objectives and goals of the 1995 Copenhagen World Summit for Social Development were eventually recognised and the decision taken to observe February 20 as the World Day of Social Justice from the year 2009.

The UN has left a lot to be desired in its implementation, approach and effort for justice around the world. Controlled by vested interests, it has been often used as a forum for aggression. Social justice demands that states without discrimination accord equal opportunity for development to citizens regardless of their gender, age, race, religion, culture, disability or ethnic affiliation. Social justice encompasses the entire range of human rights and where there is no social justice, there are no human rights. In Balochistan, ‘social justice’ is meted out in the form of rights activists being kidnapped, tortured, and their bullet-riddled bodies dumped, the most recent victims of the 102 so far killed in less than a year being Mehboob Wadela and Rehman Arif. Mian Raza Rabbani, supposedly a democrat, has the temerity to say that the ‘intelligence agencies’ are not involved in these killings.

The International Mother Tongue Day — February 21 — was officially observed first in the year 2000 after a nearly 50-year lapse since an incident that took place in 1952 in Dhaka in which four students peacefully demanding national language status for Bengali were killed by the police. On March 21, 1948, on his first trip to Dhaka, Mohammad Ali Jinnah at the Dhaka University Convocation emphatically said, “The state language of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no other language. Anyone who tries to mislead you is really an enemy of Pakistan.” Though in May 1954 Bangla was recognised as a national language and later incorporated into the 1956 Constitution, it was too late.

The arrogance and the power-drunkenness of those who arbitrarily, without any concern for the rights of the Bengali people, or any respect for the rich and old Bengali culture and literature, declared that Urdu and only Urdu would be the national language is absolutely amazing and sobering for those who fight for rights without discrimination. Only people completely unlessoned in history could take a decision in which the language of the majority would be considered something trifling enough to ignore. All the languages here by and large have received similar treatment.

But Pakistan is not the only example of such callous disregard of language, culture and history. Turkey has always attempted to ‘Turkify’ the Kurds along with suppression of culture, language and demographic changes, but remained unsuccessful. From 1982 and 1991, the performance or recording of songs in the Kurdish language was banned in Turkey in an attempt to deter nationalistic music and poetry.

Like Pakistan, the Baloch are persecuted in Iran as well. Balochi suffers the same fate there and is actively discouraged. Some Balochi language publications appeared after 1979 but were soon suppressed. No provision to teach Balochi literature exists in the schools of Iranian Balochistan and even the traditional dress is discouraged.

Social justice and mother language are concepts that colonial authorities find unreservedly disagreeable to their exploitation and oppression because these two create an environment conducive to liberation.

All seek reasons why ideals and their celebrations fail to show the effect that they supposedly should have in spite of effort and expense devoted to them. This anecdote may perhaps illustrate the reason. In a village a cat fell into the village well and died. The villagers went to their sage and asked what measures they could take to cleanse the water. The sage said that they should drain at least a hundred bucketfuls and the well water would become halal (clean). The stink persisted despite that and they again sought remedy. He advised another hundred bucketfuls and then another hundred as a palliative measure but the water still stank to seventh heaven. Worried, he then asked them if they had taken the dead cat out of the well and they replied that this they did not do. He told them unless the basis or contaminant is removed, all the draining would be futile.

So unless the dead cat of economic injustices is removed from the well of human relationships and the world system, no amount of observance of days and promises and platitudes are going to matter in any way or make the perpetrators of injustices oblige the great mass of humanity and give up the exploitation and oppression just for altruistic reasons. This dead cat, as it is dead, cannot be coaxed out of the well and it cannot even be easily taken out physically because it is a terribly large cat and has its claws dug deep into the system, which stinks.

According to the old rhyme, the ‘pussy cat’ did nothing more than eat the mice in the farmer’s barn, but this cat of economic injustice devours people and their lives in millions by keeping them in penury and shackles. The fight against economic injustices should be foremost on the agenda of liberation movements and democratic parties. However, slogans of bogus revolution only help entrench economic injustices.

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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