Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Down with violent protests

I was looking for a shady place to have my afternoon siesta. I had filled my belly with rotten confectionary at a garbage heap next to a bakery. I found a place under a tree and soon fell to sleep. I was awaken with the feeling of a tightening rope around my neck and found a small group of people staring at me. Before I could comprehend the situation, I was stuffed into a large sack that started dragging on the road. It was suffocating and my consistent begging for release had made me breathless, forcing me to let the fate take control. Soon I could feel murmur of many people which later became shouts and slogans.I started struggling to free myself, kicking and gnawing the sack. My attempts backfired and I received a bout of kicks which became severe and severe. It was too much and I was at the point of collapsing. Suddenly, my prayers were answered and the mouth of the sack was opened. The relief was of little duration as I was thrown on burning tires.This is the story of a dog which ‘participated’ in a PML-N demonstration in Peshawar on Friday (February 27), according to a newspaper report. PML-N workers vented their anger on the dog during the protest on the Sunehri Masjid road against the ineligibility of the Sharif brothers and the imposition of the governor rule in Punjab. The protestors kicked the dog, expressing their anger against President Zardari.The report is silent about what happened to the dog afterwards, but it reveals a couple of things about our society: we are politically illiterate, consider animals to be non-living things and there is growing social polarisation.Protests are part of democracy and guaranteed under fundamental rights in the constitution and donkeys and dogs have always been the vanguards of such protests. Pakistani donkeys have mimicked every politician against whom a mass movement starts. They march along the slogan chanting crowds, bearing a name card of the politician in hot waters. Dogs enter the arena at a later stage and graciously lend their name to be suffixed with that of the politician and thus we had martial dogs and political dogs. When the history of democratic struggle in Pakistan will be written, donkeys and dogs should get an appropriate mention as they have been at the forefront of protests often sniffing tear gas and getting kicked if not baton-charged.A political party is blamed for having weak street power or no grassroots if it holds a peaceful protest and the governor rule is imposed if it shows even a remotest and conditional inclination towards violence. That attitude has made protests and violence synonymous in Pakistan.The PML-N would not have resorted to angry protests, had the governor rule not been imposed in the province. Every form of expression can be creative and protests are no exception. Unfortunately, political ethics have also degraded in our disintegrating society. There was a time when people would throng anti-Zia processions just to listen to a popular poem by some revolutionary poet or a fiery speaker. Now political workers come to protests either seeking payments, chances to plunder shops or adventure by torching cars.The media is also to blame as it does not cover peaceful protests, which is evident from front-page pictures of flame-engulfed cars and smouldering shops. If anyone is still keeping the peaceful yet attractive protest practice he is former minority parliamentarian J Salik whose Islamabad-Lahore camel caravan and self-chaining-and-caging protests are still fresh in our memories. Lawyers-led protests also remained peaceful with occasional violence often started by the administration.
Just imagine how creative protestors could get by starting a signature campaign; staging street plays; organising parties, including weddings and tournaments, with political themes; lighting candles in the bright day to signify the darkness within the country or wearing shirts with slogans.A little more creativity and we would see protestors wearing funny costumes ridiculing the politician against whom protest is intended; offering food to poor in camps with hunger strike banners; cleaning filthy public toilets or garbage dumps (now I am getting too idealistic), build whatever was broken down during previous protests; give roses to policemen on the roads; mass shaving of heads; or sending sarcastic gifts to targets.
Our cruelty towards animals under the entertainment garb is notorious across the world. Western tabloids often publish pictures of animal fights in Pakistan on their front pages, causing difficulty for expatriates to painstakingly explain that part of the culture to natives.Can you recall what Caliph Omar (RA) said about a dog dying on the banks of Dujla due to hunger. There must be people in posh Peshawar areas who spend around Rs 20,000 on their pet dog’s imported food. Or just think of people appearing on Geo television’s ‘Jannu Janwar’ programme, who have converted parts of their residences into shelters for stray and sick animals, regardless of any reward.

Tail piece: I saw a public toilet today outside a graveyard nearby my house. The toilet's door was painted with 'Way to Denmark'. The manager of the washroom has expressed his anti-Denish feelings (post-caricatures) by writing on the toilet door, instead of burning public property.

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