I read Arvind Adiga’s Booker prize winning novel “White Tiger” last year. Adiga has written at length about the subservient attitude of the people living in the ‘darkness’. The protagonist in the book repeatedly said that the desire to be a servant had been bred into him and hammered into his skull, nail after nail. In another chapter, Adiga wrote that hundreds of roosters and hens are stuffed into wire cages in meat shops. They see the organs of their brothers and sisters lying around, they know they are the next, yet they cannot rebel and how the very same thing is done with humans in this (India) country.
Like most things India and Pakistan, I started comparing the situation in Pakistan and came to the naïve and extremely biased conclusion that things are not as bad. Yes, we have bonded labour in parts of Sind and Southern Punjab but Pakistanis, in general, are not afflicted with the disease of docility and deference. I was wrong.
Yesterday, I was watching a TV report on Shazia Masih’s murder case. Our domestic help Parveen sat with me and watched the whole report. Once it was over, I switched off the TV and we both sat in silence thinking about the poor little girl who lost her life in such a gruesome way. Suddenly Parveen stood up and asked if Amanat, one of the accused, who was responsible for the Shazia’s employment at Advocate Naeem Chaudhry’s was really related to her? As there were conflicting reports, I said I really don’t know. He could be related to her or perhaps he was just an acquaintance. Parveen, a Punjabi Christian like Shazia, said that if he was Shazia’s uncle, he should be hanged in public view. I was surprised by her reaction, not only because Parveen is one of the gentlest souls I know but as far as I am concerned, the main culprits in this murder case were Shazia’s employers, the state and all the people who hire under age children to do domestic chores and ill treat them. When I probed a little further, Parveen said that one cannot trust the employers, most of them would want to discipline the maid by slapping her but if the guy who got her the employment is her uncle, he should have ensured that the employers would not beat her. The first thought that came to my mind was Arvind Adiga’s iron wire cage and the people in it, unwilling or perhaps too afraid to question or point fingers in the right direction. For Parveen, it is but acceptable that employers may want to use physical force to discipline an underage child.
While every politician from Nilofar Bakhtiar to Raja Reyaz and Sharif Brothers are using the murder as a godsend photo-op, and members of the civil society and intelligentsia are crying hoarse over lack of implementation of labour laws, is there anyone paying attention to the inbred servility of people, which in a way corroborate such heinous acts again and again?