Friday, September 18, 2009
My Thoughts On Karachi Stampede Tragedy
Ramadan holds a special place in the hearts of muslims all over the world as its not only a month of piety and fasting but also charity thus affirming their belief in Islam as a way of life.
But this Monday,atleast 18(and according to some reports even 20)women and children died in a stampede in the area of Khori garden,in Karachi,a populous city,of 15 million,of Pakistan.
'18 Women, Girls Killed in Karachi Stampede' reads the CBS News website.But this headline alone would not do much to make us understand what happened there.These 18 women and children were not only 'women and children'.They were someone's wives,daughter,mothers,sisters,squashed under the feet of fellow human beings,all in a race to get the coupons to get the freely distributed flour before the distributors ran out of it.
The God for whom these women and children fasted,Himself,killed them.No.I wont blame God alone.'We' killed them.'We' brought them to one of the most macabre ends that,I for one,cannot even imagine.Who are 'we'? We,the elite class of Pakistan,which just cant get enough of shaking their booties on satureday nights at dance parties,where there are served Pina Coladas and extra large Cheese Burgers.We the rich(even if not famous)who seem to be oblivious to the common man's hunger.We who just cant think of any other bag than that of Gucci or Chanel to match with our red Saris at our sisters' extravagant weddings,while more than half the fathers of this country worry about their daughters' dowries .I have nothing against red saris,extravagant weddings,Gucci and Chanel or Pina Coladas and Cheese Burgers,nor anything against satureday night parties.But I find it repugnant that amidst such poverty,illiteracy and loathesome tragedies such as that at Karachi Stampede at Khori Garden,the richer gets richer and the poorer gets poorer.
What happened at Khori Garden is just one of the myriad forms of the same reality:Pakistan has turned into one of the best examples of class-based unequal societies.Going through the pages of 'Sunday' magazine of the Daily Times,one really cant imagine that this country would be filled up with so desperate people that right after the stampede at Karachi,women still came to Chaudhary Iftikhar's shop,seeking the flour to fill their and their families' empty stomachs.
The story of the victims of this stampede is the story of more than half the population of this nation.M.A Jinnah would definitely be turning in his grave,as this would not have ever been the nation he hoped to find,where the selected and previliged few hold the key to money and power(and of course Flour),while most of the common people get fits and depressions thinking how another day would pass.Actually they stopped worrying much now,because they have become accustomed to the fact that they have to do their 'Iftari' with salt,and nans and yogurt,while the fashionistas arrange iftar parties at Pearl Continental.But who am I to speak all this?I myself am an accomplice in this elitist game,albeit a contrite one perhaps.Again:I hold nothing against Iftar parties but the least we can do is to give the same amount of charity to the destitute ones,that would cost us the Pearl Continental Iftaar dinners.But no.The moment we see beggar outside our car windows we turn around our faces and pretend to speak to eachother,telling the poor ones clearly to just get lost.To get over our feeling of guilt at this inhumanity of ours,we have disgustingly,coated our guilt with excuses such as:'We shouldnt give the hatta katta(healthy) beggars money,they can earn themselves'.Of Course they can! And some of them might as well do,but they didnt know your enjoinment was to be sought,you the ones who cant move the lazy arse from their sofas.
Once,many years ago,I saw our female servant at a wedding.This woman worked for us,as well as many other homes.But still she was there to earn extra money,and you might as well label her a beggar for she was doing beggary to some extent.I have always wondered why she did that when she was working for atleast four houses down the street.And today I know the answer.Greed.Insatiable desire.Want.
No.Not the greed that you and I understand it.This greed is driven by the force of motherhood to earn more for ones children.This insatiable desire of a mother is not the one for fame or Gucci bags,but for the food to feed the hungry stomachs of her children.This want is not of a Pearl Continental iftaar party,but for another day's hunger to die.Its 'we' who are greedy with wants and insatiable desires.These women who died were not greedy.They were mad.Mad with thoughts of 'what if he flour stock ends before we reach the top of the stairs'.Mad with the thoughts of 'what if we return home empty handed?'.
Reportedly the women at Khori Garden incident were to go up the stairs,and get the flour.The same stairs were being used to let these women come down.In a rush to get up first,those who fell,fell in to the hands of death(or more appropriately,under the feet of other women),and those who made it perhaps have to live with the guilt of somehow contributing to death of these women for the rest of their lives.But still they got the flour to feed crying children.O Hunger! How inhmane you can turn us.
Quite amazingly,the Police arrested Chaudhary Iftikhar who was responsible for the distribution of free flour.Apparently he was arrested because he failed to notify the city administration of him arranging the distribution of the ration.So now that we have no Israel,no America,no India to blame for this internal tragedy of our nation,we are to arrest the few ones who have some humanity in them left to provide free flour to poor and needy.I do agree that city administartion should have been notified about this all taking place.But then nobody imagined in their wildest dreams that the women would run amok.What made them do run like as if they were being chased after by mad cows,we all know:Hunger.But I wonder why city administration has never taken such initiatives,which Chaudhary Iftikhar took,even when they needed no notifications of poor and hungry in the big city of Karachi,and the need to help them out before they are starved to death by the rising prices of everything they can imagine to eat(from sugar,to flour,to meat,to vegetables),except perhaps for their own crap.
Although I am non-religious,even if I were a believer I would refuse to believe that these people belonging to this poverty-stricken section of our society have any obligatry need to fast.They fast everyday,Ramadan or No Ramadan.Its us,the ones who come up with shameless excuses to drive away the 'Hatta Katta' beggars and who complain of feeling the hunger during the fast.But still we refuse to question our coscience as to why these 'Hatta Kattas' would be willing to degrade themselves(I donot think beggers have left much self-respect after they beg to the Mercedes driving rich people).
Ramadan is an Islamic custom for Muslims because it shows them what it feels like to be hungary and to be without food for only twelve hours,leave alone,the case of sometimes going without food for two or three days.Yet this practise has become a mechanical process for many Muslims:Eat Sehri,fast twelve hours,and do Iftaar.
Another of my memories:My mother used to walk in a park nearby our house and there she met this young girl who use to walk with her round the park track.I have no idea as how she looked or anything else but this is what all has been narrated to me and my siblings by my mother(and I see no apparent reason why she would come up with a far-fetched story,except if she were a pathological liar,which she clearly is not).Once through some talk my mother asked this young lady what she cooked in her iftaari.Firstly she enumerated a whole list of delicious items but afterwards conceded that she and her family were so poor that they were doing their iftaars with eating salt.My mother eventually gave her a thousand rupees to help her.That was as much as five years or more from today.And today we have much worse conditions.
There are NGOs and Individuals who are helping out the ones in need of financial aid and food.But they are only helping out.We need a bigger change.A social and political turnover to change this whole system in interest of the rich elite and in the disadvantage of those who struggle to keep their lives together.Initiatives such the 'Grameen Bank' need to be taken in any country struggling with poverty,major class inequality and illiteracy.Until then I fail to see how we can prevent the incidents such as Karachi stampede tragedy from ever happening again.If such stampedes dont occur,hunger,metal depressions and poverty would kill the destitute ones anyway.Apart from that 'we' the elite class need to come together and think of some projects to overcome these social evils in our societies.'We' need to help 'Them' to help 'Us All'.