Sanaullah’s murder and a reminder of how our people have gone mad

Published: May 9, 2013
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My heart goes out to the family of Sanaullah. For their plight is no different from the agony of Sarabjit’s family. PHOTO: FILE

Pakistani prisoner Sanaullah Ranjay assaulted by a cashiered Indian soldier in Jammu’s Kot Balwal jail on Friday, a day after Indian death row convict Sarabjit Singh breathed his last in Lahore, is dead. 52-year-old Sanaullah, who was in deep coma and on life-support system, died in a hospital in Chandigarh this morning.

In an apparent retaliation to the death of Sarabjit Singh, who had been savagely beaten to sodden pulp by his fellow jail inmates a week before, Sanaullah was attacked allegedly by a pickaxe by Vinod Kumar, an Indian Army man sentenced to life in a murder case by a military court of inquiry in Leh. Sanaullah was arrested in 1999 in connection with five cases related to terror activities.

My heart goes out to the family of Sanaullah. For their plight is no different from the agony of Sarabjit’s family. Like Sarabjit, Sanaullah is also someone’s father, brother, and son. His life and death makes a huge difference to his loved ones.

In this photograph taken on May 3, 2013, Pakistani prisoner Sanaullah Ranjay, an inmate of India's central Jammu jail was attacked by Indian inmates at a prison, is carried from a hospital to an ambulance in Jammu before being transferred to a hospital in Chandigarh for treatment. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Alack, yet another poor, wretched man has been crucified on the cross of lethal Indo-Pak rivalry. Yet another miserable fellow, notwithstanding his terror background, has been made a scapegoat to gratify India and Pakistan’s inflated egos. But, what we don’t understand is that an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind. We have no right to play with the life of someone to gratify our insatiable craving for blood. Sarabjit’s extra-judicial killing has stirred passions in India. But, that does not justify the retaliatory attack on Sanaullah.

For this ‘khoon ka badla khoon’ or ‘tit-for-tat’ proclivity will only lead us to the abyss of dark ages, extrication from which will be impossible. In that chasm there’s darkness, there are the burning fires of hell, there’s the burning and scorching of the flesh; there’s foul smell.

Our thirst for human blood and depravity is disgusting; yes disgusting. It’s despicable. This shameful state of affairs itself calls for an immediate remedy. But then this kind of barbaric savagery and sadistic disposition is not alien to Indians and Pakistanis. It has been an integral part of our tribal society for ages.

When I think of these recent horrific incidents in our prisons, or the ghastly 2008 Mumbai attacks, or the one on the LoC where an Indian soldier was allegedly beheaded by Pakistani forces, or the Gujarat riots of 2002, my mind dwells upon the ‘Great Calcutta Killings’ that took place on August 16, 1946 which served to catalyse into violence the rivalry of India’s Hindu and Muslim communities. It was Jinnah’s ‘Direct Action Day’, to prove to Britain and the Congress Party that India’s Muslims were prepared ‘to get Pakistan for themselves by “Direct Action” if necessary.

 ‘We shall have India divided,’ Jinnah had vowed, ‘or we shall have India destroyed.’

Freedom At Midnight, a book by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins offers a horrifying account of what transpired on that fateful morning. At dawn on August 16, 1946, howling in a quasi-religious fervour, Muslim mobs had come bursting from their slums, waving clubs, iron bars, shovels, any instrument capable of ‘smashing in a human skull’.

They savagely beat to sodden pulp any Hindus in their path and stuffed their remains in the city’s open gutters. Soon tall pillars of black smoke stretched up from a score of spots in the city, Hindu bazaars in full blaze.

Later, the Hindu mobs came storming out of their neighbourhoods looking for defenceless Muslims to slaughter. Never, in all its violent history, had Calcutta known 24 hours as savage, as packed with human viciousness as this one. By the time the slaughter was over, Calcutta belonged to the vultures.

Exactly one year later to this tragic event, in August 1947 in Punjab two men rode side by side in an open car. Three decades of struggle against the British rule should have earned the Prime Ministers of the new nations of Pakistan and India the right to ride in triumph through jubilant crowds of their admiring countrymen. Jawaharlal Nehru and Liaquat Ali Khan rode instead in depressed silence through scenes of horror and misery.

Now as their car sped past devastated village after devastated village, un-harvested fields, wretched columns of refugees, Hindus and Sikhs trudging dumbly east, Muslims dumbly west, the two leaders, an aide noticed, seemed to shrink into the back seat of the car, collapsing, almost, under the burden of their misery.

At last Nehru broke the oppressive silence.

“What hell the partition has brought us,” he said to Liaquat in a half whisper.

‘We never foresaw anything like this when we agreed to it. We’ve been brothers. How could this have happened?’

‘Our people have gone mad.’ Liaquat replied.

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Sapan Kapoor

Sapan Kapoor

A history buff and India-based journalist, the author has worked with the Press Trust of India. He blogs at sehar-anawakening.blogspot.in/ and tweets as @dRaconteur.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.