The good-looking dead grab more newsprint and TV space because we need a relief from eyesores of calamities and tragedies even if they come in the form of victims. Especially if they are victims. Our sorrow can get heightened. The argument is that had I shown her face before she died, then the tragedy would have hit harder as it would be transposed with the blood-splattered body.
I am seething. People are killed for no reason and it does not matter how they look, how they speak and what their financial or social status is. If we start building up the dead as embalmed beauties in our consciousness we will be as pathetic as those who indulge in murder and then camouflage intent beneath legalese.
Last night, after a long time, I decided to watch the news channels. I was looking for something on Ishrat at prime time. One channel showed two men grappling with an animal in a cage; it wasn’t Discovery or National Geographic. Another one showed a private airline’s pilots on strike and kept flashing images of the screen that showed cancelled flights, as though people are dumb. Finally, I reached Times Now. It did have a discussion on the fake encounter.
The anchor’s intentions may be honourable but did he have to screech and shout down the voice of the BJP guy who, needless to say, would indulge in technicalities? How many times was it necessary to say, “Oh, that is technical”? And was there any need to insist on seeming to appear to take a side when it is apparent to anyone?
Then he spoke to Ishrat’s sister, who ended with how those who helped her were non-Muslim. In fact, she interjected after she was thanked for being part of the show to tell us this. I feel for her loss and appreciate the family’s belief in Ishrat. I know they must have gone through five years of hell for being branded as part of a terrorist’s family. It would hurt. Her need to assert the support of people who were not Muslim came from deep within, an insecurity she had internalised with such intensity that she just had to say it. However, if there were people from other communities who were with them, then there were Muslims too.
The Muslim who spoke on the channel was well-known lawyer Majeed Memon. He said, among other things, that because of this labelling of Ishrat for five years, 150 million Muslims have been tainted. I wanted to ask him to stop right then. This is what Narendra Modi and his cohorts say. This is not what he has to state because it only gives further credence to a stereotype. We have all lived with it for almost two decades to some degree, but we are not the real sufferers. And we are most certainly not the spokespersons for 150 million Muslims in India.
Mr. Memon and I (to a much lesser degree) can at best voice certain thoughts. Mr. Memon does not read this blog, I am sure, but if there is anyone who knows him do tell him not to decide on behalf of a community about how they feel. Do not ride on the death of a young woman. Tell him that a couple of months ago he was sitting at the Atrium Lounge at Taj Land’s End, the table next to the large flower arrangement which is in front of the pianist. I was on the sofa diagonally across having my crème brule. Why am I mentioning this? To convey that Muslims do not have to be beleaguered creatures or hugely famous to enjoy a good time. More importantly, to drive home the point that Ishrat was far from his mind and mine.
We have a baggage to carry, no doubt about it. Let us do so as our burden and not someone else’s burden we are being forced to bear. This is about me and you, Mr.Memon, as individuals and as members of disparate groups. When I talk about Indian Muslims as a polity it is different from using the community to further my ends. If that were the case you would see me more often, eyes blazing on TV screens. Have you refused to appear on shows that try out different versions of the Muslim - liberal, moderate, unusual, out-of-the-box, secular, pseudo secular, atheist, agnostic, religious but tolerant, smokes but does not inhale, drinks but does not get drunk?
Do it. It will liberate you and make those channels find one less caricature.
The Rogue's Gallery
Anyone wants pictures? Here, these are the ones we should keep in mind. I have not been able to find any of police inspector J G Parmar and additional DGP PP Pandey.
Below are Gujarat's beloved chief minister Narendra Modi flashing a sword. Next is D G Vanzara, who has already confessed to killings earlier. And finally, then Ahmedabad police commissioner K R Kaushik in uniform.