Manto thought the violent forces that had been unleashed during that period would remain in Pakistan’s society, damaging it. In this piece he tells us the country would become increasingly violent unless the matter was taken up. It wasn’t, of course, and again Manto shows he is correct. He says the ‘age of barbarism’ in Pakistan has already begun – and he was writing this 60 years ago. As a writer his understanding of the solution is unusual, and he turns not to sociology but, unusually for him, to something more personal.
Qatal o khoon ki surkhiyan, by Saadat Hasan Manto, translated by Aakar Patel
The most prominent headlines these days are about murder and killings. So far as the stories go they are fine and must be reported. But one wonders why there’s so much killing happening in Pakistan.
Aggression is a part of man’s character, I accept that. What I’m asking is why it’s now, in these days, that there is so much of it.
Every morning’s paper is filled with the details of cruel acts. What’s behind all of this? Should we lose faith in humanity? Why have we become so bloodthirsty suddenly?
It’s difficult to figure out the answer to these questions. We thought that what happened during Partition that brought the human race to shame – the parading naked of helpless women, the murdering of lakhs of human beings, the raping of thousands of girls. We thought that after this the problem was behind us. That Partition would rid us of the hatred and the violence. But now we learn that the hatred has not been expended. It thrives.
What happened in the communal riots was explained away as group action. But now it’s clear that the violence is still with us. Every single day brings news of this.
We must ask ourselves why these people have become so violent. Why they are so intent on actions that do such damage to others. I think the intensity of the violence during Partition could have been reduced. Unfortunately nobody attempted to do this. The result is before us. We have hardened killers living in our midst. Their actions are being reported to us in the papers.
Their hands became familiar with dagger and pistol during the communal riots. What’s being done to control them now? The fact is that these people are a product of that event.
They weren’t used to killing, it is the circumstance that transformed them. They loved their mothers surely, and their friends. They understood the value of honour and respect for their wives and daughters. They feared god.
All of this, that one event obliterated. An event so bloody as never before witnessed.
What happened then is done and there’s little gain in analysing it. But it’s absolutely essential that we examine its fallout. The changes that have come because of it. This is not the work of judges, therefore, but of psychologists. They alone can investigate the phenomenon and produce some solution to it.
It’s troubling that our government is doing nothing about it though every single day, as I keep saying, brings news of violence.
One party confronts another, guns are pulled out, daggers are drawn and plunged in, soda bottles and rocks and whatever comes to hand is flung at the other side. It’s not clear where the administration disappears while this is happening. I don’t want to comment on the police. They are needed in stopping this, of course, but the primary work is that of psychological examination. Why is this happening at all?
If we don’t examine it psychologically, I fear the situation will become worse. An era of barbarism will begin in Pakistan. Will begin? Let me correct that – it’s begun.
What day passes without evidence of it? And it has been happening in the open. Another problem in preventing it is that the killers are people whom the witnesses fear. They worry for their own lives. It’s often happened that a man is killed in public. The police may even catch the killer and produce him in court. But then the witnesses are not supportive and the man gets away.
I’m no supporter of the death penalty. Indeed, I’m not even in favour of jail. I don’t think jail reforms people. I’m in favour of that which turns them normal again.
We often talk of saints and elders who with one word made terrible people repent. The most ordinary faqir in one meeting making the devil himself take the path of angels. So the soul is undoubtedly something that exists and can be influenced.
In this, our world of science when we understand atomic structure, it’s surely possible to examine ourselves, our soul, scientifically. Of course, we can’t dismiss those who approach the soul through namaz and roza and arti and kirtan. The soul is whole. And I’m convinced the way to reform the killers among us is through educating their souls.
They should realise that they can yet be saved. That they are ordinary men and it is it circumstance that made them monsters. They should realise also that it is man whom god made venerable and excellent. Whom he made the last prophet.
If they understood that about themselves, I’m quite certain they will reform. One incident has brought this lack of harmony. True. But we must be rid now of its fallout.
Where is our humanity? Where are its keepers?