MAN’S cruelty to man can strain credulity. That is especially so when the target is more vulnerable than most. In a recent incident reported from Lahore, three individuals grabbed hold of a deaf beggar and allegedly, “for the sake of amusement”, pumped air into his body with a compressor at a petrol station. The unfortunate man lost consciousness from the excruciating pain, and was rushed to hospital by the management when they were informed of what had happened. Doctors diagnosed massive internal bleeding from the damage done to his large intestine as a result of the abuse. Thankfully, the victim’s condition is improving. Not so fortunate was a blind beggar who died in last November, also in Lahore, after a group of men subjected him to the same inhumane act.
Bullying is unacceptable; left unchecked, the tendency can evolve into the form of egregious cruelty on display in the incidents cited above. Indeed, it is mind-boggling how people can pick on individuals who have to navigate so many challenges in their daily life — poverty, mental and/physical challenges, etc. Most Pakistanis see themselves as being compassionate and generous to those around them, often rightly so. Nevertheless, in a society where ‘might is right’, those with power are far too often seen as lording it over the comparatively weak. Leave aside Lady Health Workers or government teachers protesting peacefully for their rights, even rallies by handicapped people have been set upon by the police. Moreover, we can be exceedingly judgemental, quick to ridicule or denigrate those who do not conform to what is considered ‘normal’. Witness the taunts and degradation often meted out to trans people in public places, not to mention the violence they are subjected to. And it is not only human beings at the receiving end of sadistic treatment. Caged animals in zoos, already kept in miserable conditions, are often pelted with stones and other objects by visitors. Compassion does not seem to be part of our national character.
Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2020