The day when a film hero and an assassin ruled our entire existence
On 29 February, a rare date that graces our calendars, those who rooted for Leonardo DiCaprio to bag an Oscar were either oblivious of Mumtaz Qadri or loathed the slayer for the deed he committed.
The regular Monday of the lot who knew DiCaprio as ‘Titanic wala Hero’ was made horrid and disquieting by roadblocks, closure of schools, cancellation of exams and an overall pall of uncertainty that dawned everywhere in the wake of Qadri’s execution.
The Jaan-nisaraan-e-Qadri, at the morning of execution, were filling empty plastic bottles with patrol and preparing the effigies of political leaders haphazardly. They were arming themselves to teeth with batons and stones to record their ‘peaceful’ protest and to tell the world that they’ll slaughter every mother’s son who dares to defile the name of beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly.
Many young lads joined this God-fearing, Prophet-loving, slogan-chanting, baton-wielding, delusion-driven, life denying and thoroughly dogmatic ‘cult of knife’ not out of love or reverence of divine, but to experience a sense of purpose in their transitory, mortal lives. The never-ending boredom of man, for past many eons, had led many a soul to religious and secular festivals, elaborate ceremonies of important life events, music concerts, social and political movements, circuses and ‘mobs’: that mindless kirk where an individual’s conscious is slaughtered at the altar of higher purpose.
Our society has been cleaved in two dissimilar lots, namely, the secular, rich and well-educated minority and religiosity stricken, financially insecure majority. The divide is huge and it’s widening day in, day out. Every passing day drives them further apart as dwellers of both fringes don’t speak each other’s language, they don’t live in same vicinities, their children don’t mix up, they rarely come in contact with each other and most importantly they don’t see eye to eye when it comes to all things sacred and celestial.
I visited Kohsar market — the place where Mr Taseer was assassinated — this 29 February while doing spade work for my story. The market had the same casual air that is its hallmark, the big, swanky cars filled the parking lot, locals and foreigners were seated cosily and chatted amicably, the Oscars were the talk of this tiny market, home to couple of cafes, and few stores.
The kids were busy with their black screens, tweeting, liking and sharing the posts and statuses pertaining to Oscars, the adults were talking in whispers, seeing their cell phones every now and then, asking around for updates, the wanton abandon or indifference was nowhere in sight. The atmosphere reeked of anxiety, tension and uncertainty.
On the other side of fence, charged mobs were chanting slogans and hand-made effigies of rulers were burned. The anger and ire at the secretive execution of ‘Aashq-e-Rasool’ poached and spilled over the entire country. The state lost a couple of billions, promises to avenge Qadri were made, oaths were taken to stay loyal to the cause.
Mumtaz Qadri, truth be told, has many admirers and apologists. Ask randomly fifty people in markets, grounds, workplaces and offices. You’ll come to know that those who have a soft corner for Qadri in their heart outnumber his critics by a fairly large margin.
Qadri Lovers consider him a godsend who did what should have been done by the state i.e., punishing a man who committed blasphemy. And in it lies their rationale, their reasoning and their logic. Unfortunately, the state has done nothing at all to clarify its stance. The legal action to hang him was not backed by a narrative that addressed all the misleading assumptions people had and still have. This lacuna proved to be the state’s bane and will haunt it for all times to come.
We are made by the heroes we praise. They show us our aspirations, arm us to fight our fears, help us ideate a better picture of ourselves when we are down in the gutters.
Our hero can be a long dead philosopher who jolted us back to life with a single quote, or a singer whose song embraced us in our hour of need, or an author whose every word is a revelation, or may be a lad famous for playing in a particular football club.
DiCaprio has millions of fans who love him wholeheartedly, he has a cult all to himself. His films gross billions and finally he has won the much-elusive Oscar.
Mumtaz Qadri, an elite commando, rose to fame because he assassinated the man he was entrusted to protect. Many a million hail him as their martyred hero. He too has a cult, a ‘cult of knife’.
In our land of many heroes, those who idolise Mumtaz Qadri are not on talking terms with those who admire acting prowess of Leonardo DiCaprio.
All I could’ve done was to put my pen to paper and was to present before you an article titled, ‘Thou must know the Qadri-DiCaprio divide’, and that’s what I just did.