“There is a calling that is yet above high office, fame, lucre and security. It is the call of conscience.” – Lasantha Wickrematunge
The murderous attack on renowned journalist and author Raza Rumi has come as another shocking reminder of the state of our country; we seem to have become a society where mass murderers roam free while using one’s voice to speak out is enough to get you killed. As each incident shocks us anew with no practical change to the situation at hand, it is perhaps time to brace ourselves for even worse times ahead.
Let there be no doubt that Raza Rumi and his ilk are being systematically attacked for speaking truth to power, while power in this country is continuously being ceded to the militants.
These assailants are most commonly referred to in the mainstream media and public discourse as ‘unknown persons’ – a sign of creeping fear, ideological obscurantism or both. However every conscientious citizen of this country knows who these ‘unknown persons’ are and what they want. While the government implores the militants to discontinue their violent and barbaric activities – whether such desperate efforts succeed or not is another debate – it must not forget its foremost responsibility is to protect its citizens.
An attack on a journalist must be taken with due seriousness because journalists act as the eyes and ears of the public, and public opinion is the constituting matrix within which a system of government functions. In our culture of official secrecy and lack of accountability, journalists play a crucial role of enabling the masses to make informed political decisions and hold the powerful responsible.
It should be quite apparent that the attacks on the media are not just a random reaction by the militants. In fact they are the result of the strategic use of ruthless yet controlled violence to achieve certain ideological goals. Silencing dissidents is thus an immediate and primary objective. It is plain to see how militants are prioritizing one target after the other, the media being a relatively recent addition to this.
Raza Rumi and many others were attacked for their words – the superfluous distinction of Urdu versus English media is also losing its meaning now. Some say they cannot kill all of us. But do they have to? They know how many to kill to silence the rest – after all it is not all that difficult since we are already the ‘too silent majority’.
But it is important to remember that in a situation where words can kill the answer cannot be more silence, as only more words can save us. Because if silence does prevail, some may live for a while but only at the expense of many more who are at constant risk of perishing soon.