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Mirroring each other in hostility

Mirroring each other in hostility
The death of the Pakistani prisoner Sanaullah Ranjay in Jammu’s Kot Balwal jail is an uncanny reminder that India and Pakistan have long been engaged in a reprehensible policy of one-upmanship when it comes to vindictive, tit-for-tat blows at each other, mostly at the expense of vulnerable ordinary citizens, or helpless prisoners serving long-drawn sentences in ill-maintained jails of both countries. Both Sarabjit Singh and Sanaullah Ranjay had been the victims of uncommon hostility from fellow inmates for no fault of their own. Although Singh and Ranjay had been convicted of terrorism charges, the grounds were so flimsy that it was evident that neither of the duo, linked forever in death as they now are, had been granted the basic right of adequate legal representation in the other country, and had been left by the so-called vanguards of conscience to rot till death in the ‘enemy’ country’s prison cells. Sarabjit, a farmer’s son from Bikhiwind, had more in common with Sanaullah Ranjay, son of an agricultural labourer in Dallowali, near Sialkot in Pakistan, than he had with his fellow countrymen who had forgotten all about him, even though his family had been leaving no stone unturned to have him freed, convinced as they were that he was innocent and had been wrongly framed. Similarly, Ranjay, whom the records have shown to be a small-time criminal, making a life by doing chores for the intelligence officials on both sides of the Indo-Pak border, had been an easy target to first put behind bars on the controversial Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (TADA) Act, and subsequently, to become the victim of the pent up wrath of a co-convict, a former serviceman in the Indian defence forces, who clearly had exacted a ‘revenge’ on the part of his patriotic countrymen who were busy ‘mourning’ Sarabjit’s death in Lahore’s Jinnah hospital.

The parallels between Sarabjit and Sanaullah are unfortunate, to say the least, but they are also symptomatic of the entrenched prejudices on both sides. Political observers have pointed out that the cycle of violence was initiated by the Indian authorities when they decided to hang Ajmal Kasab, the lone 26/11 gunman to be caught alive, and then followed it quickly by executing Afzal Guru, the Kashmiri-Indian convicted of waging the 2001 attacks on Parliament. While it’s obviously debatable whether the India’s UPA-II government should have hastily and clandestinely hanged the two convicts, ostensibly to score brownie points in the wake of a riot of corruption scams scorching its prospects in the next general elections, the cycle of retributive violence unleashed by the acts is very real and far-reaching. It is extremely distasteful to see politicians and government officials in both the countries mouthing loud laments and beating their chests in order to convey their ‘deepest sympathies and condolences’ at the two deaths, particularly because these are very people who had abandoned the two prisoners of diplomatic machinations and general hatemongering when they needed help the most. India and Pakistan are at par in shame, blame and other indices of utter irresponsibility towards their own people.       
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