Jan 12, 2011

A Prisoner's Diary

By Najia Navaid

18th March 1988

I am a murderer. Or so they say.

I was captured on the thirteenth of January, 1947. It was the year of independence of the subcontinent. A year when blood in the streets was as common as the black crows that perched on our boundary walls.

Those were dark times, dangerous times. Children stopped going to schools and women didn't step outside of their homes without a male companion.. Windows were kept shut, doors kept locked, curtains drawn. Young men with rifles, both Hindu and Muslim, roamed the streets, firing at will.

I was, and believe I still am, a member of the Muslim League. The vision of independence had sparked in all of us a fire which would never burn out. A fire which gave us courage, hope, and the strength to be willing to die for the cause.

We were all young men, hearts burning with the same fire. On 26th August 1946, i was admitted to the hospital for severe bleeding. I had gotten involved in a fight with the Hindus who were playing music outside our mosque. On 4th October 1946, I was admitted again. I had jumped at the men who were harassing a Muslim girl.

On 13th December 1946, my daughter was born and my resolve strengthened. I wanted to give her everything I did not have: freedom, merriment, a childhood without constant fear.

On 13th January 1947, I last kissed my wife and daughter as I left for prayers. I returned back with a Hindu friend. He was a lover of peace and believed that the only way forward was to be separated by a frontier. He was a wise man and I respected him greatly.

We parted at his gate and I made my way to my own house. But when I reached the door, I knew something had gone horribly wrong. My life would never be the same again.

The door was hanging on its hinges, lock broken. The window had been shattered, the way it breaks when a chair is thrown at it. The curtain over the door, which my sweet wife had so painstakingly embroidered, had been torn off, a gaping rip in the center.

I ran inside, panic gripping my nerves. Broken dishes, clothes strewn over the floor, a trunk lying on its side, a few drops of blood.

No, no, no! My mind was screaming as I ran through the house, yelling for my wife and kid. My head was spinning, my hands were shaking. My stomach clenched and unclenched, clenched and unclenched. My heart, oh my heart, it constricted in pain.

I knew there was nothing I could do. I had no evidence, no leads. My family: gone.

It was not the fear that they had died. No, it would have been better if they had. It was not knowing what they were going through. Rape, mutilation, beating. That was what would happen and I knew it. I was helpless, an animal in a cage.

I know it was wrong to kill him, but I was in a deranged frenzy, mad with grief and horror. Angry.

I killed my Hindu friend. In that state of mind it was Hindu vs Muslim, religion vs religion, me against him. I remember the shock in his eyes as he rasped his last. Blood for blood, no matter whose it was.

If I hadn't been captured, if his wife hadn't called the guards, I would have killed every single Hindu on our street

Yes, it was wrong; yes, it was unfair. But then, when were we offered justice either? Were our women not raped? Our people not massacred? The rage from a decade of brutality was boiling up inside me, choking me.

I am still in prison today, mine was a lifetime of imprisonment. I never saw Pakistan, never tasted freedom.

I am writing this down, but do not think too badly of me. I am wiser now, it comes with wrinkles. I am ashamed, yes. But inequality breeds nothing but hate, which in turn breeds racism.

And at that time, it was all I could do to avenge my family.


Alpha Za said...

"But the day you become a statistic, believe me that changes things."

Very aptly put.

great post!

Talha said...

Wow I was lost in you post. very nice.

Sam said...
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Simra Siddiqui said...


Marium Ibrahim said...

I've told you this before but this is so good! it made me sad.

Lynette said...

wow Naji! I really dont know what to say, its just wow. Its so emotional. I love it!

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