A letter from Mashal Khan after his death

I was not the first one to become a victim to the collective madness, but you can help make me the last

I am Mashal Khan. I was lynched and killed by my fellow students at a place I thought was a step in fulfilling my dreams. I was there like them, but they were turned into savages by the societal thinking and conditioning of the state. You can consider what happened to me as collateral damage. Neither state nor the society thought that their brainwashing and years of training would affect someone’s life like it affected mine and that of my family and hundreds of thousands of others who felt the pain deep inside their hearts over what happened to me.

I don’t remember the details. It was noon but I was feeling darkness encroaching upon me from all corners. They were human-like but I was not able to see a single human in a crowd of hundreds. They believed that I have hurt their emotions, and that hurting their feelings was a cause and reason valid enough for them to forego their humanity and make me and my body a dashboard to express how much they love the holy personas I had allegedly blasphemed against. The sanctity of my life and the holiness of my body were reduced to an evil that had to be wiped out. I don’t remember all the faces but I think there were a few I had once exchanged pleasantries with. I was not in a condition to feel hope but I thought they are running towards me to save me from the mob. But when they came near I saw rods and sticks in their hand. And that was the last of it, when I had bled enough that my legs weren’t able to carry me anymore. I laid down there. I came to know from a friend from his Facebook post that I still was breathing at that time and had pleaded him to save me, saying that I myself am a Sufi, but my friend later said that he was numb and helpless. I don’t blame him, everyone would have become numb at the sight of that insanity.

I thought that after my soul departed my body they would be satisfied, but no. Their rage at things I wasn’t sure of I have done, was so much that mutilating my body to satisfy their sadism, and to book a seat for them in heaven, was all their rational minds could come up with. My body was rescued by police; more on that later. The sanctity of my body was something which dwarfed against the sanctity of their feelings.

My mother had called me a few days back and was waiting on me to visit home and her. I had told her that I would come home on Friday but my fellow students, who I hadn’t known had been turned into blood-thirsty monsters by the education and by the thinking that had been conditioned to, had other plans. They sent me home permanently on Thursday. When I was in Moscow doing my Hons degree in civil engineering, I would miss the streets and the people of my town. Perhaps it was time now to rest in my village forever. But I would have liked, like anyone else, to meet my mother while I was whole. My mother took my hands in her hands and the pain I had felt while they were lynching me was a thing of the past. My mother felt that all the bones in my hand and all my fingers have been broken and I could feel the pangs of pain and the shrieks of suffering rising in her heart. My mother would cry later and tell an interviewer that all my fingers had been broken.

And my father, I can’t even recount the pain he was going through. He was not feeling the pain of my separation though, he had other matters to look after. Every father has a right to sit in a corner and weep over his dead child, but my father took it upon himself and was meeting people to clear my name. He had spent all his life with words. He is a poet. But the people had forced him to use his way with words to present me as one of them and not as one of the evil ‘other’. I wanted to make him proud one day. He had instilled a passion of reading and a tinge of idealism in me. That’s why despite being an engineer and having a degree from a good place, I told him that I want to join civil service and serve my people in a direct way and make him proud. He supported me despite his abject poverty.

Near my home is a mosque. I used to pray there some times. But when I was taken home that day, the Molvi opened the loudspeaker and roared, “Whoever attends Mashal’s funeral has to renew their marriage!” He straightaway refused to lead my funeral prayers and stopped other clerics too from doing that. When someone was found who was willing to say my funeral prayers he opened the loudspeaker of the mosque and played Naats in high volume to disrupt my funeral. Blasphemy, they say, I have committed. And here the Molvi was using hymns meant to praise the Prophet to distract people from offering my last rituals!

My letter would be incomplete if I don’t mention the silence of those purporting to lead the masses. I saw people all over the globe mourning over my death but the people I affiliated with politically were silent. I wished to see a progressive and tolerant society. Don’t trust me? Go through my social media posts and you will see what kind of thinking I had for that people and that society. But the people I made my comrades in my fight for a more open society were all silent. Even the governments whose writ has been challenged, as my father reiterates in every interview, were silent for three days. They were waiting for police to prove me innocent. When my father needed a shoulder to cry on, they were hiding their faces and they were avoiding my name like it was some curse word. When the whole nation was in pain, and moral clarity and moral courage was need of the hour, they were pretending to live in a parallel universe where courting to their vote-bank and political expediency were the paramount considerations. But thanks to the competence of the police (who were so incompetent by the way to rescue me while I was hiding in the campus and the mob was searching for me) and the high-heartedness of few anchors and social media pages that they realized that I was not a criminal but a victim.

When Malala’s book, the daughter of that land’s book, is not allowed to be launched in universities and posters for a person who was hanged by government for an act of terrorism have filled the walls of campuses, my fellow students had to turn into the savages which they became ultimately. When ideas and discussions can be used as charge-sheets then the places which are meant to be seats of ideas and debates can be no different from the society they are working in. I am gone now. I wanted to make my father proud of me and I wanted to make myself a source of consolation for my mother, but they are now things that are beyond my capacity. My father would have been too tired, shaken and broken by now – though he doesn’t let that show – but he is speaking at every opportunity that what has happened to his son shouldn’t happen to someone else’s child. I was not the first one to become a victim to the collective madness, but you can help make me the last. I hope you let ideas live but as my father says, “You can’t enchain sunrays.”

Hurmat Ali Shah is a freelance writer interested in intersection of culture, politics and society. He can be reached at hurmata.shah@gmail.com. Follow him on Facebook 

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