118 years of Trust THE TRIBUNE

Sunday, October 18, 1998
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There are people who claim history repeats itself — first as a tragedy then as a farce — and there are several living examples of human beings not drawing lessons from history in and around the globe, feels Raja Jaikrishan

"Victims talk peace", a collage by the writerHistory as tragedy and farce

THERE are people who assert that history doesn’t repeat itself. There are also people who claim history repeats itself — first as a tragedy then as a farce.

The accounts that will follow could make you agree with a latter. While I was listening to a fierce argumentation between hope and death, a book of stories tumbled from the rack into my lap. Interestingly, it opened up itself on page 47, wherefore began: The Massacre of the Innocents", a story by Maurice Maeterlinck.

The story does not have much by way of a plot, but it has Breughel like details and background. Its depiction of the Hobbesian nature of man a century ago makes the story significant even at the end of this millennium.

The Spaniards had come, having already set fire to the farm, hanged his mother from a chestnut bough and bound his nine little sisters to the trunk of a large tree. The soldiers were clad in steel armour and mounted on horseback"...

There was then a terrible massacre in the presence of the huddled sheep and cows, that looked on frightened at the terrible slaughter under the light of the moon.

Several peasants climbed into the snow-covered chestnut to cut down the body of the hanged woman. They took the body into their arms at the foot of the tree, as those other women once received our Lord Jesus Christ.

As the street was still deserted, the commanding officer sent off some horsemen behind the houses to guard the village on the side facing the open country, and ordered the footmen to bring to him children two years old or under, as he intended to massacre them, in accordance with what is written in the Gospel of St Matthew.

Then he who held the innkeeper’s child by one leg, cut off its head with a stroke of the sword. The peasant saw the head fall, and the body bleeding on the ground. The mother gathered it, forgetting the head, and ran towards her house. On the way she stumbled against a tree, fell flat on the snow and fainted while the father struggled with two soldiers.

They carried three children in their arms, and were surrounded by the Hunchback, his wife and daughters, who were begging for mercy with clasped hands. When the soldiers came to their leader, they laid the children down at the foot of an elm, all dressed in their Sunday clothes.

One of them, who wore a yellow dress, got up and ran with unsteady feet towards the sheep. A soldier ran after it with his naked sword. The child died with its face on the earth. The others were killed near the tree. The father and mother of the murdered children, seated on the snow, wept bitterly as they bent over the bodies.

When all the children had been killed, the weary soldiers wiped their swords on the grass and ate their supper among the pear trees, then mounting in pairs, they rode out of Nazareth across the bridge over which they had come".

This is a fictionalised slice from history where children were massacred according to the Gospel of St Mathew: From the age of crusades to World War I, what changed was the war cry and weapons of destruction.

A look at events months and days old shows how history repeats as a farce.

"I discovered the bodies of 16 Albanian civilians massacred by Serb forces in a remote village in Kosovo. The mutilated men, women and children were, still lying in the open five days after they were killed", says Tom Walker in his despatch for The Telegraph, London.

The first body found was that of a girl, may be four or five, with her throat ripped open by a knife, a wound that stretched to the edge of her mouth.

A few yards higher up a narrow ravine were four women, all killed with close range shots to the head. One was pregnant. Next to her was a baby girl about 12 months old. Her mother was lying in the undergrowth. Her head was still covered by a purple anorak, soaked on one side with blood.

We pushed on, bent double, stepping over corpses and into a thicket from where there had been no escape. There was another woman, then another two children, with their heads blown apart. We breathed through our mouths to avoid the stench.

A young farmer, Hamidi Delija, said his family was among the dead. Speaking in a voice devoid of emotion, he said his wife, Lumlije, was among the group of three at the top of the ravine.

The baby girl was Valmiri: The woman next to her was his brother Adem’s wife. Adem and the men had escaped before the Serbs arrived.

In a small clearing with a make-shift shelter of wooden struts and green tarpaulin, were mattresses sodden with blood. Beneath them was an elderly man, who had been shot in the head, and his wife, whose left foot was severed at the ankle. Around them were some of their possessions, a tray of wild apples and a makeshift iron stove. The path moved back into the dappled light of the wood and there, on a small rise, was the body of an elderly man with his throat cut and half his had removed. Blood coagulated in the sheepskin collar of his jacket and caked the rusty blade of a kitchen knife perched on his chest.

Nearer home, in Kashmir, according to the Joint Human Rights Committee report, Pak — trained Mujahideen kidnapped Brijnath Sharma on April 27, 1990. Two days later his body was found hanging by a tree. His lips had been stitched.

Sham Lal of Anantnag was kidnapped in May, 1990. His hands and feet were chopped off and his skull battered. His body was stuffed in a sack and left to rot. Pran Nath of Uttarsu in Anantnag district was kidnapped on May 27, 1990. His body was found impaled. His chest and feet nailed.

Girja, a school teacher in Bandipora, was abducted from the house of Muslim colleague. She was gangraped and sliced on a mechanical saw.

Brij Nath Kaul of Hermain, Shopian, and his wife were tied to a speeding vehicle. There mangled bodies were found 10 km away from their home.

Only torsos of several Kashmiri Pandits were found. Some of them had iron marks. The heads found had eyes gouged out. In hospitals wounded Kashmiri Pandits were left unattended to bleed to death.

The worst was that Kashmiri Pandits killed were cremated without religious rites away from their kith and kin.

There are many more living examples of human beings not drawing lessons from history in and around the globe. The method in this madness is best put by Noam Chomsky in (World Orders, Old and New); "The basic rules of world order are as they have always been. The rule of law for the weak, the rule of force for the strong".

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