From Thanedar to Forester

For the past some days, whatsApp is abuzz with a news the of a Buzarg ( senior citizen) from Pakistan who won a court case after 13 years’ long legal battle in a Pakistani court.  The poor man is seen standing in a photo alongside a BBC Urdu News logo, and a 5000 rupee Pakistani currency note, conspicuously displayed in his hands to attract the attention of the people to his story which goes like this: On winning the  legal battle, the judge congratulated him and in return the Buzarg said “Allah Aap Ko Thanedar Banadey” [tr. May God make you In-charge of a Police Station]  The judge smiled at this naivety of the Buzarg, and said, “Judge is higher in rank than a Thanedar”.  “No son, Thanedar is…” , the Buzarg responded. “How?” the Judge asked. “It took you 13 years to decide this case, while 13 years before the then Thanedar had told me to give give him 5000 rupees, and he will hush-up the matter in the thana itself”, the Buzarg explained.

I couldn’t locate the story on BBC Urdu News website which means the story is untested. But that is not the concern here. Even anecdotes sometimes provide good examples of the existing realities of the societies. It is quite probable that such anecdotal stories are crafted, and peddled among the people to grab attention. Here the message in the Buzarg’s  whatsApp post is loud and clear. And it is important. The people with little or no education sometimes explain things better than the educated.  For a poor man like this Pakistani-litigant, the value of a post didn’t come from high ranking designation.  It came from its reality, its power on the ground. How it operated in the field? Its implementation. For him, the Thanedar could have solved his problem long before had he grease his palm with 5000 rupee currency note. But he preferred legal course of action which consumed precious days of his life & hard earned money.  It is a bitter reality of our societies; countless people have faced it.

There is an analogous anecdotal story from the valley of Kashmir. I don’t know whether it is true or not, but we have heard it from our early childhood. The story is of a Director of Education, Kashmir, in early 1960s. It was a time when higher posts in State hierarchy mattered a lot in terms of social respect, recognition and the power they carried with them.  The post of Director Education was considered a very high ranking post in State Administration. But, an innocent Gujjar who met the Education Director had a different view about it. As part of anecdotes in Kashmir, it is said that in early 1960s, there was a Director Education (name withheld as the story is not recorded & documented) who, on “compassionate grounds”, appointed the son of an extremely indigent Gujjar in Kupwara district as Chowkidar-cum-peon in a local school.  The poor Gujjar was extremely happy on his son’s appointment in the school and wanted to thank the Director Education. But he didn’t know when and where. Much to his joy, the Director Education came on an official tour to Kupwara. The poor Gujjar was informed about the Director’s visit to his area. Feeling morally bound to pay Salaam & express gratitude to the Director, the poor Gujjar was guided by people to the Dak-Bungalow where the Director was staying for a day or so. He was given audience by the Director. The gujjar said to him, in an emotional tone, with moist eyes and folded hands: “jenab aap ka bohat shukriya. Aap nay meray betay ko nokri de kar muj gareeb par bada ahsaan kiya. Meray gar may ab chula jalta rahega” (Sahib, I’m deeply indebted to you for appointing my son in your department. Now at last, my family has got a bread-earner). And the poor Gujjar raised his hands in Dua and wished something for the Director which brought only smiles to the officials and teachers  present in the room. He said “Sahib, Allah Aap Ko Guard Bana De”. (Sahib, May God promote you to Forest-Guard – Rakha]. The Gujjar was innocent. He did not know the difference between the post of DE & FD? Sheer innocence. The Director too smiled at the innocence of the Gujjar & patted softly on his shoulder.

Those days we did not have internet, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp or other social media platform. The story, true or fake, would have made rounds on the social media, the way Pakistani Buzarg’s story did.  But from 1960s till date, not much has changed for huge chunks of population are still unprivileged, socio-economically backward, and completely disempowered. Still, for them, Rakha, Forest Guard, or a Thanedar, are important than a Director Education & or a Judge.

M J Aslam has authored many books and contributes columns to various publications.

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