I was 6-years old. Images of a long beard, flecks of spit flying out of an infuriated mouth, and an unforgiving cane had robbed me of my sleep. I was sobbing miserably, twisting and turning in my bed, in the middle of the night while my-eight-year-old sister tried desperately to console me. My hysteria must have awoken my father, who came in to my room and asked in alarm:
“What’s wrong, my jaan?”
“I’m very scared of Maulvi sahab” came the reply from my quivering lips.
My infuriated father probed me and prodded me as to what the Maulvi sahab had done to me that made me so frightened of him.
“He shouts and he screams, telling me ‘ungal rekho’ (keep your finger on the word you are reading)” I explained emphatically, with wide, terrified eyes.”
My father remained pensive for a moment, and then replied “You tell your Maulvi Sahab that if he ever raises his voice, or scares you again, your father will come to his house and pull his beard till he cries.”
I went to sleep happy that night, with no more tears because my father was Hercules in my eyes, and if he said he would protect me, I believed him.
The next day at school, during Arabic class, with the innocence of a 6-year-old, I promptly went up to my Maulvi sahab, and conveyed my father’s message to him. Now, my father was a senior army officer; his word was taken very seriously. My Maulvi sahab , thus, did not raise his hand at me, glare at me or even blackmail me. He remained silent at my threat, and I never had a complaint against him, ever again.
I was fortunate to be blessed with a father who had a high rank in the army. Muhammad Adnan did not have the same luck. The 7-year-old was tortured and beaten brutally when he forgot the verse of a surah. Cleric Muhammad Latif beat him with a stick, and hung him upside down from a tree, whist screaming at him to recite the verse, last Friday, in a mosque in Vehari. The child eventually fainted from the pain, and was taken to the hospital, where the doctors said that his leg was broken, and that the bones in his leg could not be re-set.
This poor child was only 7-years-old. Think of your 7-year-old siblings or cousins. Think of the innocence on their faces – how could someone be so cruel as to beat a child of this age within an inch of his death? The worst part, in my opinion, was that the child was begging for water, but Muhammad Latif refused him countless times. Who could be so hard hearted so as to refuse anyone, leave alone an innocent child, water?
A close friend’s brother, whose name I shall not mention here, is also a Hafiz-e-Quran. Sometimes, he would tell me horrifying stories of how he was mercilessly beaten in the mosque if he would make even a minor mistake, or forget a verse. He too, was only 7-years-old. He told me that he would come home with multiple bruises on his arms, where canes had rained down on him if he erred.
Once, a cleric stepped on his foot and ground it in to the ground with such intensity that my poor friend could not walk for days. His father would beg the cleric to go easy on his son, and to not beat him. However, this only infuriated his cleric even more, who would beat my friend with greater vigor and gusto so as to establish the fact that my friend’s father had absolutely no power over him. It came to the point where my friend had to beg his father to ignore his beaten body because he was afraid of being beaten even more if his father intervened.
Now, I understand that all maulvis are not the same, and that it is unfair to generalize. However, the fact remains that we have heard of far too many cases of children being abused in madrassas to ignore it any longer. Many children who come under such torture develop personalities that are aggressive and resentful. Take for example, the Hafiz-e-Quran, whomurdered his class fellow in cold blood, and threw his body in Phase 8, only a month ago.
We just cannot sit silent any longer, and let such inhumane acts of maulvis continue. Strictermadrassa laws must be enforced – this is absolutely vital. Muhmmad Latif, who beat Adnan, a few days ago, was set free after just an hour of questioning. The police said that they did not have enough evidence. In which world do we live where a broken leg, multiple witnesses and the statement of a doctor is not evidence enough?
Muhammad Latif walks free today, whereas the 7-year old Muhammad Andan may never be able to walk again.
Where is the justice?