What the Fishermen are Telling Us

Here is a headline from today’s newspaper:

Pakistan frees 151 Indian fishermen ahead of Sharif’s Delhi visit

What can we infer from this headline about the world we live in?

Recall the stories of bygone times that marked auspicious occasions:

It was the king’s birthday – he ordered 100 prisoners to be released.

The queen gave birth to an heir – the dungeons were emptied.

The heir apparent got married – all death sentences were commuted.

Are we living in bygone times or have the bygone times never left us?

King Sharif?

I am going to India – let us free 151 fishermen.

Not only that, let us drive them from Karachi to Wagah in an air-conditioned bus. Let us give the ‘poor’ fishermen royal treatment because we are particularly pleased by the invitation – phooley nahiiN samaa rahey.

Remember Diwali last year? We celebrated by releasing 15 fishermen as a gesture of our goodwill.

We still have 229 fishermen and 780 boats in our custody.

We will release them on the days we are feeling particularly good or have something to celebrate – like when we win a cricket match against India or have a chairman of the cricket board we really like.

You get the point.

Is this how things are supposed to work in the 21st century?

Is there anything akin to due legal process in our land?

Here are these poor fishermen arrested for violation of some international law related to territorial waters. Can their cases not be processed expeditiously and decided one way or the other?

Have any cases ever been decided?

Or do they exist only to serve as gestures of goodwill for our monarchs?

Since we don’t feel good all that often these days – what with ungrateful Talibaan and all – many have died in custody before they could be released.

But their bodies have been handed over as gestures of our magnanimity.

Now that we are thinking of ‘poor’ fishermen, how many have trespassed into alien waters on their own volition? Who is sending them fishing across the line and not caring if they are arrested or not because there is an endless supply of poor fishermen?

Why not go after the big guys? Why take it out on the ‘poor’ fishermen and their poor families?

And, for that matter, why not go after the big Japanese trawlers? Is that because they can’t be grist to the goodwill mill?

Think too of all the poor farmers rotting in jails on charges of crossing the land borders for spying? Who is sending them across the border and not caring if they are arrested because there is an endless supply of poor farmers? Why not go after the spymasters?

The farmers can’t be released as gestures of goodwill because spying is serious business unlike the stealing of fish. Only their dead bodies can be released as gestures of magnanimity.

Sometimes when we are feeling particularly satiated, like after an extra special dish of siri paaye, we might, with an appreciative belch, allow a visit by the wives and daughters and transport them in air-conditioned buses.

But we can never release them. And, of course, the thought of trying them has not occurred to us.

Okay, Okay. You don’t really expect us to telescope into the modern age all of a sudden.

But here is a suggestion.

If we are playing this tit-for-tat game of goodwill, why not keep exchanging the poor fishermen and poor farmers as soon as we arrest them?

That way we will remain on a perpetual goodwill high.

And the modern world would be dumbfounded by the extent of our old-fashioned magnanimity.

Loag ash ash kar utheN gey.

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