Friday, April 08, 2005


Yesterday, I saw "Sometime in April", a haunting portrait of the events in Rwanda 11 years ago. It told the story of a Hutu soldier who married a Tutsi woman, and how he and his family fought heart-rendingly to stay put during the hellish crisis that was one of the worst of its kinds in history.
How can we even begin to describe a massacre in which 800000 people were killed in about three months, 10000 on the first day itself? How can we describe an atrocity in which people were killing their countrymen as nonchalantly as one would kill cockroaches (In fact, that's exactly what the Hutus described the Tutsis as in broadcasts over 'hate radio'). Lists were circulated of the people who were supposed to be killed, and absolutely no one was spared. Women, children, old people, everyone was cut down. That is the right phrase- cut down; machetes were the weapons of choice.
It ended with the greatest massacre of the century after the holocaust. How can we comprehend it? I think it is at such times that we begin to feel the inadequacy of language to express our emotions.
The most important thing is that it happened only 11 years ago in 1994. That is the most shocking fact about it. In a world that is supposed to be rapidly on the way to a progressive ideology and is supposed to have grown very wise from witnessing the most destructive century of conflict in its history, how can such things keep happening?

And I think that's where we are wrong. We assume that simply because such horrendous events have happened, we will learn from them and they won't happen again. That's not what history attests to. I would think that nothing of this sort would happen after the holocaust. But I think that's where we always make a mistake; in underestimating man's brutality toward man. We have not really become any wiser. We should learn that no matter how much atrocity we may witness, man is still the same man as he was. In fact, the mollifying shroud of "civilization" makes us forget this. And I believe that that is what we must understand; that we may have 'progressed' (whatever that means) but we simply haven't become any more civilized than what we were at any other time in history. Once we begin assuming that we have become more civilized, we are let off our guard, and we don't watch out for such events happening again. That should cease. In awareness lie the first hopes of a solution. We have to realise the presence of the devil among us, literally a Dr. Hyde, who is never dead, just dormant. If we assume he is dead, he can easily take over our sanity in the heat and glory of our ignorance.

The other thing which I realised is how disconnected worlds are on our own planet. The film also focused on a lone government official in Washington, who was probably the only one in the Clinton administartion who realised the gravity of the situation. All the time, her pleas fell on deaf ears. One of the most absurd exchanges took place between this conscientious woman and a top ranking military official.

Woman: Why can't we jam their hate radio? That's causing the most damage and killing.
Official: O we have looked at that option. Too expensive.
Woman: Look, you have to realise the unprecedented magnitude of this situation.They are broadcasting hitlists over radio as casually as songs.
Official: Let us not take away the perspective here. Radios don't kill people, people do.

It is astounding how some of the most well-educated and capable officials in the most powerful country in the world submit themselves to such inane and downright ridiculous statements. Worse, they do this under the name of logical analysis and profundity.
When the cameras shifted alternately from the blood ravaged streets and homes of Rwanda to the sleek, sophisticated streets of Washington, full of women and men who were making their daily commute to law offices, government buildings, and business houses, it truly seemed hard to believe that both these places co-exist on the same planet, that the beings inhabiting both these places are of the same species and motivation. In lifestyle, thoughts, and actions, there seems to be absolutely no connection between the two. Empathy is a foregone word.
No matter how much 'progress' we have made in the last century, it is at times like these that we should realise that we have a long long way to go before there is true equality in the world. Especially in North America, I think that people have been so firmly grounded in their exalted way of life and incredibly high standard of living, that most of them forget about the world around them, and more importantly the fact that it is different, and still as respectable as their own. I don't believe all of them do this out of conceit, but they do it simply because they cannot think any other way. It is very easy for them to think of the Rwandans as 'uncivilised'. Somewhere, they forget the deep common ties that bind them to every human being in the world, no matter how different their ways of life.
In the April of 1994, America and most of the world waited, deliberated, and did very little because they could not relate to a small African country, whose name most of the world's citizens had never heard before. What they perhaps did not realise is that what happened in those three months was a blow to their own human ethos, in which they shared as much as the stricken people of Rwanda. As human beings and world citizens on the way to a better world, they had as much to lose as those terrified schoolgirls hiding in a church who were massacred systematically. For the people of Rwanda, I feel pain, and for all of us, mostly pity.


Anonymous Sumedha said...

A very well-written post :) Incidentally, have you seen Hotel Rwanda?

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Rahul said...

That happenned only 11 years ago and it continues to happen today in Congo
Sometimes it is difficult to imagine how we can wake up each morning and go on with our normal lives inspite of knowing there are indescribable things happenning in other parts of this same world at these very moments

8:54 PM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

Thanks. I am waiting to see Hotel Rwanda

12:28 PM  
Blogger Hirak said...

And in Darfur...
which the UN and the US have hesitated to call genocide because then they would have to do something.

9:34 PM  

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