On January 3, 2015 Yusuf Sarkin was out on business as usual, in a town named Baga in the North eastern front of Nigeria. He heard a scream, only to be followed by a gunshot. Then there was an explosion and he knew what was happening. Boko Haram ‘officially’ known as Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’Awati Wal-Jihad (“People Committed to the Prophet’s Teachings for Propagation and Jihad”) had arrived. The gunfire shots, the explosions, the screaming with plethora of bodies lying here and there, people trying to outrun bullets in the sandy streets of Baga blended into one long horrific blur. Luckily he escaped with his wife and kids only to realize that his son was missing. “Can you imagine the fear that makes you let go of your child’s hand?” he exclaims in a hoarse voice.
The carnage that continued for four days left up to 2000 people dead but the figure has been downgraded by the Nigerian government to 150. An eyewitness who hid for three days, while marauding militants pillaged the houses of people, recounts the monstrosity by saying, “When I reached the bush, I was relieved at first but then I saw bodies everywhere. I walked through five villages and each one I passed was empty except for dead bodies.”
Boko Haram was founded as a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist sect and developed into a terrorist group in the year 2009. Muslims in the area saw western education as a culprit to their miseries. Due to this growing dissent, Muslim cleric, Mohammed Yusuf, formed Boko Haram in Maiduguri in 2002. Boko Haram had political ambitions one of which was related to establishing an Islamic state in that region thus the school became a ground to recruit Jihadis. In 2009 the group carried out many attacks which led to the execution of its founder. The group re-organised itself under a new leader Abubakar Shekau who is still in command. It seeks to establish an Islamic state in Northern Nigeria under strict form of Sharia Law banning western education and westernization. Last year the group killed around 13,508 civilians in its murderous campaigns.
Baga Vs Paris: Hypocrisy prevails ?
While Boko Haram was bringing to reality its sinister designs, somewhere in Paris on January 7,2015 , two terror merchants armed with AK-47’s stormed into a satirical magazine’s office, Charlie Hebdo, killing 17 people in the process due to their alleged offensive portrayal of Prophet Muhammad. The attack was seen as more than just a terror plot but an attack on the freedom of speech. Millions thronged to streets in the protest of the gruesome attack where the whole world spoke out and the social media erupted in support of the magazine with #JESUISCHARLIE acting as a symbol. Forty Leaders of various countries came together and marched in solidarity to uphold the right to free speech while 1.6 million marched with them. Few days later the magazine published again, a reply to fundamentalists that it won’t give in to their ideologies.
While the main stream media of West and East alike ran hourly news on this matter, hardly anyone cared to run the massacre at Baga in their headlines. Let me remind the reader that by stating this reference I have no intention of comparing the two events, both are sad and appalling up to the highest degree. Nor do I wish to point out the sheer hypocrisy of the world we live in or the media which advocates itself as the torch bearer of truth. I just simply wish to point out a simple human nature best described by Joseph Stalin in his quote, “One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic”. After all as a human sitting on a comfortable couch with no imminent danger of death looming, how can I comprehend the death of 13,508 innocent civilians in Nigeria. If that’s the case then why do we tend to satisfy our conscience by believing that Nigeria is a third world country and things like these are pretty common there.
Upto 1 million people are believed to have been displaced by Boko Haram according to International Organisation of Migration till date. Groups like Boko Haram and Al Shabab (another Al Qaeda affiliate) target civilians to gain more attention and gain strength. They calmly hide behind their religious shield and kill innocents by terming them infidels. “We have made sure the floor of this hall is turned red with blood, and this is how it is going to be in all future attacks and arrests of infidels.” the group leader says in a message. Definitely by observing their modus operandi, it is not hard to deduce that they target civilians only to grab more eyeballs, some attacks are politically motivated whereas others are seeds of their demented minds. Our attitude toward atrocities has become so complacent that we have accepted them as a part of our lives. It acts as a defense mechanism that shields us from the hatred and anger that would otherwise arise. People there not only have to struggle for food, water and shelter but also have to fear for their life.
The whole world needs to unite and stop this insanity before it scars our lives forever.
By Bhanu Sharma