Pakistani Hindu worker’s murderers go unpunished

April 28th, 2008 - 12:42 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Zofeen T. Ebrahim
Karachi, April 28 (IANS) Three weeks since Jagdeesh Kumar, a 22-year-old Hindu worker in a garment factory in Pakistan’s largest city, was beaten to death by a mob for allegedly making blasphemous remarks about Prophet Mohammad, his murderers remain unpunished. “Would our judicial system do so (punish the perpetrators)?” asks A.H. Nayyar, an Islamabad-based peace activist. He answers himself: “Not likely. It has never done so earlier either.

“Not a single murderer who killed anyone for blasphemy has been punished for murder. In fact, such murderers get hero’s treatment in police stations. And those police officials who openly honour such murderers have never been tried for their illegal and reprehensible action.”

What is more deplorable is that police formed part of the onlookers when the young man was being lynched April 8 in Korangi. The case is a chilling reminder of several past incidents.

According to Nayyar, because the mob that participated in the killing is identifiable, the culprits should be arrested for murder and tried for it and punished accordingly. “This case is a test of our judicial system,” Nayyar told IANS.

In Mirpurkhas, 220 km from Karachi, where his family mourns the loss, Kumar’s mother has still not come to grips with the immense tragedy. She has been put on tranquillizers and sleeping pills to numb her pain.

“She keeps telling me to go find her son and bring him back,” says Kumar’s father Purboo Ji, referring to his wife. “Tell me, how do I bring him back for her?”

The family has disputed the blasphemy allegation and termed it a case of murder. “And that is how it should be dealt with,” asserts Prem Kumar, Jagdeesh’s older brother.

“We want a proper investigation. We must get justice so that my brother’s name as well as our community’s is cleared for all times to come,” says the brother who says Islamic religious scholars should investigate the case thoroughly.

In Pakistan, with a population of 160 million, Hindus make up less than two percent of the population.

“In the last 61 years since Pakistan came into being, there has never once been even a single allegation that anyone from the Hindu community has ever disrespected any faith,” Prem Kumar told IANS.

“If you visit our homes, you will find not only our deities but on the wall you will find the names of Allah and Mohammad too.”

Remarks senior journalist Ghazi Salahuddin, “This is the latest example of how primitive passions prevailing in our society are generally associated with religious extremism.”

He also laments the apathetic role of the media and how the news failed to feature prominently on the front pages of newspapers or even generate serious discussion on the many private channels.

“As a mediaperson, I agonise every day over the poor coverage of human interest stories that certify the actual state of our society. On the face of it, this neglect of stories of real people and the lives they lead is undermining our ability to confront our socio-economic challenges.

“We are becoming afraid of exploring the intolerance and injustice that permeates the lower levels of our society,” wrote Salahuddin in his weekly column in The News.

Police investigations, however, suggest there seems to be some motive behind the murder and it was not the result of a simple factory brawl.

“His murder may have nothing to do with blasphemy. What we saw was an honour killing, coloured as a killing for blasphemy. Most, if not all, of the cases of killing for blasphemy have a different, more mundane and criminal reason. Blasphemy provides a cover,” says Nayyar. He has reason to believe that the Hindu boy was in love with a Muslim girl.

The incident also brings to the fore the unfinished debate on the prevailing blasphemy law.

In 1986, the Pakistan Penal Code was revised and the blasphemy law added. It provides the death penalty or life imprisonment for the offence of defiling the name of Prophet Mohammad.

In 2001, President Pervez Musharraf announced some amendments in the law but after the decision met fierce resistance from religious political parties, it was hastily shelved and has since not been taken up again.

“We need to review the blasphemy law and confront the hesitation of most people in talking about it in a rational manner,” responds Salahuddin.

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