Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A month after Gojra: No end to the madness

On September 5, unknown persons set the Guru Granth Sahib and the Bhagavad Gita (the holy books of Sikhs and Hindus, respectively) on fire in a temple in Kandhkot, Sindh. Sikhs and Hindus of the area were extremely distressed but despite the desecration remained peaceful.

On September 10, Lawrence Jan, a sixty year old Christian man living in Orangi, Karachi, was accused of blasphemy by his neighbor. The story goes that Jan urinated off his roof onto his neighbor's where some religious material had been left. When the accusations were made, 250-300 people attacked Jan's house. For good measure, the mob attacked another uninvolved Christian's home too.

The police then proceeded to arrest Jan's brother and nephew (Jan himself could not be found) and beat them up for two days without registering an FIR against them. It now seems that there is no eyewitness to confirm the accusation against Jan. Nonetheless, he has decided to pay compensation to put the incident behind him. Local mosques are gleefully announcing this news.

On September 11, an angry mob of Muslims burnt down a church in Sialkot. They were incensed by (unverified) reports of a nineteen year old Christian boy, Robert Masih, having desecrated the Quran. The story goes that Robert snatched the Quran from a ten year old girl and "disrespected" it (whatever that means). The natural response it seems was to burn down a church. Terrorized Christians living in the area immediately began to flee.

Under pressure from the mob, the police arrested Robert, who, when presented before a judge, was not granted bail but sent to judicial remand for fourteen days. In jail Robert was kept in solitary confinement and was found dead four days later on September 15. The police insist suicide. Others suspect death by torture. Furious members of the Christian community came out to protest, attacking thirteen shops.

Most people continue to believe that non-Muslim Pakistanis face no discrimination in this country.

Updates: It has been reported that townsfolk in collusion with the police have refused Robert burial in his hometown.

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