Dadu_English

Who is mad?

A man detained in a lock-up in a blasphemy case was beaten to death and his body was torched by a lynch mob that had stormed the Rajo Deero police station on December 21, 2012. Officials said over 1,000 people from Sita village and its surroundings had attacked the police station to take out from the lock-up the man who had been handed over to the police some hours earlier by Memon Masjid area residents who had made the accusation against him.

“You will never go wrong”

“There is nothing on this earth and in the sky that has not been mentioned in this illuminated book.”

The manner in which he recited the above verse, and readily translated it, somewhat placated the insecurity and mounting fear within me. This man was the clean-shaved pesh-imam of the mosque in the village of Sita, in Sindh. He had previously been a high school teacher but decided to become an imam after retirement. He was telling us the details of the heart-rending incident of the lynching that took place there.

The incident occurred in Sita village in the Dadu district. An unknown man was held in the lock-up at the village police station because he had allegedly burnt copies of the Quran in the village mosque. A mob attacked the police station and pushed the apprehended man down from a two-storey building, they then dragged him two to three kilometres outside the town. Over there, they beat him with sticks, bricks and stones to death. When satiated, they set fire to his body.

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The two-story building of the local police station from where the man was thrown out and then dragged to the chowk.

The clean-shaved imam began telling us the story with the recitation and translation of the verse from the Quran in the following words:

“I am the imam of another mosque. I was returning from prayers when I heard the news that five copies of the Quran had been burnt by a kafir. That kafir had burned chapters of the Holy Book and the Durood Sharif. The Holy Name of the Creator had been burnt. The Holy Name of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) had been burnt. It’s the question of the Almighty Creator’s Holy Word. I consider that man who was burned by the mob to be a kafir. There are mad people in our village too but they have never done anything like this. The incident happened at half past two in the night. When the kafir burnt the copies of the Quran, the watchman caught him and handed him over to the police. When the people heard about the incident, their ‘religious fervour’ arose because this was about the Holy Quran. They thronged the police station for their ‘Muslim honour’ and burnt the kafir. There is no replacement for the burning of the Holy Quran because in the world, we can’t even provide a replacement for the ‘alif’, ‘laam’ and ‘meem’.

Our Prophet had said:

‘I am leaving two things amongst you; my progeny and the Quran. If you act according to the Quran, you will never go wrong.’”

He frequently spoke in English during the conversation; his throat was hoarse by now. Since he was a retired teacher, he portrayed a remarkable expertise in lowering and extending the pitch of his voice when needed. Every time he spoke of the ‘religious fervour’ and ‘Muslim honour’, his face convoluted in an expression that perfectly reflected his words. He persistently preached about the Quran’s sanctity throughout the conversation. From what I understood, it appeared that this man, who had not even shed a tear at his father’s death, was so deeply affected by the Quran-burning incident that when he went to his shop, he wept uncontrollably. When he came to the mosque to lead the Friday prayers, he was so overwhelmed during the dua that he broke down again during the sunnat, just barely controlling himself during the nafal.

When a prayer leader is so overwhelmed during prayer, one can very easily imagine the form of the followers. According to him, the gathering of an inflamed mob was expected; after all, if someone had burnt another’s child, would not that person have been killed on the spot? But because this matter was about God’s word being subjected to abuse, everything had happened in accordance to God’s will.




All the residents of the village were in agreement with the imam over the unjust manner in which they had been treated. After the lynching, the police had entered people’s houses by force and arrested various suspects. This had not happened even during the military dictatorships! The villagers complained that the police arrested some villagers for no reason at all. When the women of the village protested against it, the media did not so much as highlight it.

How had it happened that the senseless and cruel lynching of an unknown man had disappeared into the background somewhere, while the subsequent police investigation was widely talked of instead? Not a single person in the mob had uttered a word of sympathy for the dead man. They believed that they had killed a kafir, not a thief or a murderer, and all this was made possible because the ‘Muslim faith’ and honour had arisen.

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I’m not sure, if it was the charged sermon of the pesh-imam or the anger of the inherent ‘religious honour’ so obvious in a crowd that none of us could muster up the courage to ask questions. We had heard expressions of ‘religious fervour’ and ‘Muslim honour’ before in the Friday prayer sermons but their usage in everyday conversations was a phenomenon we were seeing for the first time.

We were also shocked because we still believed that we lived in a Sindh where religious tolerance existed. That was clearly a bookish vision – a vision of a tolerant Sindh that existed only in the writings, conversations and imaginations of our writers and intellectuals. This wasn’t the Sindh that the Karachi and Hyderabad Press Clubs talked about anymore. We were scared of offending them, of asking a question that might rebuke their ‘honour’. In any case, the crop of ‘honour’ in Sindh yields better product every year, countless women are sacrificed during its cultivation each year. This new ‘religious honour’ however, has recently been introduced to Sindh’s ‘market’.

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Nevertheless, despite the fear, questions still needed to be asked.

This pesh-imam had neither seen the crime scene, nor had he seen the man who was lynched. He merely believed what he had heard and on that basis alone, he allowed himself to be washed away in this flood of ‘religious honour’. The imam then inspired constant crying amongst the members of his prayer congregation, emotionally charging the atmosphere. Is it possible to consider actions like these taken on the basis of mere hearsay as an Islamic way of dealing with such issues?

Why is the mob insisting that the man they lynched was not mad? That he had entered the mosque and switched on the motorised water supply, then found the keys that had been kept hidden somewhere, unlocked the door, entered the room within and switched on all the fans in there? How could the switching on of the fans and the water supply motor in the courtyard in the shivering cold of the 22nd of December be the work of a ‘sane and alert’ man who had entered the mosque, according to the villagers, to cause trouble?

Another question that arose was how this stranger, who had been wearing a knee-length dhoti, a sleeveless waistcoat with four pockets and had dirty, matted hair as if he had slept on the ground during his travels and long, and filthy nails, arrived at this village mosque?

Why was this entire village lamenting the arrests of ‘innocent’ people in the subsequent police probe? The FIR had named 21 people as suspects, out of which, only 16 had been arrested, while 35 others had been arrested for the investigation.

According to the statement given by the police, more than 2,000 people had attacked the police station. Despite the aerial firing by the policemen, the crowd did not disperse, seizing the policemen’s weapons and ammunition instead. The policemen, who left without their weapons to protect themselves, remain suspended from duty for not protecting the victim. Two thousand people overcome with this ‘religious fervour’ dragged the mad man, stoning him on the way to the village square, where they set him on fire. The entire event was recorded on video and people had their photographs taken with the corpse in the same manner in which a hunter has his photo taken with his prey. Were all these people from another village? (The women of the village have said that after the incident, the video of the lynching was being sold in the village for Rs 1,000. Although, it should be noted that only the village women said that the mad man had been unfairly lynched.)

The entire village may have been afraid of the investigation taking place but they were certainly not guilty or regretful of burning an unknown man to death.

“Do suicide bombers ever care about their lives?”

Now, we were at the mosque where this mad man was caught burning copies of the Quran.

At the above-mentioned mosque, Dr Nawab Ali Memon spoke in a tone completely contrary to that of the imam. His voice, so full of vexation, almost guilting us into thinking we had committed a serious crime by approaching him.

The mosque where the mentally unstable traveller took refuge and was charged with burning the Quran.

The mosque where the mentally unstable traveller took refuge and was charged with burning the Quran.

“You are our guests so we are being respectful. But we have been subjected to great injustices, not just by the police but the entire province of Sindh; the journalists, the civil society of Sindh, even ‘Amar’ has subjected us to injustices.”

At the mention of my name, my colleagues quizzically turned to look at me, wondering about my fate at the hands of this man. However, in the very next moment, all of us breathed a sigh of relief as we realised that he was merely taunting us, and that by ‘Amar’, he was not referring to a nobody like me but to the great Sindhi writer, Amar Jalil, who was not amongst us at that time; his fault lay in condemning the lynching in a recent Television show.

Nawab Ali was a self proclaimed doctor, like the prayer leader without any training, as well as the caretaker of the mosque. The mosque, according to him, had been built with donations collected from surrounding areas through his hard work. However, we couldn’t understand why his passionate tirade was directed at us. Even if we accepted what he said about a great conspiracy being hatched to destroy the peaceful atmosphere of the Sita village and that it had been made unsuccessful by the villagers when they burnt alive a kafir, how was it our fault that the media and civil society of Sindh subjected the people of Sita by not helping them to become the Mumtaz Qadris of Sindh? Why weren’t garlands hung around their necks for the sake of humanity? Their anger and aggression was beginning to become unbearable.

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Instead of losing my temper, however, I began to ask the questions that had been stuck in my throat for some time:

Why would a person who had not been identified, whose name and address remained unknown, come to Sita and do something so dangerous without sparing a thought for his own security? Even if we accept that this was a conspiracy, who will it benefit?

But Nawab Ali’s replies raised even more questions, some of which worried us further.

“Do suicide bombers ever care about their lives? Why can’t you people understand that our country is constantly victimised by various conspiracies?”

I followed his question with mine this time. If they had already handed the ‘miscreant’ over to the police, why was it necessary to stone and burn the person to death? At this point, his anger escalated and my questions remained unanswered.

They will be here soon, asking for matches…

The evidence from the crime scene also provided to be contrary to what the villagers told us. If so many copies of the Quran had been burnt there, there should have some evidence indicating it. But there was none; there were no signs of smoke or soot. The ground where the burning had allegedly taken place had burnt a mere foot and a half at the most. It could easily be deduced that even if a fire had been lit on that particular spot, it only burnt for 5-10 minutes before dying out. During that period, the watchman went out and found two or three people to accompany him back to the mosque where they found, according to them, the mad man busy in his task instead of having run away. The story had many loopholes.

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The scorched patch in the mosque, measuring around two feet, where allegedly the Quran was burnt.

The police was also caught amidst the political influences that existed in the village. The wadera of the village had recently joined PML-F and had been an opponent of the PPP. On the other hand, a local PPP leader, Farzand Arjumand was also among those responsible for stirring up ‘religious honour’ in retaliation against the suspected kafir amongst the villagers. He had sent out text messages to the villagers, inciting their religious honour and had encouraged them to murder the mad traveller for insulting the Holy Quran by saying that not only was it the most Islamic thing to do under the circumstances but would also help them all attain a position amongst the blessed.

What political objectives they really had, could only be known by the police if a Minister from Dadu was not protecting the local PPP leader. Amongst the whispers within the village, it has also been heard that the wadera had blamed the local leadership of the PPP for the incident, accusing it of conspiring to harm the political reputation of his party. It has also been noticed that the police made arrests very quickly but then behaved leniently with the PPP workers amongst the arrested. Subsequently, the local wadera got many of the arrested released on bail. And that was how the incident cooled down.

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Whenever a murder incident cools down, it not only comforts the soul but also soothes the impassioned conscience. Who remembers the countless victims who were cruelly lynched by mobs? Why should anyone remember any victim of any lynching?

This is not just a story of an unknown traveller who was declared a kafir, handed over to the police without validating his mental condition and then beaten to death with sticks and bricks and burned without even having been identified first. This is, in fact, the story of that nameless society which shivers in the cold, as it is dragged through the streets to the village square, stripped naked by our blind fervour and then set on fire. It is the bleeding body of this society that the ruthless hunters rest their feet upon, claiming their trophy, to satisfy their instinct in this, the sport of killing.

Look, they will be here soon, asking for matches and other flammable objects. Don’t let the soul receive any abrasions; the humiliation of the corpse is almost over.

Amar Sindhu is a writer, activist and columnist who struggles to fit in society.


Listen to this in Urdu

Timeline of vigilante attacks

2006

2008

2010

2011

2012

2006

October 16, 2006: Two bandits who were fleeing after snatching cash were beaten to death by enraged people in the New Karachi Industrial Area.Click here for details.

May 2008

May 14, 2008: Three robbers were burnt to death by a mob on Nishtar Road in Karachi’s Ranchhore Line area.Click here for details.


May 17, 2008: Two robbers, fleeing after robbing the passengers of a minibus, were beaten up and then immolated by a charged mob in Karachi’s North Nazimabad area.Click here for details.

November 2008

November 11, 2008: Two suspected bandits, who shot dead a 26-year-old man during an attempted robbery, were beaten to death by a mob in Karachi’s Baldia Town.Click here for details.


November 12, 2008: A 30-year-old constable was shot dead by three dacoits, one of whom was caught and ferociously beaten by a mob in Karachi’s Kalri police limits. The critically wounded dacoit was secured from the mob’s clutches which intended to immolate him. The dacoit died the following day.Click here for details.


November 15, 2008: Four trucks were set on fire in Karachi’s Gulberg area. An enraged mob set the trucks ablaze after one of the vehicles knocked down a young motorcyclist. The truck’s driver was also severely beaten up by the crowd.Click here for details.

March 2010

March 18, 2010: Abdullah Chandia shot dead Naseem Abbas, a cloth merchant and local office-bearer of the Tehrik-i-Jafria, in Choti Zaireen for unknown reasons. Later, he surrendered to police.A mob chased Abdullah to the Choti Police Station and came out with his body. The mob celebrated the man’s death and people lifted DSP Iqbal Chandia onto their shoulders. Later, the mob burnt the body.Click here for details.

August 2010

August 15, 2010: Dozens of people publicly beat to death two young brothers, Hafiz Mughees, 15, and Hafiz Muneeb, 19, in the presence of Sialkot District Police Officer Waqar Chauhan and eight other police officers who watched the brutal act as silent spectators. The bodies were later hanged upside down on the chowk.Click here for details.

July 2011

July 17, 2011: Infuriated villagers killed an alleged robber when he along with two accomplices barged into a house in Lakki Marwat’s Langerkhel Hindal village. More than 100 villagers gathered in the house when they heard firing and noise. The caught bandit was beaten to death by the infuriated villagers.Click here for details.

February 2012

February 24, 2012: A lynch mob in Karachi overpowered two men while they were allegedly looting a motorist and then a man from the crowd fatally shot one of the suspects in the city’s Nazimabad area. A resident of Korangi No 2-1/2 who was on his way home in his vehicle was reportedly intercepted by two gunmen on a motorcycle. The men told him to hand over all of his cash and other valuables. The robbers were overpowered by the public and one of the members of the public snatched a pistol from a robber and shot him. The robber died on the spot whereas his accomplice managed to flee.Click here for details.

June 2012

June 17, 2012: A large number of people tried to storm a police station in Karachi’s North Nazimabad area to get hold of a man who was booked and arrested for allegedly desecrating the Holy Quran. Following his arrest, a large number of people gathered outside the city’s Taimuria police station and demanded that the police hand over the man to them so they could lynch him.Click here for details.

July 2012

July 4, 2012: According to reports, a man accused of desecrating the holy Quran was beaten to death by a lynch mob in Bahalwapur and was set alight. A senior police officer had at the time said that the incident occurred when attackers stormed a police station where the man, who seemed to be mentally unstable, was being interrogated.Click here for details.

September 2012

September 19, 2012: A businessman in Hyderabad was accused of blasphemy after he refused to take part in a protest against an anti-Islam film and for allegedly trying to convince others to not take part in it. Protesters moreover claimed that the accused had insulted the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), City Police Chief Fareed Jan told AP. He however added that there was no evidence against the man, but the mob compelled the police into lodging a blasphemy case against him.Click here for details.

October 2012

October 10, 2012: A case of blasphemy was reported to the police in a middle-class neighbourhood of Karachi’s Gulshan-i-Iqbal locality, after violent protesters ransacked the house of the accused teenage boy from the Christian community and set the furniture on fire.The teenage boy was accused of sending text messages containing ‘blasphemous’ content to his area residents without reading them.The enraged protesters ransacked the house and set fire to household articles after bringing them out on to the main University Road.Click here for details.


November 2012

November 20, 2012: An alleged robber was beaten to death in Karachi by a mob for robbing vehicles on the city’s Mauripur Road. Kalri police said two motorcyclists were looting cash and other valuables from motorists near the Katchi Para area when some people saw them and decided to tackle them. One of the robbers was captured and beaten by the mob whereas the other managed to escape. The injured robber later succumbed to his wounds.Click here for details.

December 2012

December 21, 2012: A man was detained in a lock-up in a Quran desecration case was beaten to death and his body was torched by a lynch mob who stormed the Rajo Deero police station in Dadu’s Sita village.Police officials said over 1,000 people from Sita village and its surroundings attacked the police station to take out from the lock-up the man who had been handed over to the man.After beating the man to death, the mob doused the suspect’s body with kerosene at the main junction in the village before putting a match to it.Click here for details.

Credits

Written by

Amar Sindu

Translation from Urdu

Soonha Abro

Illustrations

Sabir Nazar

Photos by

Amar Sindhu

Photos and videos

(courtesy Sujag Sansar)

Research and Timeline

Qurat ul ain Siddiqui
Salman Haqqi

Video edits and music

Muhammad Umar

Design and layout

Mahjabeen Mankani

Executive Producer

Musadiq Sanwal

Sita Goth (Sita Village) forms part of Dadu district. During the last decade, the population of the village that lies east of the Larkana-Sehwan protective bund of Indus River Kucha area has swelled several fold and is estimated to be over 5,000 people.

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The village, once a predominately Hindu settlement, along with Sita Road and Sita Nandhri has several tribes and sub-tribes of Soomro and Mallah but is mostly inhabited by Syeds.

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The village forms part of NA-233 (Dadu – III) represented by Talat Iqbal Mahessar of the PPP and PS-74 (Dadu – I; old Dadu – IV) with Pir Mazhar ul Haq as its representative in the Sindh Assembly.


An amateur video from YouTube showing the flooding of the village in 2010