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Footprints: Midnight at noon

Updated May 19, 2017 09:15am

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HUB city’s Hindu locality in the lanes off Laasi Road is dark with fear.

Last week on Tuesday, Vijay, 24, a shopkeeper in Resham Gali, was accused of blasphemy by an enraged mob. He was taken into police custody, presented before the sessions court and quietly sent to jail.

Earlier: Violence erupts in Hub as police refuse to hand Hindu man suspected of blasphemy over to enraged mob

On that fateful day, Vijay had received an offensive photograph in a WhatsApp group. According to Chanda Ram, an elder of the community, the image came with a voice message replete with expletives for Hindus. It urged all recipients to spread it far and wide to deter the circulation of odious content that could cause communal conflict.

“This was sent from Karachi to over 58 people in Lasbela, including Muslims. On impulse, [Vijay] forwarded it to another group on the message service,” rues Ram.

As one heard the message, the mission seemed as stark as this tragedy — a trap for uneducated minorities, and thereby hangs a tale.

The alacrity, shown by an incensed pack as it descended on his store, was unusual. “Within 30 minutes of the message, there was mayhem in the market; armed boys went wild.”

As luck would have it, the boy had closed for the day and gone to a barber.

Another bereft senior, Krishna, elaborates that they did hunt Vijay down and began to bludgeon him with sticks and weapons.

He also speaks of one of the few incidents where mob execution was pulled to pieces.

“We are grateful that the police arrived in time. Amid tear gas and shelling, they took him away or he would be in shreds.”

Krishna describes the scene as a snippet of the backlash witnessed after the demolition of Babri Masjid in India.

“There were some 1,000 people but hardly a 100 belonged to Hub. It was a horde of extortionists, miscreants and gangsters. Here, we have all lived as one for decades.”

Ram adds that while SHO Attaullah Nomani, DSP Jan Mohammad Khoso and ADC Tariq Mengal did not escape the blows, a 13-year-old boy perished in the fierce exchange.

Hub spent the next day in nightly silence. In Vijay’s home, his young wife, two toddlers and siblings were distraught but oblivious to the aftermath of a blasphemy charge. They awoke to a dark future on Thursday morning. His elder brother returned to open their shop and seven boys turned up to pummel a physically impaired man. The landlord then cleared out all items to halt a hapless family’s sustenance.

Vijay’s small clan has since been moved to an undisclosed town.

Surprisingly, the community sees a hero in the new SHO, dubbed SHO Dabangg, who they claim is fearless and impartial.

“He has allocated security to all four Hindu and Sikh worship places and to our areas,” says Chanda Ram.

But in person, the slender, inarticulate SHO Attaullah Nomani has little in common with his image.

“[Vijay] is in judicial remand as we found the offensive image in his mobile. There is no voice message with it. We are investigating the origin of the photo,” is his blank response.

He also believes that the affected family is still in Hub, and claims to be unaware of the assault on Vijay’s brother and of the shop’s closure. Nomani expects a community deadened with fright to register a complaint.

When asked about future prospects of a routine life for the young family, he says “This is my first blasphemy case. I can’t say. The challan is under Sections 295-A and 295-C.”

The Hindu community knows well that these sections and a lack of axiomatic evidence in blasphemy cases, repress legal aid. Lives are in the balance in jail and after acquittal.

As maintained by older residents of Hub, new settlers stirred recent clashes to dominate money-spinning centres. Incidentally, the majority of the mob reportedly comprised supporters of migrants.

The furore, however, was led by Saleem Shahzad Solangi, joint secretary of the PML-N youth wing, who, unmoved by Vijay’s pleas and explanation, went ahead with filing the FIR. At daybreak, Solangi took off for Jhal Magsi.

SHO Nomani denies the popular allegation of a migrant ascendancy and is noncommittal about Solangi’s political affiliation.

When informed that the Hindu community’s hopes for a fair settlement hinged on him, his reaction is saddening.

“I hope their praise doesn’t turn Muslims against me.”

Conversely, police sources say that, if reported, the brutality inflicted on the victim’s brother and subsequent closure of his outlet can go a long way for Vijay. The incident can bring suspicions of a conspiracy into focus.

Both Krishna and Chanda Ram say that Solangi’s was the sole political influence. “Even Maulana Abdul Qadir Qasmi, president JUI-F, Lasbela district, has expressed immense support for us.”

Cut to Resham Gali where Vijay was last seen. Far from silken, a dark, taut alley is saturated with sweat and fumes, unstirred by the calamity.

At the end of a gory week in Hub, the shutter on Vijay’s more spacious shop, near the market entrance, seemed like an allegory for his fate.

  • Some names have been changed to protect identities

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2017

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Comments (31) Closed



Jamil May 19, 2017 08:36am

For same reasons the 200 millions plus muslims live in fear in India.

Think May 19, 2017 08:49am

More power to SHO ...Police with great conscience is great for country..Lastly huge population growth and increasing jobless state due to automation and AI is going to have huge social impact... population should be stabilised..

Haresh May 19, 2017 08:59am

Your research is appreciable! Also beautifully described the scenario.

ARTIST May 19, 2017 09:05am

in social media it can happened to any one for example want to send good morning message to some what's app contact accidently some time it goes to those contact also whom we not wanted to send the message because ticking on that's contact icon but when we realized it then its too late as once you delivered a message on Facebook and WhatsApp yo cannot delete it after posting

KhWarizMi May 19, 2017 09:08am

I don't know much about Hub but know that non-Muslims in my district are very successful people: educated, well-off and large religious buildings with beautiful gardens.

dixit May 19, 2017 10:37am

No Comments!!! I am Surprised.

bkt May 19, 2017 11:51am

These are settlers from where? KP or Punjab?

Brar May 19, 2017 12:38pm

@Jamil who says ?

Ranjit May 19, 2017 02:43pm

@bkt why does it matter where they are from?

Ronak Sheth May 19, 2017 03:04pm

@Jamil hahahaha so far from reality ... they are happier here then in your country

Saqib ghumman May 19, 2017 03:06pm

Great to see SHO has done his job in middle of illiterate masses....

A.k.jain May 19, 2017 03:07pm

Few people in the world can remain impartial and justified in such situations which is taught by every religion that any innocent person should not be harmed and no body is guilty until proved guilty.This is real test of humans by the almighty

UDta Pakistan May 19, 2017 04:43pm

@Jamil Two wrongs doesn't make one right. Shame on you on drawing such insensitive analogies. Accept your follies. Thats the first step towards betterment. Why compare to others. There are many communities across the world that are persecuted. That doesn't give you a free handle to quote them and do nothing towards the betterment of innocent and maintain status quo.

Vk May 19, 2017 04:43pm

@Jamil only in your mind

UDta Pakistan May 19, 2017 04:46pm

@Saqib ghumman Yes amazing some people have such clarity of thought and undeterred resolve to rise above personal biases and do the right thing in a tense situation. Hats off to this "slender" yet "tall" human.

Commentator May 19, 2017 05:00pm

@Jamil The former president of India, Abdul Kalam was the son of a fisherman who became the head of DRDO through hard work. India allowed him to do that. Stop generalizing based on a few events. If that is all you want to do, then continue on.

Ramesh Kumar May 19, 2017 05:20pm

@Jamil that is horrible response. Instead of condemning the ordeal of poor people you are comparing to other generlized incidents, seems you are fine with it.

HYDERABADI May 19, 2017 05:55pm

@Jamil bhai, I wish it was true, then we wouldn't have such a huge muslim population in India.

J. Anwar May 19, 2017 06:46pm

@dixit ;Those are two comments!

MG- Washington May 19, 2017 09:16pm

A sick society.

Sachin May 19, 2017 11:48pm

Thanks for reporting this Dawn

Skyvinge May 20, 2017 12:45am

There are many respectful and good hearted people in Pakistan,without a doubt, who are against atrocities against any one other than Muslims...and I hope that they step up to the plate and make sure do what is right

Rashid May 20, 2017 12:51am

This is bigest tragidy of this unfortunate nation. This is not what Islam teaches us. Where are our Ulema?

farida Qadri May 20, 2017 01:45am

@Jamil I'm a Muslim and i'm from India, i'm proud to say i'm Indian and we don't live any fear,

Arun May 20, 2017 03:16am

@Jamil Yes, that's what you would like to believe. But Indian Muslims won't agree with you.

HZR May 20, 2017 03:37am

The safe solution the diminishing Hindu community is not safe and best moved to India for a honorable life.Minorities have no hope in the land of these fanatical monotheists.

HZR May 20, 2017 03:40am

@Jamil If what you say is true ask them whether they will settle in your country.It will be a loud no because they know where they are better off!

Chandra May 20, 2017 04:13am

@Jamil "For same reasons the 200 millions plus muslims live in fear in India". Not true.

Ash patel May 20, 2017 05:16am

@KhWarizMi

It's always good to see minorities flourish in India as well as Pakistan. Each country will feel secured and at peace when we see minorities can roam without fear or anxiety. However, we are far from that dream!

Helloall May 20, 2017 09:02am

@Jamil. "For same reasons the 200 millions plus Muslims live in fear in India." How Pakistan treats it's minority citizens has nothing to do with India and vice versa. Why do you see it's relevant to bring India & it's Muslim citizens into discussion here when the issue is Pakistan & its citizens. Do you get my point or you are that dense? Finally, a little piece of advice- Grow up, learn some empathy & kindness towards your fellow citizens!

Helloall May 20, 2017 09:03am

SHO Nomani is a true hero. God knows this God forsaken country needs millions like him!