An almost-lynching

Published August 24, 2022

IT could have ended in a lynching. After all, that is how Priyantha Kumara’s life ended less than a year ago — beaten to death by a mob in an extended orgy of violence that culminated with his body being set alight. The Sri Lankan was working as a factory manager in Sialkot when fellow workers, irked by his disciplinarian ways, accused him of blasphemy.

At least in the latest incident, law enforcement arrived on the scene in time and did not flinch from doing their duty to protect the victim — Ashok Kumar, a Hindu sanitation worker in Hyderabad accused of desecrating the Holy Quran — from vigilante ‘justice’. The enraged crowd, gathered around an apartment building where Mr Kumar was apparently present, and demanding he be handed over to them, was instead met with the full force of the law.

Read more: 89 citizens killed over blasphemy allegations since 1947: report

Video clips on social media showed the mass of people scattering as police personnel descended on them with batons. Forty-eight people were arrested for their role in the mob attack and granted bail for Rs20,000 each. Mr Kumar was remanded in police custody for seven days.

As in most such cases, the accusation is reportedly based on a personal dispute, but the manner in which religion has been weaponised in this country makes such allegations a handy tool with which to oppress and silence an individual — at times permanently — against whom one has a grudge. Although Mr Kumar luckily escaped injury or worse, his life will likely never be the same again.

First there is the trial to contend with. Even if his lawyer successfully defends him, he may be a marked man. Vigilante killings have occurred even after blasphemy accused have been acquitted; at least one judge who handed down such an acquittal was himself slain; lawyers defending those alleged to have committed this crime have also been murdered. Second, his family and the wider community as well have already been profoundly impacted. All the Hindu families living in the six-storey apartment building in Hyderabad’s Saddar bazaar have left, too fearful to continue staying there after witnessing the wrath of the mob.

Editorial: CII on blasphemy

The impact of blasphemy accusations can be particularly devastating for minority communities: it often forces them to move en masse, leaving behind settled lives and incomes. Only the state by enforcing its writ and refraining from using religion for political point-scoring — among other measures — can make the country change course.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2022

Opinion

Editorial

Noshki killings
Updated 14 Apr, 2024

Noshki killings

It must be asked why Baloch separatists continue to target civilians as well as security men despite large deployment.
Upholding the law
14 Apr, 2024

Upholding the law

THE recent discord in Bahawalnagar offers a chance to reflect on the sanctity of the law and its enforcement across...
Tragic travels
14 Apr, 2024

Tragic travels

FOR those embarking on road and boat journeys, the probability of fatal accidents has seen a steady rise. The recent...
Security lapses
Updated 13 Apr, 2024

Security lapses

Ensuring the safety of foreign citizens is paramount, not just for diplomatic relations but for our economic future.
An eventful season
13 Apr, 2024

An eventful season

THE Senate chairman and deputy chairman were elected unopposed, and 41 new senators were sworn in on Tuesday,...
Living rough
13 Apr, 2024

Living rough

WE either don’t see them or don’t want to see them — not even when they are actively trying to get our...