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Chilling act

December 05, 2012

EVEN in a country where unspeakable violence is inflicted on the living as a matter of course, the visceral hatred evident in Monday’s attack on an Ahmadi graveyard in Lahore is chilling. Shortly after midnight some 10 to 15 masked men scaled the walls of the burial ground. Armed with weapons and excavation tools, they either destroyed or pulled off the headstones of over 100 graves. Half an hour later, the last abode for those meant to rest in peace had been rendered a wreckage of broken stone and tile. The message sent out could not have been starker, signalling the extreme hatred shown by certain sections — perhaps not too many numerically but inclined always to employ violent means — towards a persecuted community. The latter’s scars from the May 2010 massacre of scores in twin attacks on Ahmadi places of worship in the same city have not yet healed. That Monday’s attack occurred in the Model Town locality and a stone’s throw from the family home of the Sharif brothers is a matter of deep shame.

In the context of Monday’s vandalism, the police have said that an FIR will be registered and an investigation launched. Tellingly, however, they say that it will not be possible to deploy policemen outside such graveyards. While the desecration must be condemned in no uncertain terms, criticism must also be reserved for this attitude — which is far from restricted to police ranks. The Ahmadi community has long faced serious levels of persecution from various quarters, not least the state. Hostile legislation has been passed, people have been targeted and there are other instances of burial grounds being desecrated. The state needs to step up to its commitment to protect all citizens. Resources have to be found to protect members of the Ahmadi community and their properties.