Murder by Blasphemy

A Hindu worker in Pakistan is lynched for blasphemy as punishment for loving a Muslim girl: The Asian Human Rights Commission condemns the incident and demands strict and immediate governmental action against the culprits

A 27-year-old Hindu worker, Mr Jagdish Kumar, was killed by fellow Muslim workers on the charge of blasphemy in the presence of more than two dozen policemen, including an officer. The police and factory management made no attempt to stop the factory workers killing the young man. Some reports suggest that the victim was in love with a Muslim girl which was what angered the Muslim workers who also called for help from outside the factory. The sad truth of the fact is that no political group, not even the one in power, has started to investigate the incident or provide security to the Hindu community who are under tremendous threat and insecurity because of some fundamentalist Muslim groups.

According to the information collected, Mr Jagdish Kumar belonged to a lower Hindu caste and his family lives in Mirpurkhas, a city close to India bordering the Rajasthan state. Jagdish came to Karachi, the capital city of Sindh province, for a better job some years ago and joined the Nova leather factory in Korangi, Karachi, which has 7,000 workers, about 60 of whom are Hindu. Jagdish was very close to a Muslim girl who worked at the factory but supervisory staff and some
workers who are members of Islamic fundamentalist groups were not happy with the close relationship which developed between Jagdish and the Muslim girl. The relationship showed every promise of turning into a lifetime partnership.

On the day of the incident, April 8, 2008, at 10 a.m. some workers and security guards beat Jagdish and warned him not to "involve himself in so many things". They told him that he must remain simply a Hindu worker. After beating him, he was produced before Ms Naushaba, the supervisor of the stitching department where he was working, and Jagdish was accused of saying bad words against the Muslim prophet which he denied instantly. But Ms Naushaba, who was aware of his relationship with the girl, just softly slapped his face and told him to start work. So at that point things were quite normal but at 11.30 a.m. some workers of a religious group started beating him again and after some minutes the security guards of the factory locked him in a security room which had iron gates. The workers who had beaten him started shouting that Jagdish was using bad words against Islam.

In the meantime, Mr Irfan Iqbal, the director of Nova, along with his managers Mr Nadeem and Mr Saleem, arrived at the scene and in their presence the mob, believing that they had the support of the management, broke the iron gates of the room, dragged Jagdish out and beat him with heavy rods, stones and hammers. The management watched the incident without interfering. In the meantime, some people called the police and initially only four policemen turned up in a police jeep. Later they were followed by two more jeeps carrying officers who all stood by and watched the lynching. The police and the management remained spectators while the beating continued from 11.30 to 12.10 inside the factory compound. Witnesses from the Hindu community residing at Lyari town reported that even when the fanatics drove screwdrivers into Jagdish’s eyes neither the police nor the management intervened. When Jagdish was finally handed over to the police, he was dead. The police refused to enter a first information report (FIR) by the family of the victim but later on filed their own FIR after one day had passed.

Jagdish was beaten beyond recognition and as a result his body was not shown to his mother who is still in a state of semi-unconsciousness.

The family was first pressured by the management of the factory and the police not to register the case of killing by lynching. Then some Muslim religious groups persuaded the Hindu community residing in Marwari Mohalla, Lyari town, Karachi, not to file an FIR or report it to the press otherwise the whole Hindu community and particularly the 60 Hindu workers working in the factory would face more bloody incidents in the name of blasphemy charges. The management of the factory has since stopped sending its bus to cater for 40 Hindu workers from Marwari Mohalla. Marwari Mohalla has a population of 2,000 Hindus who reside in more than 200 houses in a big compound. The members of the
community are so scared that they locked themselves inside the compound (fearing attacks from) a Muslim fundamentalist sectarian group known as a militant organisation.

The police have arrested three persons, two from the Sunni Tehreek (ST), a militant sectarian organisation, and one from the Pasbaan organisation. However, the Korangi 4 police station is providing protection to the perpetrators by not arresting the other persons who were very visible in the (video footage of) the whole incident recorded on different cameras installed in and outside the factory. It is alleged that two arrested persons, Mr Waqas and Mr Usman of the Sunni Tehreek, are notorious and have been involved in cases of murder, attempt to murder, rape and other crimes but are employed by the management of the factory. Mr Sarwer Nadeem, the manager, along with these two persons is terrorising the employees, particularly young women who are generally employed on piece rates. The third arrested person, Mr Hashim Makrani, belongs to Pasbaan, also a religious organisation. There is a 300 strong group of ST members in the factory.

It is believed that the police are destroying the evidence against the other perpetrators and arrested persons. The Korangi 4 police station has appointed Mr Ulfat Husain, assistant subinspector, as investigating officer, who is very close to the management of the factory. On the other hand, the factory management says there is no video recording of the incident as their cameras were not working at the time.

One day before his killing, Waqas, Usman and some other persons from the ST threatened Jagdish not to come back to the factory otherwise he would face exemplary punishment. Jagdish complained about this threat to his seniors, particularly his supervisor, but no action was taken.

The provincial government of Sindh has still not started an investigation into this incident. When contacted, the minister for minority affairs, Mr Daya Ram said he had heard about the case but did not have detailed information. Later he said that he had informed the prime minister about the incident and the prime minister had assured him that he would look into the case. After the passing of several days, neither the minister nor the provincial government has done anything about the case. Even the Pakistan Peoples Party, a secular party in power, is not taking up the case, nor has it even issued a statement because of the involvement of powerful religious groups which the party does not want to annoy.

Different Muslim religious parties, including the Sunni Tehreek, Jamaat-e-Islami, have acknowledged the incident but other than condemn the matter, have not taken any action. This is the same situation with different NGOs who claim to represent civil society but who, as yet, have not issued any press statements. Only the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has issued a statement.

The dark aspect of the incident is that extreme militant Muslim organisations will use the tool of blasphemy as the best way to keep religious minority groups under pressure. This will continue if the state does not rein in the misuse of the blasphemy law. The conspicuously indifferent attitude of the coalition government of the Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League (N) on the issue of
killing a young man just because he was in love with a Muslim girl will turn the country into an intolerant society and no one, not even political parties, will be spared by the militant groups.

The government of Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani should immediately probe this case of the killing of a young Hindu man on charges of blasphemy. The government must take action before the formation of a probe commission by judges from higher courts. The police officers and the factory management that stood by and watched this young man being beaten to death must be brought before the law and punished accordingly.

The demand for a probe commission consisting of judges from higher courts is very pertinent as the incident is of a heinous crime where the government and state has remained inactive. This will be a test case in which the newly elected government will either show its commitment for the rule of law or adopt the course of political expediency.

Archived from Communalism Combat,  May 2008, Year 14, No.131 – Neighbours 4 



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