It is well known that the anti-blasphemy law in Pakistan is often used to oppress, suppress, and torment minorities; it comes handy to fanatics. Something similar should not happen in Punjab too.

 

All politicians have condemned the inexcusable sacrilege incidents, inside the Golden Temple and elsewhere. But, except for former Punjab Chief Minister Amrinder Singh, none of them have denounced the lynchings that accompanied such incidents. Only former CM Amarinder Singh had the courage to say, “There is no justification for mob lynching whatsoever, and it is condemnable.”

“Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi has strongly condemned the very unfortunate and heinous incident of attempting to disrespect Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji in the possession of Sri Harmandir Sahib Ji during the recitation of Sri Rahiras Sahib Ji,” the Punjab Chief Minister’s Office tweeted.

Nothing on the lynching.

While those responsible for this heinous atrocity—whoever they are and whatever their motives, need to be punished, this cannot be at the hands of vigilantes

Shiromani Akali Dal chief and former Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal tweeted, “The attempt to commit sacrilege at Sachkhand Sri Harmandar Sahib is shocking. Making the holiest of our shrine the target of such outrage is beyond belief.”

Nothing on the lynching.

His father and party patron S. Parkash Singh Badal said in a video that the act caused “deep anguish and outrage in minds of Sikh masses all over the world”.

Nothing on the lynching though

Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu went to the extent of demanding public hanging for the culprits of sacrilege: “If any incident of sacrilege takes place—be it of the Quran Sharif, the Bhagavad Gita or the Guru Granth Sahib—the culprits should be publicly hanged, should be given the maximum punishment under the Constitution because such incidents hurt our sentiments.” Does the Constitution match Siddhu’s interpretation of it?

But, again, no condemnation from him of the lynching.

This is very sad because this shows political tolerance of vigilantism, something which is quite commonplace in Pakistan. In the name of combating blasphemy, one can perpetrate heinous crimes in Pakistan. Lynchings are common, as is evident from the brutal murder of Priyantha Diyawadanage, a 48-year-old Sri Lankan man in Sialkot. The corporate executive was wrongly accused of blasphemy and murdered; he was also burned.

Pakistan is hurtling towards barbarianism and inferno. Prime Minister Imran Khan lauds the Taliban and is delighted by their victory in Afghanistan. The country’s Defence Minister tried to downplay, even condone, the murder of Diyawadanage.

That, however, is no news; everyone who knows a bit of jihad and international affairs knows that Pakistan is a terrorism-friendly nation; in fact, it aids, abets, and arms terrorists as a consequence of de facto military rule. But India is not; it is the world’s largest democracy, governed by a modern, humanist, and fair Constitution. So, politicians in our country should not avoid deploring something which is manifestly illegal—lynching.

It is well known that the anti-blasphemy law in Pakistan is often used to oppress, suppress, and torment minorities; it comes handy to fanatics. Something similar should not happen in Punjab too. A day after the alleged Golden Temple sacrilege, a man was beaten to death in Kapurthala, Punjab. Earlier, this was also said to be a case of sacrilege. Police investigation, however, has shown that there was no sacrilege. Chief Minister Channi has ruled out sacrilege in the incident. “There’s no evidence that showed sacrilege,” he said at a press conference.

“With no evidence showing ‘sacrilege’, the police have arrested gurdwara caretaker Amarjit Singh who, on the day of the incident, stated that he saw the man (deceased) attempting to disrespect the ‘Nishan Sahib’. The man was later killed by a group of people. As per the post-mortem report, the victim suffered around 30 injuries, mostly cuts likely to have been inflicted by sharp-edged weapons,” the Hindu reported.

Months ago, a group of Nihangs had allegedly killed a man at the Singhu border in Delhi because they believed that he had desecrated Sikhism, a noble faith that enjoins protection of the innocent.

The man who was allegedly killed by the devotees in the Golden Temple also seems to be a demented person rather than a dangerous, anti-national conspirator. The Times of India has reported on the night of December 17—that is, the day before the incident, the suspicious youth slept on the dog mats at Dharam Singh Market in the vicinity of Golden Temple. The owner of a guest house and a watchman talked to him and asked his whereabouts but he didn’t reply to them and just kept looking towards them.

He went 15 times inside the sanctum sanctorum in four days’ time, including eight times in a single day, before allegedly committing the desecration. Head of the Special Investigation Team, Deputy Commissioner Police (DCP) Parminder Singh Bhandal said that a person who slept on the dog mats and repeatedly went inside the sanctum sanctorum, each time waiting for nearly one hour, could be mentally ill or had some ill intentions. “But we are still in the process of investigating and minutely looking at each and every angle,” he said.

Hopefully, the truth will come out. What has already come out is a bitter truth: many politicians are unwilling to criticise brutal acts just because these were said to be committed in the name of religion. Such violence is anathema to any faith.

Ravi Kapoor is a freelance journalist.