04/28/2008, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Killed for “blasphemy”, now his family is at risk

by Qaiser Felix
The sister of Jagdeesh Kumar, a 22-year-old Hindu man killed by his co-workers who accused him of blasphemy, wants a real investigation by the government which arrested the murderers without charging them with murder. Marginalised, the family wants justice. The Church makes an appeal.

Karachi (AsiaNews) – Unless justice comes back to Pakistan it will impossible for a non Muslim to survive, said Rameshri Kumar, the older sister of Jagdeesh Kumar, a 22-year-old factory worker killed by his co-workers after being accused of blasphemy. Her outburst came in a long interview with the daily newspaper Dawn which describes the manner in which the young man met his death and the current situation of his family “hated by everyone because of false charges that have cause already a lot of sorrow.”

Sentenced to death by his fellow workers, Jagdeesh was beaten for almost half an hour on 8 April by the Muslims working in the leather factory where he worked.

Accused of defiling the name of the prophet the young man’s fellow workers arbitrarily enforced the infamous anti-blasphemy law that exists in the country which imposes the death penalty on anyone desecrating Islam or Muhammad.

Jagdeesh is the first Hindu to die as a result of the law.

The three workers who carried out the beating were arrested, charged not with murder but with “failure to inform the police that blasphemy was underway.”

“We have reason to believe that there is a cover-up,” said Ratan Kumar, a councillor from the Karachi district where the murder took place. For him that police are covering up the situation. “It’s a case of murder, not blasphemy,” he added.

Meanwhile the Kumar family is in danger. Popular attitudes towards the families of blasphemers tend towards marginalising them. Their very lives are at risk.

For another sister of the dead man, Sundri, such a situation would be impossible in the rest of the world. Her family wants neither “ compensation, nor any financial support. We need justice, which would definitely remove such an allegation from our community,” she said.

The Catholic Church asked the new government to intervene giving a “signal of change” compared to the previous administration.

“We condemn the killing of Jagdesh Kumar and demand a prompt and fair inquiry into this incident,” said the Catholic Church’s National Commission for Justice and Peace in a press release. For the Church such violations of minority rights are no longer tolerable.

Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim country. Hindus make up 1.6 per cent of the population; Catholics are around 2.2 per cent.

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