Sialkot comes as no surprise

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Everything we do these days must be documented, from trips to gatherings and events – down to our breakfasts, lunches, and dinners – and then tweeted, Facebooked, or Instagram Med for others’ approval. Murder by mob appears to be the same.
Priyantha Kumara, a Sri Lankan manager of a local plant in Sialkot, was assassinated early this month by a crowd who accused him of blasphemy. Kumara has been living and working in Pakistan for over a decade, embodying Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision of a Pakistan where foreign nationals flock to find jobs (his arrival predates the onset of the glorious tabdeeli revolution, but the point stands).
He was first stripped nude and beaten to death in front of a throng of hundreds, who rained blows on his dying corpse. His disfigured body was subsequently burned on fire, and the assassins gleefully revealed their crime in front of television cameras, joyfully proclaiming that they had sent a blasphemer to hell.
After that, it was selfie time, and one of these photos in particular sticks out. A young guy stands in front of Kumara’s burning body, his face a picture of concentration. His eyes are narrowed and serious, either because to the gravity of the event, or perhaps as a reaction to the heavy smoke of this righteous human inferno, which has become greasy due to melting fat. The words of a song from the Bollywood film Gully Boy, ‘Apna Time Ayega,’ are inscribed on the back cover of his phone (my time will come). Nothing could be more accurate: this is his time, and the time of all those like him – people who will commit atrocity on the basis of the smallest rumor, who will eagerly join a murderous mob for the fleeting feeling of solidarity and the sense of being a soldier for righteousness in a larger, cosmic war.
We don’t have a right to be surprised. And although we’re permitted to be enraged by what occurred, to feel a dreadful nausea in the pit of our stomachs, and to feel a sadness that destroys whatever semblance of a soul we still have… We have no right to be surprised since even the most blissfully benighted among us could foresee this. It’s pointless to go through the long and well-documented Storey of surrenders, co-opting, and callous cynicism that brought us here.
And although we’re permitted to be enraged by what occurred, to feel a dreadful nausea in the pit of our stomachs, and to feel a sadness that destroys whatever semblance of a soul we still have…We have no right to be surprised since even the most blissfully benighted among us could foresee this. It’s pointless to go through the long and well-documented storey of surrenders, co-opting, and callous cynicism that brought us here.
The official reaction was strong: the state’s senior officials all spoke out against the murder, even if their language was revealing. The phrases ‘vigilante’ and ‘extrajudicial’ were used, as well as demands for people not to ‘take the law into their own hands,’ which, oddly enough, appear to indicate that some type of crime was actually committed and that the main issue was that the mob delivered sentence before the state could.
I understand the necessity for circumspect language – which, of course, does not apply when heaping calumny on political opponents – because God forbid they should be viewed as (gasp) backing a blasphemer and therefore labelled blasphemers themselves. No amount of state-sponsored performative religion or false piety will be able to remove that label once it has been applied.
Nonetheless, the powers that be may now breathe a sigh of relief, since it has been revealed that Kumara’s offence was removing a TLP label from manufacturing machinery before to a visit from overseas clients, which comes as no surprise. There’s also conjecture that Kumara was killed because of a quarrel he had with factory workers, similar to the instance in Khushab when a bank guard killed his boss over a work dispute and afterwards claimed the manager was a blasphemer.
Now that that’s out of the way, I’m sure the official condemnation will be even louder, thanks in no little part to the fact that the blasphemy brigade has claimed the life of a foreign person from a friendly country this time. After all, there’s the geopolitical rebalancing to consider.
When the next Pakistani is lynched in the name of blasphemy, whether he or she is Muslim, Hindu, Christian, or another, we’ll see the reality of this. Because, regardless of what happens to those detained in the Sialkot lynching, this will continue to happen. You and I both know what I’m talking about. And if you believe otherwise, you may as well attempt disprin to treat cancer. Make no mistake: there will be thousands more Kumaras and Mashals before this is over, assuming it ever is. Let’s confront another reality. It’s not going to end. What makes you think that?
And then we’ll be back to typing in no time. Moralistic lectures about family values and the horrors of khooni liberals (all 12 of them) who are working around the clock to ruin our country will be delivered. After all, we’re specialists at treating symptoms while also encouraging the disease’s source.