The more we hear about the killing of the Christian couple, Shama and Shahzad Masih, the greater grows the horror of what took place that day a week ago at Kot Radha Kishan. The six-year-old son of the couple, one of four small children orphaned by the incident, has given gory details of how his parents were beaten till they bled, tied to a tractor and dragged through the streets and then thrown into the brick kiln, dead or alive, we do not quite know, where their bodies were reduced to ashes. The children were dragged away to safety by their grandfather. The trauma of what they saw will live with them forever, and the Rs5 million compensation and 10 acres of land given to them by the Punjab chief minister will not change this, though in practical terms, it may make their lives just a little better.
But what of life for other non-Muslims in the country? What can they expect for the future? We have read already of the fear descending over minority communities in the wake of the brutal murders. We already know that a local cleric possibly acted to incite the violence in Kot Radha Kishan. The police, who have made dozens of arrests since the murders, say they were on that day spread too thin due to Ashura. This claim needs to be inquired into although this in no way absolves the police of the responsibility of protecting the unfortunate couple.
But surely, we should also be asking why local people did not act to save the young couple? Why did no one speak up for them? What happened at Kot Radha Kishan exposes a great deal about our society within which people can be killed without being given any opportunity to defend themselves. The poor, like the latest victims, who were unable to flee as they were bonded labourers, are perhaps the most vulnerable of all to abuse of this kind. Many questions need to be asked and answered effectively. We hope they will be.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 11th, 2014.