Chak 79 Nawan Kot, District Sheikhupura; June 30, 2020: Religious extremists in league with police officials desecrated, destroyed and damaged dozens of Ahmadiyya gravestones in the dark hours of June 30, 2020. As the incident is a grave violation of Ahmadis’ religious rights and sensitivities, we mention essential details here.
In this village Ahmadiyya graveyard is located next to the Non-Ahmadis’ graveyard with only a paved drain separating them. A fortnight ago, Ahmadis decided to prepare a small piece of state land as Janazagha (an open area where brief funeral prayer is held prior to burial; it lasts approximately 2-3 minutes.) Some bricks etc were provided at the site for this purpose. A few extremist elements made it a big issue and incited the public over it in their mosque. They wrote an application to police authorities, the SHO and the DPO. They took the plea that by providing themselves a Janazagah on state land Ahmadis had hurt their feelings, as such the village peace was at risk; action be taken against Ahmadis.
In fact, provision of a spot for Janazagah on state land near a graveyard is a matter of course at most locations in the Punjab, and nobody minds it, neither the public nor the state.
The SHO sent for the parties on June 27, 2020. Approximately 60 mullas thronged the meeting. A small Ahmadi delegation also came and on joining greeted those present with a ‘Salaam’. The mullas chose to take offense to this greeting of ‘Peace’, shouted objection and displayed anger and hostility. They demanded that the police book Ahmadis under the blasphemy law PPC 295-C (for which the penalty is death). The SHO told everyone to get on with the agenda.
The opposing mullas stated that the preparing of a Janazagah site and the Islamic inscriptions on Ahmadiyya tombstones hurt their feelings. These should be removed, or there will be consequences. At this the SHO got an undertaking in writing from the Ahmadis on a stamp-paper that they will not make a Janazagah. Ahmadis however stated that they will not remove the inscriptions; the police itself may have these effaced, if they will.
In the meantime, some miscreant mullas went around the village seeking an undertaking from the villagers that they will not let Ahmadis bury their dead in the graveyard. Some people signed the undertaking, while others did not. The opposition has five mosques in the village which indulged in hate speech and incited the people to undertake boycott of Ahmadis.
Later, on June 30, mullas again went to the police station where they shouted anti-Ahmadi slogans. Eventually, the miscreants, the mullas and the police jointly proceeded to desecrate and damage Ahamdis’ tombstones with hammers and chisels and obliterated sacred inscriptions from dozens of Ahmadis’ gravestones. This went on in darkness till 11 p.m.
The BBC News (Urdu) took note of this grave incident and reported it on bbc.com/urdu/Pakistan-53275196. It is a three page report with three photos of the damaged graves. The report mentions that BBC contacted the SHO, Mr. Sadaqat Randhawa to seek his comment. He denied any incident of desecration of graves. When told that the photos of damaged tombstones are available on Twitter, he said that he was not aware of the source of those photos; however he had visited the site and found no trace of such an incident.
Such is the level of integrity and uprightness of our officials! Mr. Ghazi Salahuddin is the DPO while Mr. Shoaib Dastgir is the Provincial Police Officer.
Only a few days later, there was a traffic accident in this district of Sheikhupura in which 22 Sikh pilgrims died when their van collided with a train at a level crossing. Had the authorities spent more time on public security and safety issues and not on desecrating graves, the terrible accident might have been avoided.