As factory workers took selfies with the burning corpse of their manager, Farhan Idrees proudly spoke to local media about the alleged blasphemy. “Priyantha Kumara tore a paper from the wall. It was inscribed with the name of Hussain [grandson of Prophet Mohammad]. He threw it in the basket,” said Idrees, who appeared to be in his 20s. “We complained to the foreman and demanded an apology. He tried to run away. We went on strike and gathered people, protested and burned him.”
“Labaik Ya Rasool Allah” chanted the mob surrounding the remains of Kumara spread on road amid stones, bricks and sticks in front of Rajco Industries, a sportswear manufacturing company in Sialkot, Punjab province. Videos of his vandalized car and lynching went viral on social media on December 3.
Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special representative on religious harmony, disputes their claim.
“This man [Kumara] used to urge people to work efficiently. Our hearts are wounded. These three incidents were reported in the past year. We urgently send ulemas to avoid similar incidents. The United Ulema Board Punjab has reviewed 113 cases and often given relief to the innocent,” he told media.
“Ulema of all sects have condemned the killing. This is a test case. We ask for forgiveness from the people of Sri Lanka and the victim’s family.” Idrees was among more than 100 protesters arrested on charges of murder and terrorism. Both PM Khan and army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa have strongly condemned the Sialkot incident and announced strict punishment for the suspects.
According to Pastor Iqbal Masih of the Presbyterian Church in Sialkot, local Christians avoided protests about Kumara’s murder. “We are not powerful enough to challenge them. Earlier there were rumors that he had converted to Christianity in a local church five months ago. There were no prayers for him either because he was a Hindu,” he told.