Priyantha Kumara, a Sri Lankan Export Manager, employed by Rajko Industries, Sialkot, became an Islamic fanatic group’s victim on 3 December 2021. Police records revealed that he was beaten with sticks, fists and kicks by a group consisting of dozens of assemblies before being dragged to the road outside the factory and set on fire alive.
Rajko Industries manufactured cricket jerseys and other gear for the Pakistan cricket team in T20 World Cup. Priyantha Kumara was the youngest of six siblings. His mother was not told how he was lynched and later burnt alive. Kamal, his brother, told the international media how they concealed the facts from their mother.
His family informed his mother that his death was due to an accident and kept her mother away from social media and television. His mother is 80 years old, suffering from diabetes and hypertension. Priyantha’s family members said they were unable to explain to her what exactly happened. The mother was repeatedly weeping from the moment she heard about Priyantha’s death.
The family told the mother they did not know the exact details about how the accident occurred. Priyantha and his brother Kumara have lived in Pakistan for over ten years. They seemed to have no complaints whatsoever while living in Pakistan. Kumara told the international Media that “many Pakistani friends made condolence calls. They all sympathised with me and were crying and ashamed to call themselves Pakistanis.”
Blaspheme means death
Priyantha Kumara was alleged of blasphemy by Pakistan’s mob leader. The punishment for blasphemy is death under a Pakistani law made by President Zia ul Haq in the 1980s. This incident of Priyantha goes down in the annals of modern-day international history as the worst act of criminality. According to Aljazeera TV, blasphemy allegations have led to extrajudicial murders or mob lynching, with at least 80 people killed in such attacks since 1990.
The savage killing of Priyantha Kumara shocked Pakistan. Religious leaders, civil society and politicians in Pakistan utterly condemned the lynching. On Sunday, 5 December, civil society groups demonstrated against Priyantha’s killing in Sialkot. It appears to be an excuse for radicals to gain support and mileage for the lynching. A recent news flash in a newspaper disclosed how the massacre of Priyantha purposely prevented the perpetrators from manslaughter and the investigations.
Priyantha Kumara worked in Sialkot in Pakistan for over ten years. Protesters accused him of defacing posters bearing Prophet Muhammad’s name and throwing it into a trash bin. Another viewpoint was that he was a foreigner and may not have comprehended Urdu lettering on the poster! “Nevertheless, the whole world condemned the lynching and setting fire to Priyantha’s body in a public place witnessed by hundreds of spectators, who did not utter a word about the slaughter, except for one decent Pakistani who tried to shield Priyantha and suffered. Pakistan Government paid the highest honour to the man who attempted to rescue Priyantha Kumara from mob violence. Videos on YouTube shared on social media showed hundreds of men and young boys gathered at the scene.
Amnesty International requested an impartial inquiry into the killing. Authorities in Pakistan caught the perpetrators responsible for the lynching. They emphasised the urgency where it enables such abuses and risks lives. In South Asian (Muslim) countries religious violence in connection with blasphemy rose in recent years, especially with the rising of the far-right Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). The Pakistani authorities made an immediate investigation and arrested several key suspects.
Meanwhile, Pakistani religious scholars expressed sympathy on behalf of the entire Muslim community in Pakistan. They declared: “Islam is a religion of peace that declares a murder of an innocent man as the murder of all humanity.” They further mentioned that Rajko Industries have pledged to bear expenses for Priyantha Kumara’s two children. The Muslim community in Pakistan said: “We are satisfied with measures taken by the Government of Pakistan concerning the probe and action against culprits regarding the lynching.”
The Pakistani Police have so far produced eighty-five suspects in connection with the Sialkot lynching. Pakistan Court (ATC) initially remanded thirty-four people accused of the murder of Priyantha Kumara. The judge remanded thirteen suspects and ordered the Police to produce them in court on 3 January 2022. Meanwhile, the Pakistani Upper House of Parliament unanimously passed a resolution condemning the lynching of the Sri Lankan Export Manager at Rajko industries in Sialkot.
The Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee said he would send a delegation of senators to Sri Lanka to hand over the parliamentary resolution to Priyantha Kumar’s family ( a copy of the senate resolution) and express their deepest sympathies to the family. He further added that the religion of Islam had nothing to do with lynching, and “several people interpreted blasphemy to suit themselves.” The Prime Ministerial representative visited the Sri Lanka High Commission in Islamabad to reveal how Priyantha’s loss was replaced by the administration of Rajko industries in Sialkot by another Sri Lankan citizen in the factory stating that, “we are thankful to Sri Lankans in this hour of fear.”
Pakistan is a friend of Sri Lanka. During the LTTE separatist war that lasted for thirty years, Pakistan helped Sri Lanka by supplying the much needed arms and ammunition. But this incident of lynching Priyantha Kumara and burning him alive by religious fanatics in Sialkot may have affected the openness between the two countries.
The Pakistan regime is desperately endeavouring to alleviate any diplomatic confrontation over the lynching incident. His brother in Sri Lanka had a completely different interpretation. He said, “Priyantha lived in Pakistan for so many years, and he knew about the country, including the religious fanatics. Therefore, as claimed by the mob, there was no question of blasphemy.”
Another aspect highlighted was the pending salary increase for the factory workers! Nevertheless, the whole world condemned Pakistan for the brutal killing of Priyantha Kumara and burning his body alive in a public place. According to his brother Kamal, Priyantha was not concerned about religious issues because he always focussed on the workload in the factory.
“He never participated in any religious discussions. We both respect every religion, and we never had any disrespectful opinions on any religion.” On Tuesday, Priyantha’s post-mortem was carried out. His funeral took place in his native Gampaha District. There are two factions of Islam – Wahhabism and Sufism. Wahhabism originated in the 18th-century by an Islamic scholar, preacher and activist named Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. For more than two centuries in Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism remained the dominant faith.
It played a rigidly puritanical outlook of Islam. Wahhabis sternly believe that those who do not adhere to their way of tradition are heathens and their enemies. Sufism is the opposite of Wahhabism. Sufism is concerned with the soul or the spirit rather than material things. It is opposed to Wahhabism seeking to find the absolute truth in God.
Pic credit: Ceylon Today Newspaper