MANDI BAHAUDDIN: Chak 44 is calm after an incident a month ago threatened to break its tranquility in Malakwal tehsil of Mandi Bahauddin. There are a few signs here and there that some fears may still exist but overall administrative assurances and the resolve of the local residents to not give in to the ghosts of intolerance have avoided a serious law and order situation.
The district administration and police claim that all is well in the village courtesy the cooperation of people.
At Chak 44 the Muslim majority and Christian minority had long been living in harmony until an incident on April 19 created some uneasy ripples. That was the day when an alleged blasphemous video clip was found in the mobile phone of one of its residents, Imran Masih, a young sanitary worker at the Bosal Rural Health Centre.
Imran Masih’s colleagues including Manzoor Ahmed, Mohsin Ali, Bilal Ahmed and Iftikhar Ahmed got his mobile phone to watch the video clip of a marriage ceremony of their colleague. Imran handed them over his phone and started doing his routine work. After an hour or so they called him and questioned him about a YouTube video in which a Christian leader was criticising the Muslims.
His colleagues got enraged and started thrashing him, accusing him of blasphemy.
Imran told his colleagues that he had not saved the video in his mobile phone and anyone could watch it on YouTube. The health centre’s administration intervened in the matter and got Imran released from his colleagues. Imran smashed his mobile phone and ran away to save his life. His whereabouts are still not known.
Iftikhar, who also belongs to Chak 44, reported the matter to the village elders who together with prayer leader Qari Imran raised the matter of the video during Friday prayers on April 22 and demanded action against Imran. The mosque committee was discussing the issue when Ashraf, a Muslim, stood up and asked them as to why they were inciting violence against the local Christian community. At this, the mosque committee expelled him from the premises.
Ashraf alerted the police and told the Christian community that the Muslims were gathering to attack them. A police team reached the mosque and asked the committee members to present the video. No one could produce the video and they assured the police that no one would take the law in his hand.
Some earlier reports had suggested that there were land grabbers behind the incident who were inciting hate against Christians for vested interest but the district administration, police officers and the locals including Christians denied the allegation.
District Police Officer Raja Basharat said no one ever tried to attack or threaten the Christians of Chak 44.
“Police controlled the situation through a timely action and settled the matter between both the communities through dialogue. However, some people were distorting the facts on the social media.”
He also praised the Muslims and Christians for promoting and maintaining interfaith harmony.
Hameedan, a Christian lady health worker and teacher, said she had been coaching the children of both religions for more than 20 years at her house next to church. She said she had come to know about the incident through some members of her community. They told her that the Muslims were planning to attack their houses and that they should move away.
Hameedan told them that she would not leave her house come what may and kept on doing her routine work. She said she went to the market and no one even questioned her and there was complete peace in the village.
“All the students including Muslims are regularly attending the coaching classes. They have shown no signs of uneasiness after the incident,” she said.
“We have been living at this place (Chak 44) since Pakistan came into being. We own this country as much as anyone else and we will foil such conspiracies to disrupt peace,” responded Hameedan when asked to comment on the situation in the village.
Elementary schoolteacher and mosque committee member Muhammad Khan said the facts of the incident had been twisted by some people.
“You have witnessed the situation here. You will hear some bad things about our Chak in Gojra and Mandi Bahauddin cities, while the picture portrayed in Lahore and Islamabad is worse,” said Mr Khan, who teaches at the Government High School of the village. He said the mosque committee summoned Imran’s parents and asked them to present him before the committee to respond to the allegations of blasphemy.
“The committee had decided that Imran’s case would be reported to police if he was proved guilty otherwise he would not be further questioned.”
A Christian woman, Sardaraan said some Christian families had left the village after tension arose but they had come back after the situation improved.
Malik Inayat Rajpoot, another mosque committee member who shifted to Chak 44 about 35 years ago, is the next door neighbour of Imran Masih. “It is Ashraf Lohar who aggravated the situation. He had converted to Christianity some years ago as he was desperate to go to some western country. However, he reverted and became a Muslim again when his relatives and area people reprimanded him. He had never been to the mosque but during Friday sermon on April 22, he stood up and shouted that the Muslims wanted to attack the Christians, announcing that he too had the controversial video clip. He also threatened the Muslims with calling the police. Meanwhile, police in three vehicles reached there,” said Mr Rajpoot.
Later, he said, police contingents were deployed there and they are still present in the village.
Waseem Butt, a spokesman for the Mandi Bahauddin DCO, claims there is no unrest in the village. “Let me clarify that there is no unrest at Chak 44 and it has been confirmed by the media. There is no land grabbing issue as well. The Christian community — from poor to middle class — has little or no ownership of immovable property. The allegation of grabbing of land has no truth in it.”
Mr Butt says DCO Muzaffar Khan Sial and DPO Raja Basharat Mahmood had paid visits to Chak 44 and held a comprehensive dialogue with notables of the village and each of them solemnly declared that interfaith harmony is fully intact. Twenty policemen had been deputed in the village to control any untoward incident, he claims.