Protests erupt as 70 more suspects held in lynching case
DADU, Dec 22: Police laid a virtual siege to Sita village and its adjoining areas, 60 kilometres from here, and picked up 70 more suspects after a house-to-house search on Saturday, drawing the ire of the villagers who accused the law enforcers of unleashing their rage on innocent people.
Sita village was the scene of a horrific incident a day earlier when a highly charged mob beat to death a man and torched his body. He was accused of desecrating the Quran.
Police arrested 30 suspects, the SHO of the Rajo Deero police station and six police officials after the mob managed to overpower policemen and drag the 35-year-old suspect out of the lock-up at 8am on Friday.
The suspect had been handed over to police by villagers late on Friday night.
The villages of Sita, Nandhi Sita, Khamiso Machhi, Laloo Machhi and Gulan Machhi gave a deserted look during the operation as police had sealed off all roads and bazaars and most villagers had fled their houses for fear of arrest.
Speaking to Dawn over the phone, Dadu SSP Usman Ghani Siddiqui, who led the operation, blamed negligence of the Rajo Deero police station for the tragic incident.
He said he wondered why they did not shift the suspect to a safe location after he had been handed over to them by villagers.
He said that police had identified all suspects from a number of video clips of the mob storming the police station and beating the accused to death. The clips were recorded by an eyewitness, he said, adding that the police would continue raids to arrest all the accused.
He said that a large number of policemen drawn from 10 police stations of the area took part in the operation, which started at 6am in the morning and continued late into the night.
Angered by the indiscriminate police action, a large number of villagers, activists of political parties, religious leaders and shopkeepers took out a procession in the nearby Sita Road town on Saturday.
The procession was led by president of shopkeepers’ association Ghulam Qadir Solangi and religious leader Syed Nasir Ahmed Shah.
Mr Solangi condemned lynching of the suspect and said it was inhuman to torch the body. It was police failure to provide security to the suspect when the police station came under attack by the mob, he said.
He said that police should arrest the genuine culprits who were involved in the gory incident and should not arrest innocent people.
Religious leader Syed Nasir Ahmed Shah said that they would observe a shutter-down strike in Sita Road town if police did not stop arresting the innocent people.
In another protest, more than 60 women took out a rally in Sita village in protest against police raids on their houses.
Shabana Soomro, Pathani Soomro and Rizwana Solangi who led the protest accused police of stealing away valuable belongings during raids. Police were using the incident as a pretext to victimise innocent village people, they alleged.
They said that police barged into their houses without search warrants and misbehaved with women in the absence of their men who had escaped from the village for fear of arrest.
They feared police would arrest their men and implicate them in false cases related to the lynching incident. They said that police knew the people involved in the inhuman act and were arresting innocent people to hide them.
Because of the clampdown, they complained, they could not buy vegetables and other essential food items as all markets were closed in the village.
Meanwhile, a number of women carrying the Quran arrived at the Sita Road town police station and protested against police raids and arrest of their relatives.
Three FIRs registered
Three cases were registered in connection with the alleged desecration of the Quran, an attack by an unruly mob on the Rajo Deero police station and lynching of a suspect and negligence of policemen.
The first case (FIR 11/2012) was registered on a complaint of a dispenser of the basic health unit in Sita village, Nawab Ali Memon, under Section 295-B (Defiling, etc, of the Holy Quran) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
The second FIR (12/2012) was lodged on a complaint of Rajo Deero SHO Sub-Inspector Ghulam Mustafa Tunio under Sections 302 (premeditated murder), 353 (criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of duty), 395 (punishment for dacoity), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender), 225 (resistance or obstruction to lawful apprehension of another person), 297 (trespassing on burial places, etc) of the PPC read with Section 6/7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 against 300/400 persons.
The third case (FIR 13/2012) was registered on a complaint of the SHO of the Rukkan police station, who is looking after the charge of Rajo Deero police station as SHO, under Section 223 (escape from confinement or custody negligently suffered by public servant) and 225-A (omission to apprehend, or sufferance of escape, on part of public servant) against the Rajo Deero SHO and seven other police officials with the Rajo deero police station.