Sharoon Masih, a fifteen and a half year old Christian boy who died on 30th August at Vehari during a fight that broke out between him and Muhammad Ahmed Raza another student during school hours. According to Sharoon’s Uncle Liaqat, Sharoon had complained of being harassed and insulted for being a Christian ever since he joined the school, sometime back.
Speaking to The Nation Sharoon’s father Elyab Masih said that after this incident he has not sent his kids to school as he is afraid they would meet the same fate. “What should I do, I can’t put the life of my other kids at stake. What if they are treated the same way? I have lost Sharoon I can’t afford to lose my other children.”
Ahmed Raza is still on remand and accepts his crime as Sharoon had broken his mobile and the fight escalated. The father says, “We were told by many people that there were two more kids with Ahmed Raza but aren’t aware of their names. I think Ahmed Raza is hiding the name purposely to save them.”
On the first day after joining the school when Sharoon returned home he was depressed as he was punished for not wearing a uniform and refused to go to school again. Elyab said, “I told him that it’s common that some children would bother you, but you have to study. I’ll get you a uniform and come to speak to your teacher. I tried my best to calm him down and assure him things would be fine, but I was wrong.”
Sharoon complained to his mother on the first day that Ahmed Raza had not allowed him to drink water from the cooler as he was a Christian. “He told my wife that the students called him a Chura and treated him badly for being the only Christian in class. There are about 4,000 kids in school and he was the only Christian in his class. I don’t know if there are any more Christian children in school,” said Sharoon’s father.
“We were informed through neighbors that Sharoon was injured. When we reached the hospital we came to know his death took place in school. Students took him to the hospital but the teachers did not bother to help him,” said Elyab.
The DPO Vehari has visited the family and yesterday MNA Kamran Micheal also visited them. “We are satisfied with the way the police is working. They had arrested the culprit on the first day. We have told the DPO that Sharoon’s shirt was clean when he reached the hospital but his vest was dirty. The belt was wrapped around the waist which was not a normal thing. They have assured us that we are Pakistani’s first and we will be provided with justice soon. We won’t go for compromise or money, we want justice for Sharoon.”
Sharoon’s father has appealed to the Chief Minister of Punjab Shehbaz Sharif to provide him justice. “I want the culprits to be punished. Shahbaz Sharif should come here and see our condition, we have lost a son who was intelligent and our hope for the future.”
Muslims and Christians have lived together in this area for years and never had any problem in all this time he said.
The DPO Vehari formed a special team to conduct an inquiry about the actual facts in the case of FIR No. 471 Dated 30-08-2017 under section 302 PCC PS Model Town Burewala. The team consists of Ms. Zubaida Perveen SP/Investigation Vehari, DSP Sajjad Muhammad Khan Organized Crime Vehari, and DSP/SDPO Birewala Javed Tahir Majeed which will submit daily progress in the case.
A Regional Investigation Team comprised of Dr Fahad Ahmad PSP Assistant SP Cantt Division Multan, Mansoor Alam DSP, Shahzad Hameed DSP/ Legal, RPO office is also investigating the case. The initial report indicates that there is no religious bias/angle to the incident. DSP Vehari Tahir Majed earlier talking to the Nation had said that Sharoon Masih’s case did not have a religious angle to it.
Talking to The Nation about Muhammad Ahmed Raza DSP Tahir Majeed said, “He is a 17 years old boy, who is healthier than Sharoon. The court has granted police his physical remand. According to the accused statement in the Court, Sharoon had broken his mobile earlier in the day and when he [Ahmed Raza] stopped Sharoon on the way in school a fight broke out which resulted in Sharoon’s death.”
The postmortem report of Sharoon Masih says there are no trauma marks on the dead body while the chemical report is awaited.
After the story went viral on social media it was viewed as having a religious angle to it while Sharoon’s uncle Liaqat also said, “On first day of school Sharoon told us that kids at school were not letting him drink water from the same glass as he was a Christian. Later they started calling him a ‘chura’ (a derogatory term for sweeper). We believe this would have been one of the reasons for his death.”
DSP Tahir Majeed said “There is no religious angle involved in this case; rather different communities have good terms in the neighborhood also. Shahroon’s best friend is an eye witness to this incident and he also refutes the claims of it being a religious issue.” He further added, “People are trying to communalize the issue. There were rumors that Muslim children tried to convert Sharoon but after the investigation no evidence of this was found. Rather it was a simple fight between two students where one was stronger than the other, and Sharoon could not bear the impact of the beating.”
There were reports that Ahmed Raza’s family had some support in the area, but the DSP refuted this saying, “Raza ‘s family belongs to lower middle class and has no support from anyone in the area. On the other hand, Sharoon’s family has support in the area and even from civil society.”
According to Liaqat the teachers did not help Sharoon when the fight broke out, to which the DSP said, “Teachers mis-handled the case, they should have intervened and taken him to the hospital instead of (letting) the students do so. It has been mentioned in the First Information Report that teachers should be suspended and as per my information they have been suspended. It was through camera footage we came to know the negligence of teachers.”
Regarding punishment DSP Tahir Majeed said, “It is not a juvenile case. The court can give relaxation due to Ahmed Raza’s age, otherwise in such cases capital punishment is given. If both the parties want they can opt for compromise.”
Sharoon Masih’s Uncle Liaqat said, “The police has assured us that justice would be provided to us. Ahmed Raza for the time being is accepting his crime and said that he was solely responsible for it.” Sharoon had five younger siblings, three sisters and two brothers, “Regarding their education Liaqat said that for the time being we don’t want to send them to school as we are afraid they may meet the same fate someday.” He also said that Muslims and Christians were living in this area for a long time. They never faced any discrimination and Sharoon’s case happened to be the first case.
DPO Omer Saeed also spoke to the Nation and said, “The religious angle cannot be ruled out but the case is still being investigated.” He said that Sharoon’s mother gave a verbal statement in which she said that, “No weapon was used in the fight. Secondly she said that they were two more kids with Ahmed Raza but we don’t know who they are. When asked if they tell who the eye witnesses were who gave this information she said we also have heard this but are not sure. She also said that the fight was about water and mobile phone.”
He also said that four teachers, Head Master Saleem Tahir, Class teacher Nazir Ahmed, PE Teacher Dil Dar Aslam and PE teacher Muhammad Ramzan had been suspended and are facing departmental action.
About the school environment DPO Omer Saeed said, “There are about 50 to 60 Christian students’ studying in the school and no one ever complained of any discrimination.” About Ahmed Raza and the other two students who beat Sharoon he said, “They belong to the same financial background.”
Deputy Commissioner Vehari Ali Akbar Bhatti said, “Class teacher’s, headmaster and class in-charge have been suspended. An inquiry is being held against them, and soon the report would be final. I have met with the family, they belong to a very poor background. Along with providing justice, we are trying to arrange for financial assistance too. The family is satisfied with the inquiry and leaders of their community have said that they are happy with the working of the police.”
Executive Director National Commission for Justice and Peace Mr. Cecil Chaudary said, “Our teams are on ground and are investigating the case as there are conflicting reports from the scene. As for the religious angle, it can’t be totally ruled out but that doesn’t seem to be the basis of the fight between the students. There are chances that the fight started on a mobile and later they abused each other where the religious angle came in.”
Social Activist and Lawyer Jibran Nasir said, “The case is more of a class based than religious based intolerance. This case should not be compared with Mashal Khan’s case, and neither there was any lynching. Even thou the father and mother have told the facts to the DPO Vehari Omer Saeed, but they are more worried about the local police.”
Regarding Ahmed Raza and the other two kids, Jibran Nasir said, “The possibility of the other two kids being protected due to influential backgrounds cannot be ruled out. They may have asked Ahmed not to name them in exchange for legal and monetary support. However, this is only an assumption at my end in light of my experience of dealing with such cases.”
Jibran shared Sharoon’s father Elyab’s conversation with The Nation, “He said they never faced such discrimination in their area and everyone lived together, but the new school in the city had sons from local landlords who did not tolerate the son of a Christian who is seen as belonging to lowest class of society due to the professions they have been limited to in their class. The behavior of the teachers from day one of his admission and their using the term "Chuhra" left Sharoon vulnerable to such inhumane treatment.”