A 22-year-old Pakistani Christian farm worker has died after being tortured by a Muslim landlord.
Saleem Masih sustained critical injuries after it was discovered that he had been bathing in the landlord’s well. On February 28, three days after the incident took place, Saleem passed away at Lahore General Hospital.
What actually happened?
On February 25, Saleem was working as a day laborer in an agricultural field in Kasur District owned by a Muslim landlord named Sher Dogar. While it was still early in the morning, Saleem decided to rinse off in a nearby tube-well. But when Dogar and other Muslims spotted Masih, they pulled him out of the water and began to beat him.
“They abused and tortured [Saleem] for ‘polluting’ the Muslims’ water,” Waris Masih, Saleem’s uncle, told International Christian Concern (ICC). “They got aggressive because a ‘Choora’ (a derogatory term used to denote Pakistani Christians as unclean) dared to make their water unclean. They claimed this would make their entire crop filthy.”
The mob of men then dragged Saleem to Dogar’s cattle farm, chained him down and tortured him for two hours. He was beaten with sticks and iron bars, given electric shocks and run over with heavy machinery. Later, Saleem’s father Ghafoor was called to the farm by the local police, where he discovered his son laying bloodied and unconscious.
The father rushed Saleem to the district hospital, but he was quickly transferred to Lahore due to the severity of his condition. Saleem remained in a coma for three days, before dying of his injuries.
“This incident has damaged my strength,” Ghafoor told ICC. “He was my child star and the face of the family. The culprits have killed him very brutally. I want justice for my son and punishment for the killers.”
Muslim community leader Mian Muhammad Abbas urged healing and unity between the two communities. “This village and country belong to every citizen and we are sad for Saleem Masih,” he said. “Christians and Muslims have been living in this village together for over four decades..we still want to live in peace.”
What is the latest on the assailants?
Police have filed a First Information Report against Dogar, and the six men accused of being involved in the attack are currently in custody.
ICC’s Regional Manager, William Stark said: that their “thoughts and prayers go out to Saleem’s family and the Christian community of Bhagiyana.”
“No one should fear being attacked and killed because their religious identity is considered ‘unclean,'” he added. “Authorities in Pakistan must take concrete action to provide Saleem’s family with justice and ensure that similar incidents do not happen in the future.”