LAHORE: Another beacon of light has been extinguished, this time in Burewala, a town in Vehari District of Punjab.

Sharoon Masih, a young intelligent boy who aimed for the stars, was beaten to death by Muhammad Ahmed Rana, a class fellow along with a couple of other students, for being a Christian. He’s behind bars for the last eight days while the other students are on the run. According to initial reports, Sharoon died due to injuries in the stomach, while the postmortem report has not been given yet.

Sharoon was doing extremely well in his previous school in Chak 461 EB. Due to outstanding result in class 8 final examinations, his teachers encouraged his parents to let him continue his studies. His father got him admitted in MC Model Boys Government High School Burewala of District Vehari. However Sharoonwas not able to adjust in the hostile environment.

Although Elyab Masih, Sharoon’s father is without a job for the last eight months, still he wanted his son to study and used his savings to get Sharoon admitted to school. To meet the hardships of life Sharoon too used to do manual labor while continuing his studies so his parents could not feel the burden. 

From the very first day of school Sharon was mistreated by the teachers and class fellows especially Muhammad Ahmed Rana, said Sharoon’s family. His paternal uncle Liaquat speaking to The Nation said, “Sharoon complained to his father that the teacher had slapped him for not wearing a uniform and was told to stand in the sun for the whole day.His father had said that Sharoon should take off from school the next day; he took a loan of Rs.2,000 to buy his son the school uniform and told him that he would talk to the Principal the next day. But it was too late, he was killed that day.”

When asked what happened on that day Liaqat said, “We don’t know for sure what happened but some students say Ahmed tried to stop Sharoon’s path first then they had an argument on mobile phone which led to a fight and resulted in his death. When the fight broke out some students went to the teachers to tell them what was happening but no one came to see, rather said we are drinking tea go away.”

Regarding religious discrimination Liaquat 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.”

As for the police and politicians of the area, Liaquat said no one came to them after Sharoon’s death as they are siding with the other party. “We vote for these people but no one came to help us. Police is also not helping, they are not taking any action against principal of the school.”

No one from the school administration came forward to explain what happened exactly in school that day. According to Mehwish Bhatti of British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), “There were about 40 teachers and over a thousand children who did not come forward to save Sharoon. All the teachers gave ten different statements to the police and family. No one from the administration is coming out with the truth, while the students say that Sharoon was beaten by Muhammad Ahmed Rana. When asked why no one came to save him they said that Ahmed was too powerful for anyone to handle.”

Regarding Ahmed Rana she said, “The boy is in police custody for the last 8 days and he has not given any statement about the incident. According to Sharoon’s parents Ahmed is much older to be a student of class 9. He has a very bad past record and sometime back he had injured one of the headmasters in school.Till now we don’t even know the name of Ahmed’s father, in the First Information Report (FIR) unknown is written as the father’s name. Ahmed’s family has the support of an influential person of the area.”

“Sharoon was taken to the hospital by the students, no teacher took responsibility. When Sharoon’s mother reached the hospital the doctor said that he died in the hospital. But the students refuted and said that he had died on spot on being beaten up. All the witnesses that we have met said that Sharoon was killed because of his religious belief,” said Mehwish Bhatti.

No police officer or public representative of the area were available to answer our queries.

BCPA is providing advocacy and financial assistance to Sharoon’s family. Wilson Chowdry Chairman of BCPA said "Sharoon's devastated family will have to cope with the immense emotional pain of a totally avoidable incident.  It is a poor indictment of MC Model Boys Government High School that a Christian could be targeted in this fashion.

Despite attempts by Pakistani authorities to improve the lives of minorities, the persecution and discrimination they face seems to have increased over the last decade.  

"This killing of a young Christian teenager at school, serves only to remind us that hatred towards religious minorities starts at a young age. It is transferred from one generation to another through cultural norms and a biased national curriculum.”

This news has been making rounds on the social media but so far the state and law authoritieshave not reacted to it, as in the case of Mashal Khan, who was killed in Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan.