The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) on the Kot Radha Kishan lynching presented its findings in front of the Supreme Court on Friday; and it reveals a malaise more putrid than imagined. The post-mortem says that the victims were burnt alive in a brick kiln after being tortured using a tractor trolley, rods, and other broken appliances. The police mobile patrol that received the tip-off that a woman was being tortured over alleged blasphemy reached the spot before the mob – 600 strong – managed to break into the hut the couple was hiding in. The police went on to cheerfully state that when they tried to stop the crowd they were “thwarted” and “even beaten”. After realising their helplessness, they gave into the carnage and watched the spectacle unfold from the front line – officials and constables alike.

The police are supposed to protect the helpless, not capitulate the moment they were “beaten”. They are supposed to lay down their lives with pride and honour to protect the defenceless. Even police checkpoints on the loneliest of roads are armed to the teeth with high powered assault rifles, pistols and body armour. Why couldn’t an armed police patrol manage an unarmed crowd of villagers armed with sticks? A few aerial shots would disperse the eager onlookers; a few more would deter the self-righteous. If the crowd was too much why didn’t they call for backup? Is it cowardice? Ineptitude? Plain apathy? Or perhaps a combination of the above? The Punjab police was brimming with bravado when shooting straight at unarmed protestors at the Minhaj-ul-Quran in Model Town Lahore; the superintendent publically sauntered forward with just a pistol in hand. Why can’t they muster the same machismo when defending minorities against murderous hordes? This has become endemic; the police stand by when they are against the flow of the majority’s opinion, and we understandingly let them go with a slap on the wrist.

While we hunt the perpetrators, we must stop this. The police must be taught its true duty. The constables must be charged with gross negligence and dereliction of duty if not with being accomplices to murder.