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Mob attacks temple in Pakistan's Punjab, damages idols

By M Zulqernain
Last updated on: August 05, 2021 21:43 IST
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A mob attacked a Hindu temple in a remote town in Pakistan's Punjab province, damaging idols and burning down parts of it, prompting Prime Minister Imran Khan to promise to restore the vandalised temple and order the arrest of all culprits.

Pakistan's Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed also expressed "grave concern" over the incident and fixed the matter before court for hearing on Friday.

Police said the mob attacked the Hindu temple at Bhong city of Rahim Yar Khan district, some 590 kms from Lahore, on Wednesday in reaction to an alleged desecration of a Muslim seminary by a minor Hindu boy.

The eight-year-old Hindu boy last week had allegedly urinated at a library of the seminary that caused tensions in Bhong, where Muslims and Hindus have been living peacefully for decades.

A police officer said the boy was arrested last week and booked under the blasphemy laws but subsequently released on bail for being a minor. "The situation got out of control after the court granted bail to the boy," he said.

"The attackers were carrying sticks, stones and bricks. They smashed the deities while raising religious slogans," District Police Officer Asad Sarfraz said.

He said a part of the temple was also burnt down.

 

Sarfraz said the law enforcement agencies have controlled the situation and managed to disperse the mob. "Rangers have been called and deployed around the Hindu temple," he said.

India on Thursday summoned the Pakistani charge d'affaires in New Delhi and lodged a firm protest, expressing grave concerns at this reprehensible incident and the continued attacks on the freedom of religion of the minority communities and their places of religious worship in Pakistan.

Prime Minister Khan on Thursday strongly condemned the attack on Ganesh temple and promised that his government will restore the damaged structure.

"Strongly condemn attack on Ganesh Mandir in Bhung, RYK yesterday. I have already asked IG Punjab to ensure arrest of all culprits & take action against any police negligence. The govt will also restore the Mandir," Khan tweeted.

Earlier, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Communication, Dr Shahbaz Gill, said that the PM Office had taken notice of the sad and unfortunate incident.

Prime Minister Khan had directed the district administration to probe the matter and take strict action against the culprits, he said.

Pakistan's Constitution provides freedom and protection to minorities to perform their worship freely," Dr Gill added.

A lawmaker from Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf party, Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, met Chief Justice Ahmed on Thursday and informed him about the attack on the temple.

Chief Justice Ahmed "showed grave concern over the tragic incident," said a statement issued by the apex court on Thursday.

"Taking cognizance of the issue, the chief justice has fixed the matter before court on Friday at Islamabad with the directions to Chief Secretary of Punjab and IGP Punjab to appear along with a report on Friday," the statement said.

On Wednesday, Vankwani posted videos of the temple attack on his Twitter wall, requesting law enforcement agencies to rush to the spot to stop its "burning and vandalising".

In a series of tweets, Vankwani said, "Attack on Hindu temple at Bhong City District Rahimyar Khan Punjab. Situation was tense since yesterday. Negligence by local police is very shameful. Chief Justice is requested to take action."

He further said, "Strict action must be taken against those who attacked Hindu temple at Bhong. In contact with higher authorities. Situation is very critical right now."

"Chief Justice is requested to take action, please. Interfaith harmony is need of time," he said.

District Police Officer Sarfraz said that some 100 Hindu families are living in the area and police have been deployed there to thwart any untoward incident. He said no arrest has been made so far.

"Our first priority is to restore law and order and provide protection to the minority community," Sarfraz said.

Another police official said the temple has been damaged badly.

Sarfraz said that after a social media post inciting people of Bhong to take revenge for desecration, the mob started gathering outside the temple and attacked it.

"We will arrest those miscreants who incited people to attack the temple," he said.

In December 2020, a century-old Hindu temple was vandalised by a mob in Terri village in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Karak district.

The apex court, which took notice of the attack, had ordered authorities to start the reconstruction of the temple that was vandalised by the mob and instructed them to recover the money for the restoration work from the attackers whose act has caused "international embarrassment" to the country.

Hindus form the biggest minority community in Pakistan.

According to official estimates, 75 lakh Hindus live in Pakistan.

However, according to the community, over 90 lakh Hindus are living in the country.

The majority of Pakistan's Hindu population is settled in Sindh province where they share culture, traditions and language with Muslim residents.

They often complain of harassment by the extremists.

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