An eight-year-old Hindu boy has been placed in police custody after becoming the youngest person in East Pakistan to be charged with blasphemy.
The boy’s family is in hiding, and many members of the Hindu community in Punjab’s conservative Rahim Yar Khan district have fled their homes after a Muslim mob stormed a Hindu temple last week after the boy was released on bail. Troops were deployed in the area to prevent further unrest.
Twenty people were arrested Saturday in connection with the temple attack.
The boy is accused of urinating on a carpet at a madrassa library last month, where religious books were kept. Blasphemy can carry the death penalty.
The Guardian knows the names of the boy and his family members, but has chosen to protect their identities for his own protection.
Speaking from an undisclosed location, a member of the boy’s family told the Guardian: [the boy] He is not even aware of such issues of blasphemy and he is falsely involved in these matters. He still does not understand what his crime was and why he was kept in jail for a week.
“We have left our shops and work. The whole community is scared and we are afraid of retaliation. We do not want to return to this area. Meaningful action will be taken.
Allegations of blasphemy against a child have shocked legal experts, who say the move is unprecedented. The young man has never been charged with blasphemy in Pakistan before.
Blasphemy laws have been used disproportionately against religious minorities in Pakistan in the past. Although no blasphemy executions have been carried out in the country since the death penalty was introduced in 1986, suspects are often attacked and sometimes killed by mobs.
Ramesh Kumar, a lawyer and head of the Pakistan Hindu Council, said: “The attack on the temple and the blasphemy charges against the eight-year-old boy really shocked me. More than 100 houses of the Hindu community were evacuated for fear of attack. has been done.
Human rights activist Kapil Dev said: “I demand that the charges against the boy be dropped immediately, and that the government provide protection to the family and those who have been forced to flee.”
He added: “Attacks on Hindu temples have increased in the last few years, reflecting the growing level of extremism and fanaticism. The recent attacks mark a new wave of persecution of Hindus.
Footage in progress. social media An angry mob appears to have attacked and vandalized the temple with iron bars and sticks last week.
Rahim Yar Khan District Police spokesman Ahmad Nawaz said police were hunting down the attackers and police teams were conducting raids to nab the culprits, but no arrests had been made yet.
Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan Condemned the attack. On twitter He said he had directed the provincial police chief to take action against anyone involved, including negligent police officers. He promised that the government would restore the temple.
In New Delhi, the Indian Foreign Ministry summoned a Pakistani diplomat to protest the attack and demanded protection for Hindu families living in Muslim-majority Pakistan.
In December last year, a large violent mob of conservative Muslims demolished a century-old Hindu temple in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
according to a Reports According to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, published last year, Pakistan reported the highest number of incidents of mob activity, mob violence, and / or threats of mob violence as a result of alleged blasphemous acts.
Between 2014 and 2018, in countries with criminal blasphemy laws, nearly 80 percent of all incidents of mob activity, mob violence, and / or mob violence threats as a result of alleged blasphemy acts occur in four countries.
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