An eight-year-old Indian faces the death penalty after accusing him of deliberately urinating in the library of a Muslim school in Pakistan. He is the youngest person to be accused of blasphemy in this country. After the boy was released on bail last week, a Muslim mob attacked a Hindu temple. The boy’s family goes into hiding, and many members of the Hindu community have fled their homes.
An eight-year-old Indian boy is held in police custody in eastern Pakistan after becoming the youngest person to be accused of blasphemy in the country. Last month, he was accused of deliberately urinating on a carpet in the library of a Muslim school (madrassa) where religious books are kept. He faces the death penalty for this.
After the boy was released on bail last week, a Muslim mob attacked a Hindu temple in Rahimjar Khan, Punjab. Footage circulating on social media shows an enraged mob attacking and destroying the temple with iron bars and sticks.
In connection with this event, the boy’s family goes into hiding, and many members of the Indian community have fled their homes. Troops were deployed in the area to quell further unrest. On Saturday, 20 people were detained in connection with the attack on the temple.
Family member: The boy still doesn’t understand what his crime was
The “Guardian”, who knows the details of the boy and his family members, but has decided to protect their identities for security reasons, quoted one of them. “He is not even aware of the blasphemy issues and has been falsely accused. He still does not understand what his crime was and why he was arrested,” he said.
As an interlocutor of the British newspaper added, after the attack on the temples, he and his relatives “left their shops and work, and the whole community is terrified.” “We are afraid of retaliation. We do not want to return to this area. We do not see any specific and significant actions that will be taken against criminals or to protect minorities living here” – said a family member of the accused boy.
In Pakistan, no one at such a young age has been accused of blasphemy
Blasphemy allegations against a child have shocked lawyers who say the move is unprecedented. Nobody so young has ever been accused of blasphemy in Pakistan before.
As the Guardian wrote, blasphemy laws have been excessively used in the past against religious minorities in Pakistan. While no executions for blasphemy have been carried out in the country since the introduction of the death penalty for the crime in 1986, suspects are frequently attacked and sometimes even killed by religious extremists.
Ramesh Kumar, head of the Pakistani Hindu Council, said that “the attack on the temple and the blasphemy accusations against an eight-year-old boy really shook him. More than a hundred houses of the Hindu community were abandoned due to fear of attack.”
Human rights activist Kapil Dev, quoted by the Guardian, “demands that the charges against the boy be dropped immediately and urges the government to ensure the safety of the family and those forced to flee.” He added that “attacks against Hindu temples have increased in the last few years, showing an escalation of extremism and fanaticism.” “The recent attacks seem to be a new wave of persecution against Hindus,” said Dev.
India protests and calls on a diplomat, Pakistan’s prime minister is promising to rebuild the temple
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the mob attack on the temple and said he had ordered the provincial police chief to take action against anyone involved in the case, including police officers who had failed to fulfill their duties. He promised the government would rebuild the temple.
India’s foreign ministry has called on a Pakistani diplomat to protest the attack and demand security for Hindu families living in Pakistan, where the majority are Muslims.
Last December, a large, aggressive crowd of conservative Muslims demolished a 100-year-old Hindu temple in the country’s northwestern province.
According to a report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedoms published last year, Pakistan recorded the highest number of incidents of violence or threats against allegedly perpetrating blasphemous acts.
Main photo source: PAP / EPA / SHAHZAIB AKBER