The local police said that the Hindu boy — the youngest person to be charged with blasphemy in the country — has been taken into protective custody. He was accused of urinating in the library of a madrassa (an Islamic religious school) last month.
The boy’s family and many from the minority Hindu community in Rahim Yar Khan district in Punjab were forced to flee their homes after a majority Muslim crowd attacked a Hindu temple days after the eight-year-old was released on bail last week.
On Saturday, local reports said at least 20 people were arrested in connection with the attack on the temple.
To stop any further unrest in the area, local government deployed more troops to the region.
In Pakistan, blasphemy charges can carry the death penalty.
One member of the boy’s family, while speaking with the Guardian from an undisclosed location said: “He is not even aware of such blasphemy issues and he has been falsely indulged in these matters. He still doesn’t understand what his crime was and why he was kept in jail for a week.”
The relative said: “We have left our shops and work, the entire community is scared and we fear backlash. We don’t want to return to this area. We don’t see any concrete and meaningful action will be taken against the culprits or to safeguard minorities living here.”
Ahmad Nawaz, a spokesperson for the Rahim Yar Khan district police, said: “Police are hunting the attackers and police teams are conducting raids to arrest the culprits but there has been no arrest made yet.”
Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan condemned the mob attack on Twitter and promised that the temple would be restored.
Ramesh Kumar, head of the Pakistan Hindu Council, was quoted as saying: “The attack on the temple and blasphemy allegations against the eight-year-old minor boy has really shocked me. More than a hundred homes of the Hindu community have been emptied due to fear of attack.”
The eight-year-old is the youngest victim of blasphemy laws in Pakistan, experts said.
Several outlets kept the identity of the boy hidden, for fear of repercussions.
According to the report “Violating Rights: Enforcing the World’s Blasphemy Laws,” released in December 2020 by the US Commission on International Religious Freedoms, 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.
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