India on Thursday accused Pakistan of failing to prevent attacks on minority communities and their places of worship after a Muslim mob on Wednesday attacked a Hindu temple in the town of Bhong in Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab province.
The mob damaged idols of Hindu gods, burned down the temple’s main door, and briefly blocked a nearby road.
Indian government summoned Pakistani diplomats in Delhi and lodged a firm protest expressing India’s “grave concerns at this apprehensible incident and the continued attacks on the freedom of religion of the minority community and their places of religious worship.”
Arindam Bagchi, an official spokesperson of India’s ministry of foreign affairs, said the mob also attacked “surrounding houses belonging to the Hindu community.”
India demanded that Pakistan “ensure the safety, security and wellbeing of its minority communities.”
Following the attack, authorities in Pakistan on Thursday deployed troops to control the situation. Punjab police official Asif Raza said police have a list of 50 suspects and promised speedy arrests. He said troops were now guarding the temple and that security has been provided to members of the Hindu community.
The temple was attacked after a local court granted bail to an eight-year-old Hindu boy who allegedly desecrated a madrassa, or religious school, earlier this week. The boy was earlier arrested on charges of intentionally urinating on a carpet in the madrassa’s library that housed religious books. The mob alleged that he committed blasphemy, an act punishable by the death sentence in Pakistan.
In the past, in several instances, mere accusations of blasphemy have led to mob violence and deadly attacks in the Islamic country.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan also took note of the incident and asked Punjab’s chief secretary and police officials to appear before it on 6 August. The court also asked Dr Ramesh Kumar, who is the patron in chief of Pakistan’s Hindu council, to appear before the court.
A press statement from the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday said the chief justice showed “grave concern over the tragic incident.”
Mr Bagchi, in a briefing on Thursday, told reporters, that “incidents of violence, discrimination and persecution against minority communities, including attacks on places of worship have continued unabated in Pakistan.”
He said, in 2020 itself, “various temples and Gurdwaras (a place of worship for followers of Sikhism) have been attacked, including the Mata Rani Bhatiyani Mandir in Sindh in January 2020, The Gurudwara Shri Janam Sthan in January 2020, Hindu temple in Karak in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in December 2020.”
“These incidents are occurring at an alarming rate, while the state and security institutions in Pakistan have stood by idly and completely failed in preventing these attacks on the minority communities and their places of worship,” he alleged.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan “strongly” condemned the mob attack and tweeted: “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.”
The attack was condemned by social media users in Pakistan as well.
Shiraz Hassan, a journalist, tweeted: “Restoration and maintenance work has by started at #Hindu temple that was attacked by an angry mob in Rahim Yar Khan #Pakistan - hope sanity will prevail and culprits will be held accountable.”
Additional reporting by agencies
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