An eerie silence surrounded Seetal Das Compound in Karachi’s old city area on Tuesday.
Home to around 300 Hindu families and 30 Muslim families, the locality opposite Spencer Eye Hospital was in the grip of fear – there were hushed whispers of a pandemonium having been passed but the uncertainty and fright lingered.
A mob had attempted to attack the century-old neighbourhood on Sunday evening. Had it not been for the timely action by the police and residents mustering up the courage to stand resilient in the way of the attackers, worse could have happened.
The Hindu residents of the compound shuddered at the thought.
Reliving the nightmare, eyewitnesses narrated to The Express Tribune that scores of men had assembled outside the compound’s only gate at around 9pm. Many of them believed the mob intended to attack the Hindu families. But Muslim families, residing in and around the compound, were quick to reach the gate and stop the mob from entering, they added.
“Police, too, reached the spot within a few minutes after they were informed,” said a Hindu man, who requested anonymity. Another Hindu man, younger than him and also requested anonymity, said, “Some of the angry men had managed to reach the temple [inside the compound] and tried to vandalise it.”
According to him, they wanted to attack the compound’s Hindu families, but the police foiled their attempt. However, others added, that three pre-partition idols were destroyed during the episode.
“I never felt that fearful,” said a teary-eyed resident, while sharing his worst fears in shaky voice. “Majority of the residents are still scared and do not want to go to work,” said another Hindu man. “This fear won’t subside easily.”
Around him other Hindu families remained busy repairing the damaged temple.
Example of religious harmony
One of the Hindu residents of the compound was all praise for the compound’s Muslim residents, whom he said, “asked the mob not to attack any Hindu family and stood in the face of danger like a wall.”
Confirming this, a senior police official said, “Had it not been for the Muslim families’ support, it would have been very difficult to thwart the attack.”
An elderly man also credited SHO Abdul Majid for saving his community and neighbours from the mob. “He stayed outside the [compound’s] gate for the next 24 hours [following the attempted attack] without any break. Majid Sahib would only ask for tea and remained alert, all the while assuring us of that the danger had passed,” he expressed gratitude to the police official.
“To us, he was sent as a saviour by Bhagwan,” he said with conviction, adding everyone in his family, from old to young, was praying for the SHO’s good health.
Policemen, in over a dozen mobiles, remained deployed in the area along with the SHO to provide safety to the compound’s residents.
According to one of the policemen, who was deployed in the area on Tuesday, the mob wanted the arrest of a man, who is nominated in an FIR. He was handed over to the police and sent to jail on Monday, the policeman said.
When approached, SHO Majid confirmed the arrest and assured that there was no fear of any attack now. He said the policemen had been deployed at all three temples located in the jurisdiction of his police station and the situation was under control.
Holding on to hope
However, the assurance, it seemed, did little to remove fear from the minds of most residents. Hence, over 60 Hindu families had shifted to other areas of the city by Tuesday. “The fear still lingers and the people have left their homes and shifted females and children to locations they deem safe,” a resident told The Express Tribune.
Yet, the presence of police had instilled confidence in some families, who had moved to Baghdadi Colony and Moosa Lane, to return to their homes. A man welcoming one of the returning families at the compound’s gate later opined, “Yes, it is safe to return now. Police are here.”
The life seems to be coming back to normal, but the residents are still wary of getting an FIR of the incident registered. “It will not lead to anything,” said an elderly man, who said he had been living in the compound all his life and had never witnessed an attack of the sort as the one of Sunday.
He believes: “It is the situation in India that is resulting in such a situation in Pakistan.” However, he added, majority of the population was not causing any harm, except for a few miscreants, “who want to exploit the situation.”
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