RAHIM YAR KHAN/ ISLAMABAD:
The country’s top judge on Thursday took notice of a mob vandalising a Hindu temple in in Bhong village of Punjab's Rahim Yar Khan district after an eight-year-old Hindu boy, who allegedly urinated in a seminary, was granted bail by a court a day earlier.
The matter came to Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed’s attention when MNA Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, the patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council, called on him in Islamabad to discuss the issue.
According to a statement released by the top court, the CJP expressed “grave concern over the tragic incident" and fixed the matter before the court on Friday (today), directing the Punjab chief secretary and police chief to appear for the hearing along with a report. MNA Vankwani has been summoned as well.
The Supreme Court’s one-man commission on minority rights, headed by Dr Shoaib Suddle, has also sought a report from the Rahim Yar Khan deputy commissioner.
The commission directed the Punjab government to ensure foolproof measures to secure the places of worship of all religious minorities as directed by the apex court.
The body also directed the authorities to assess the damage and take steps for repairs on a priority basis.
The boy, Bhavish Kumar Meghwar, had accidentally entered a seminary in Bhong on July 24.
Its cleric, Hafiz Mohammad Ibrahim, berated the eight-year-old boy. Meghwar, reportedly, urinated out of fear of the cleric’s anger.
The boy then ran away and hid before the cleric could catch him.
The next day, the cleric went to a police station in the village and registered an FIR against the boy.
Since the boy was only eight, the FIR was lodged against an unknown person.
The FIR was lodged under Section 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
The police presented Meghwar in court a few days later, where he was granted bail.
Following the court’s decision, a mob of young men gathered and vandalised the Shree Ganesh temple in the village.
A viral video clip showed people armed with clubs and rods storming the temple and smashing its doors, windows, lights, fans and idols.
They also blocked the Sukkur-Multan Motorway.
Hindu residents of the area alerted the police, who allegedly did not take the reports seriously.
By the time the police arrived at the scene, most of the temple and its idols had been damaged or destroyed. Following the police’s arrival, the mob soon dispersed.
The Hindu residents of Bhong – around 150-200 families – are afraid and distressed after the events.
Taking notice of the incident, Prime Minister Imran Khan directed the Punjab IGP to arrest the culprits.
“Strongly condemn attack on Ganesh Mandir […] 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,” he wrote on his official Twitter handle.
Federal Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari condemned the incident on her Twitter handle, adding that the event “violates our constitution and the basic human rights of our citizens”.
The minister added that she was in contact with the Rahim Yar Khan police so that action was taken against the perpetrators. Mazari also said that the parliamentary secretary would visit the area.
Special Representative of the Prime Minister on Religious Harmony Tahir Ashrafi also condemned the ransacking of the temple.
“People who behave in this manner are not representatives of Islam, Muslims or Pakistan,” he said at a press conference on Thursday.
According to Ashrafi, legal action against the perpetrators was under way on direct orders from PM Imran and an FIR had also been lodged.
“Pakistani law is for all citizens, Muslims and non-Muslims. The reaction to laws being broken should not be desecration, destruction and fighting”, he added.
The PM’s representative further said repairs for the temple’s damage had begun.
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