A security official and members of the Hindu community stand inside a temple that was attacked on Saturday night, in Larkana, southern Pakistan’s Sindh province, yesterday.
ISLAMABAD: Hundreds of angry Pakistanis attacked a Hindu temple and set it on fire in southern Pakistan overnight following a rumour that a member of the Hindu community had desecrated the Holy Quran, police and community leaders said yesterday.
The incident took place just before midnight on Saturday after locals in Larkana district alleged that Sangeet Kumar, 42, had torn out pages of Islam’s holy book and tossed them down on the street from the roof of his home.
“Our Dharamshala (community centre) has been gutted and the temple has been partially damaged. All the statues have been destroyed by the attackers,” Kalpana Devi, chairperson of the local Hindu committee, said.
Hundreds of students from local Islamic seminaries attacked the temple holding batons, one witness, Javed Shah, said. Police arrived quickly to protect Kumar from the angry crowd.
“They acted smartly and took him out after making him put on a police uniform to save him from the wrath of the crowd,” said Shah.
“It took nearly 20 minutes to break down the doors (of the temple) before they entered the compound and set it on fire. They also set fire to the temple before ransacking it.”
Sindh province, where the attack took place, is home to most of Pakistan’s small Hindu community which numbers about two million among a population of about 180 million.
Police said they were investigating the matter. “The situation is not satisfactory,” Deputy Inspector General of Larkana, Khadim Rind, said.
“Sanjeet Kumar has been accused of desecrating the holy book by the locals. The accused is in our custody.”
Violence triggered by allegations of Quran desecration and other allegedly blasphemous acts is common in Pakistan. A controversial Pakistani law imposes the death penalty, but sometimes crowds take the law into their own hands and attack the accused.
Anwar Laghari, the area police officer, said initial investigation revealed that the Hindu rented the house from a Muslim family and cleaned it before he moved in. He may have burned the holy book inadvertently, the policeman said.
Crowds also attacked Hindu property in the nearby towns of Usta Mohammad, Dera Allah Yar and Sohbat Pur, but they were dispersed by police, senior officer Syed Ashfaq Anwar said. They are in a part of adjoining Baluchistan province where significant numbers of Hindus live.
Anwar said dozens attempted to set fire to a temple and some shops owned by Hindus. Police fired tear gas shot and shot into the air. He said someone from the crowd fired at the police, and two civilians and an officer were wounded.
The Hindu Panchayat Council, a representative body of Hindu minorities, has appealed on Hindus to keep a low profile while celebrating the ongoing Holi festival of colours.