Police have arrested at least 50 people in Pakistan, accused of attacking a Hindu temple in the east of the country.
Paramilitary troops have also been deployed in the town in the country’s eastern Punjab province a day after the Muslim mob badly damaged the Hindu temple there.
Last week’s attack took place in Bhong in Rahim Yar Khan district after a court granted bail to an eight-year-old Hindu boy who was accused of desecrating a Muslim religious school.
Statues were damaged and the temple’s main door was burned down by the mob that said the boy, arrested on charges of intentionally urinating on a carpet in the madrassa’s library, committed blasphemy, an act punishable by death in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan took to Twitter to “strongly condemn” the attack, announcing that he had ordered the police chief of the Punjab province to “take action against any police negligence”.
Police said they were searching for another 100 suspects.
Punjab police officials said troops were now guarding the temple and that security has been provided to members of the Hindu community.
Ramesh Kumar, a Hindu community leader, said after the attack that the slow response from the police had made the situation worse.
Lal Malhi, a Hindu member of Pakistan’s parliament, posted on Twitter that many Hindu families living in Bhong had “vacated the town” fearing for their lives.
Most of Pakistan’s minority Hindus migrated to India in 1947 when India was divided by Britain at independence. Muslims and Hindus generally live together peacefully in Pakistan, but here have been several attacks on Hindu temples in recent years.
In December 2020, a large mob destroyed a century-old Hindu temple in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Since 1990, at least 79 people have been killed in the name of the blasphemy laws, according to an Al Jazeera tally. Those killed include individuals accused of blasphemy, their family members, their lawyers and judges who have delivered “not guilty” verdicts.