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Hindu temples under attack (Opinion)

On August 4, a mob attacked and ransacked a Hindu temple in Bhong Town in Rahim Yar Khan. The incident happened after a nine-year-old Hindu boy, who allegedly urinated in a local seminary, was released on bail by a local court.

The case was registered against the minor after a complaint from a cleric named Hafiz Muhammad Ibrahim from Darul Uloom Arabia Taleemul Quran. The police registered case against the boy under 295-A of the Pakistani Panel Code on July 24.

Hindu elders reached out to seminary authorities and tendered an apology, saying that boy is a minor and mentally challenged. However, after the release of boy, some clerics incited the masses. As a result, the mob attacked the temple and smashed glass doors, lights, windows and ceiling fans.
A PTI leader, wishing to remain anonymous, said, “I have been in touch with local Hindu community and influential Rais family of Bhong, since the issue surfaced.”

Meanwhile, District Police Officer Ahmed Nawaz Cheema said, “A monetary dispute between Hindu and Muslims groups in the area was the actual cause of unrest.”
Although the temple has been renovated completely and handed back to Hindu community, rights activist say this is not the proper solution.

The Bhong temple vandalisation was the eighth attack on Hindu temples in 18 months.

The name and place of temples attacked are:
Mata Rani Temple Chachro, Sindh (January 26, 2020)
Krishna Temple, Islamabad (July 4, 2020)
Hanuman Temple, Lyari Sindh (August 17, 2020)
Shree Ram Dev Temple, Karoi, Ghanwar, Sindh (October 10, 2020)
Mata Rani Bhatiyani Temple, Nagarparkar, Sindh (October 24, 2020)
Teri Temple, Karak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (December 30, 2020)
100-year-Old Temple in Rawalpindi (March 28, 2021)
Ganesh Temple, Bhong, Rahim Yari Khan (August 24, 2021)

Only two temple attacks, In Karak and Bhong, made national news, while the others did not get much media and people’s attention. Commenting on the situation, politician and Afrasyab Khattak said, “The Bhong incident reflects the deepening religious extremism and intolerance in Pakistan which is aided by the state narrative and policy.” And experts maintain that this is the primary reason behind all mob attacks: the mentality.

Analysts say the space for minorities is reducing. The rise of radical right-wing forces like Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), which has gained immense popularity among the masses and even won provincial and national assembly seats in last elections, underlines how the intolerance is growing.

Experts warn that this signals a dangerous trend, especially for the minorities because, cases for blaming and attacking under the charges of blasphemy, are on the rise. The radical forces have especially targeted the youth, and one major example is three attacks on statue of Ranjit Singh in Royal Fort, Lahore. Members of TLP were behind these attacks. Analysts warn that if the trend continues, the rate of minorities leaving Pakistan may further increase.

Lal Chand Malhi, a member of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and parliamentary secretary of human rights in National Assembly has stated, “No one understands the mental torture felt by the Hindus who were forced to leave their homes and now must begin their lives all over again in the same area.”

He further added that, “You can rebuild the temple, but you cannot make the fear among the Hindu community disappear.”
Observers reiterate that religious radicalisation is the root of such violent attacks, even if some cases, personal grudges and conflicts are also among the reasons. They maintain that the ever-increasing lack of tolerance in our society is further aggravating and instead of countering it, the state, in many cases, has fanned it. This is despite the incumbent government having undertaken some measures that are designed to help spread a more pluralistic narrative.

Among the steps for minorities, is the construction of Kartarpur Corridor and the proposed Hindu temple in Islamabad. The latter project never saw daylight as rightwing groups attacked the site of that temple as well.

Critics remain apprehensive about tangible plans to guard minorities, including Hindus in Pakistan. Observers note a further regression in society towards radicalism.

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