Ghotki police registered three cases against rioters who had taken to the streets to protest against an alleged incident of blasphemy a day before, Sukkur Additional Inspector General (AIG) Jamil Ahmed said on Monday.
All first information reports (FIR) have been filed in the Ghotki A-section police station with the state as the complainant.
One FIR was filed under Sections 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class), 147 (punishment for rioting) and 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). AIG Ahmed said that Section 295 was included because the protesters had vandalised a Hindu temple. Police have nominated 45 people in the FIR, out of which 22 are named while 23 are unidentified.
Another case was lodged against 150 people — 27 named and 123 unidentified persons — for blocking roads. A third FIR pertaining to rioting and theft was filed against 23 people, including 11 unidentified persons, over reports that protesters had stolen goods from multiple shops in Shahi Bazar.
Police have asked the school administration to file a separate complaint against people who damaged the building and infrastructure, so that a fourth FIR can be registered. If the administration of the school is reluctant to act as complainant, it should inform the police so the case can be lodged on behalf of the state, the management was told.
In response to a question regarding the principal of the school, who has been accused of committing blasphemy, AIG Ahmed said that he will be taken to court after the law and order situation has been assessed.
Though the situation in Ghotki is relatively calm today, shops owned by Hindu residents in the Ladies Market, Shahi Bazaar and other areas remained closed. Delegations of political parties visited Dhaam Mandir today, which had been vandalised by mobs, and expressed solidarity with the Hindu community.
Sindh Taraqi Pasand Party Chairman Qadir Magsi, who was among the politicians who visited the temple, called for a judicial inquiry of the matter.
Protests and condemnations
Protests began in Ghotki on Saturday after a FIR was filed against the principal — who is from the Hindu community — of Sindh Public School on the complaint of Abdul Aziz Rajput, a student's father who claimed that the former had committed blasphemy.
Residents of Ghotki demanded that the police arrest the principal, issued a call for a shutter-down strike, and took to the streets in protest. Videos of stick-wielding protesters were shared on social media on Sunday, in which they were seen vandalising a Hindu temple and damaging the school where the alleged incident took place.
Protests were also held in surrounding towns, including Mirpur Mathelo and Adilpur, where demonstrators blocked roads and demanded that the police arrest the school principal.
According to rights activist Sattar Zangejo, the Hindu community of the area was forced to remain indoors due to the riots.
Police brought the situation under control and posted guards to protect the life and property of Hindus. For support, they called a heavy contingent of Rangers.
Members of the civil society called a meeting and took out a ‘Peace Zindabad’ rally to express solidarity with the Hindu community.
The violent episode was condemned by a leader of Sunni Tehreek, Mehboob Ali Sehto, and Mufti Muhammad Ibrahim Qadri of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan. They demanded of the authorities to hold a transparent enquiry.
According to sources, the accused has been shifted to an undisclosed location for security reasons.