THE shameful desecration of a Hindu temple in the town of Bhong, Punjab, has once again exposed how tenuous the rights of minorities are in today’s Pakistan. A mob vandalised the place of worship on Wednesday after a nine-year-old Hindu boy, who had allegedly urinated in a local seminary, was granted bail by a local court. In a shocking video of the attack, several men can be seen with rods and a crowbar smashing the glass cases in which the idols were placed and damaging them as well.

Lighting fixtures, etc were also damaged. One can only be grateful that no one from the minority community was injured, or worse. However, the orgy of violence, captured on video by several participants, will send a ripple of fear through the local Hindu community, as well as reinforce the sense of insecurity among Pakistan’s minorities as a whole, the prime minister’s condemnation of the incident notwithstanding.

Read: Like most other liberties, the right to religious freedom is a two-way street

This is yet another case that illustrates the dangerous level to which society has become radicalised, and how vigilante violence can be fanned by a few mischief-makers, who often have other, very worldly, agendas. The case was registered against the minor on July 24 under the blasphemy law. Despite some elders of the Hindu community tendering an apology to the madressah administration, all hell broke loose on the instigation of some individuals when the court granted relief to the boy some 10 days later.

Shops in the town were forcibly closed and hundreds of people blocked the Sukkur-Multan Motorway in protest. There are reports that old financial disputes between the Hindu and Muslim communities in the area are the underlying cause behind the unrest. It is often the case that religious disputes are deliberately escalated in order to ‘neutralise’ differences over money or land, and drive out the ‘target’, be it a family or an entire community. The government must ensure, that all those involved in vandalising the temple, and those who instigated them, are punished under the law — and immediately have the temple repaired.

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2021

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