An 8-year-old boy is now the youngest person to be charged with blasphemy in Pakistan.
He could face the death penalty after being accused of intentionally desecrating a seminary in the Punjab town of Bhong. A cleric found the young Hindu boy urinating in the town’s library on July 24.
He was held in jail for a week. Media outlets have not released his name out of concern for his safety. In retaliation, a Muslim crowd reportedly attacked a Hindu temple.
“It sparked massive unrest in the Punjab town as a Muslim crowd reportedly sought revenge by ransacking and setting alight a Hindu temple after learning of the allegations through social media on Wednesday, Ramesh Vankwani, a parliament member and head of the Pakistan Hindu Council, said on Twitter,” per The Mirror.
You are free to go you temple? Watch this brazen attack on a temple in the broad daylight.
Another bad day for #Hindus as Ganesh #Temple in Bhong city of Rahimyar Khan was attacked by miscreants. The beasts daringly live telecast the attack on Facebook: https://t.co/uVq8UYBkQB pic.twitter.com/SzGrtIxEzk
— Kapil Dev (@KDSindhi) August 4, 2021
Subsequently, at least 20 people have been arrested.
“[The boy] is not even aware of such blasphemy issues and he has been falsely indulged in these matters. He still doesn’t understand what his crime was and why he was kept in jail for a week,” a member of the boy’s family told the Guardian.
His family has since gone into hiding. While no executions for blasphemy charges have been carried out in Pakistan, accused people have often been murdered by vigilantes.
“Blasphemy laws have been disproportionately used in the past against religious minorities in Pakistan. Although no blasphemy executions have been carried out in the country since the death penalty was introduced for the crime in 1986, suspects are often attacked and sometimes killed by mobs,” reports The Guardian.
Kapil Dev, a human rights activist, called for charges against the boy to be dropped.
“Attacks on Hindu temples have increased in the last few years showing an escalating level of extremism and fanaticism. The recent attacks seem to be a new wave of persecution of Hindus,” he said to reporters.
FR24 notes that “Four countries account for nearly 80% of all reported incidents of mob activity, mob violence and/or threats of mob violence as a result of alleged blasphemous acts in countries with criminal blasphemy laws between 2014 and 2018.”
On Twitter, Imran Khan, Pakistan’s prime minister, condemned the mob attack and promised that the temple would be restored.