Boy, eight, faces DEATH PENALTY in Pakistan after becoming youngest person ever charged with blasphemy

  • The boy and his family, who are Hindu, are now being held in protective custody after a Muslim mob attacked a Hindu temple after the child was granted bail
  • The child, who has not been named, was arrested on charges of intentionally urinating on a carpet of a madrassa that housed religious books 
  • The mob alleges he committed blasphemy, an act punishable by death sentence
  • The mob attacked the Hindu temple in Bhong, Punjab, and burned down door 

An eight-year-old Hindu boy faces the death penalty in Pakistan after becoming the youngest person ever charged with blasphemy in the country.

The boy and his family are now being held in protective custody after a Muslim mob attacked and badly damaged a Hindu temple in the conservative [read: intolerant] town of Bhong in the Rahim Yar Khan district, Punjab, in response to a court granting the child bail. 

The boy, who has not been named, was arrested on charges of intentionally urinating on a carpet in the library of a madrassa, or religious school, that houses religious books last month. 

The mob alleges he committed blasphemy, an act punishable by the death sentence in Pakistan, where mere accusations of blasphemy have in the past incited mobs to violence and deadly attacks. 

Paramilitary troops were deployed to the area to quell the unrest, which left many Hindus fleeing their homes in fear. 

A member of the boy’s family, speaking from an undisclosed location, told The Guardian: ‘He [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. 

‘We have left our shops and work, the entire community is scared and we fear backlash. We don’t want to return to this area. We don’t see any concrete and meaningful action will be taken against the culprits or to safeguard the minorities living here.’

The case has shocked activists and legal experts, who say the blasphemy charges filed against the child is unprecedented as no one so young has been charged with blasphemy before. 

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have long been criticised by rights groups because they are seen as vague and widely abused in order to dangerously discriminate against religious minority groups in the Muslim-majority country. 

While courts have pronounced death sentences for some of those convicted, Pakistan has never carried out an execution over blasphemy charges.  

But the blasphemy laws are also seen by activists as giving cover to vigilantes to attack those accused of the crime, whatever the courts decide.

Ramesh Kumar, the head of Pakistan Hindu Council and a lawmaker, told the newspaper: ‘The attack on the temple and blasphemy allegations against the eight-year-old minor boy has really shocked me. More than a hundred homes of the Hindu community have been emptied due to fear of attack.’

Meanwhile, human rights activist Kapil Dev said: ‘I demand charges against the boy are immediately dropped, and urge the government to provide security for the family and those forced to flee. 

‘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.’ 

Video footage shows the mob attacking the Hindu temple in Bhong on Wednesday, where they burned down the temple’s main door and damaged statues. 

On Thursday, paramilitary troops were deployed to the area, while in New Delhi, India’s foreign ministry summoned a Pakistani diplomat to protest the attack and demand protection for Hindus living in the predominantly Muslim Pakistan. 

Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the attack on Twitter, saying he has ordered the provincial police chief to take action against any officers whose negligence may have contributed to the attack. Khan also promised the government would restore the temple. 

Police have since arrested 50 people suspected of ransacking the temple and were searching for another 100 suspects, police said. 

Jam Ghaffar, the area police chief, said order was restored after the deployment of extra police and a paramilitary force and police were looking for the remaining suspects.  

Ramesh Kumar, a Hindu community leader said after the attack that the initially slow response from the police had made the situation and the damages to the temple worse.

In New Delhi, India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said such ‘incidents are occurring at an alarming rate while the state and security institutions in Pakistan have stood by idly and completely failed in preventing these attacks.’        

Muslims and Hindus have mostly lived peacefully in Pakistan, but there have been attacks on Hindu temples in recent years. Most of Pakistan’s minority Hindus migrated to India in 1947 when India was divided by Britain’s government.

In 2012, a 14-year-old Christian girl was accused of burning pages of the Koran but later released on bail in Rawalpindi, a garrison city near Islamabad, Pakistan. 

Rimsha Masih was taken by helicopter to a secret location in a dramatic operation over fears for her safety and was later able to escape to Canada with her family.  

Source: | Image: Complex

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