A violent mob comprising local traders and activists of religious parties attacked and attempted to storm an apartment belonging to a poor Hindu family in Hyderabad on Sunday after news spread that unidentified persons had desecrated the Holy Quran in the building.
Videos circulating on social media show several hundred people gathering outside a building in the Chandni mobile market in Hyderabad’s Saddar area on Sunday afternoon after some locals found a desecrated copy of the holy book and raised a hue and cry over the alleged blasphemy.
The protesters shouted religious slogans and demanded action against the perpetrators of the alleged blasphemy. Videos show a large number of protesters trying to enter the building, which is home to at least 18 Hindu families.
Police and paramilitary Rangers were deployed to disperse the angry mob, but as the situation worsened, the security personnel used tear gas and baton charge to restore order. Sources said that clashes between the protesters and law enforcers continued till sunset.
Action against the religiously charged crowd comes after an hours-long siege of the victim family’s residence.
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Police have arrested a Hindu sweeper identified as Ashok Kumar on the basis of suspicion.
According to FIR No. 70/22 registered with the Cantt Police under Section 295-B and 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code, the complainant Bilal Abbasi claimed that he was in his shop when someone informed him that a burnt copy of the Holy Quran had been found in Rabi Plaza.
The complainant said that when he and the other people asked sweeper Ashok Kumar whether he had burnt the holy book or someone else had done it, the man failed to give a satisfactory answer. The crowd then handed the poor sweeper to the police along with the “evidence”.
Hyderabad Senior Superintendent of Police Amjad Ahmed Sheikh said that Kumar had been taken into custody on the basis of suspicion.
“We have nominated Kumar and 1-2 unidentified persons in the FIR [First Information Report] and further investigation is underway,” Sheikh told the media. He urged the people not to take the law into their own hands or cause any harm to the lives and property of people.
“The sentiments of all the Muslims are hurt but we shouldn’t harm innocent people in the reaction,” he said.
Various reports claimed that Kumar had an argument with an unidentified shopkeeper and he gathered a mob by accusing the sweeper of committing blasphemy.
“Well done Sindh police, Sindh government, and Rangers in Hyderabad for beating off a fanatical mob ready to lynch a member of a minority community. He was targeted by a man who had had an argument with him. The man gathered a mob and, as expected, accused the victim of committing blasphemy. Typical.
“Punjab police should learn a lesson. It often steps aside and let mobs attack,” journalist Nadeem Farooq Paracha said in a Facebook post.
The incident has spread panic in the Hindu community across Sindh.
“An alleged Ashok Kumar has been arrested for the Hyderabad case. Not sure who’s the culprit, but I hope sanity prevails.
“The situation is alarming all over Sindh. IG Sindh has directed Police Dept to safeguard all the religious worship places of Hindus in Sindh.
“In the coming weeks, the situation might get worse.
“My request to the Muslim fraternity is to stand by us in these challenging times and don’t leave us alone in the hands of these extremists,” wrote a Hindu, Bhevish Maheshwari.
MISUSE OF BLASPHEMY ALLEGATIONS
According to a research, at least 89 persons were killed in 1,415 accusations and cases of blasphemy since modern Pakistan was formed in 1947.
The Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) in a report stated that from 1947 to 2021, 18 women and 71 men were extra-judicially killed over blasphemy accusations. The allegations were made against 107 women and 1,308 men. Out of the total, 1,287 persons were accused of committing blasphemy from 2011-21.
“The actual number is believed to be higher because not all blasphemy cases get reported in the press,” the report said, adding that more than 70 per cent of the accused were reported from Punjab. The data showed that 55 cases were filed in the Islamabad Capital Territory, which was more than the cases of blasphemy in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Azad Kashmir put together.
Moreover, 1,098 cases were reported from Punjab followed by 177 from Sindh, 33 from KP, 12 from Balochistan, and 11 from Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).