A Hindu temple and a dharmashala have been set on fire by a frenzied mob in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province over alleged desecration of a holy book, marring Holi celebrations and prompting authorities to impose a curfew in the area.
The mob attacked the temple overnight in Larkana city, the hometown of the Bhutto family and the stronghold of the Pakistan People’s Party.
It surrounded the house of a Hindu man accused of burning the pages of the holy book, prompting police to fire warning shots and teargas shells.
A local police official said that soon after the news of the man desecrating the book spread, angry students and followers of local religious seminaries started gathering in groups and demanded the man be handed over to them.
“They set on fire the main Hindu temple in the Jinnah Bagh Chowk area which also completely gutted the adjoining dharmashala,” the official said.
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“Curfew has now been imposed in the area with heavy patrolling by the paramilitary rangers and police who had to baton charge and use teargas shells to disperse the mob,” he said.
The Hindu man, who was accused of blasphemy, has been taken into protective custody.
According to local media reports, initial investigation indicates that the man had rented the house from a Muslim family and cleaned it before he moved in. “He may have burned the holy book inadvertently,” a policeman said.
Tensions gripped the Larkana’s Jinnah Bagh and some other parts of the city after mob went berserk. People from the area said Holi celebrations have been called off in various localities due to the security situation.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah directed DIG Larkana to bring the situation under control and probe the incident.
Traffic remained sparse in the affected areas as a complete shut down was observed and businesses, shops, filling stations and markets were closed.
Additional contingents of police and rangers were deployed in the affected areas to avoid any untoward incident.
A ban on pillion riding was also imposed in the city under Section 144.
“We are taking strict action. We have already booked people for vandalism and arrests are being carried out. No blasphemy case has been registered,” a senior aide of PPP
leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari told PTI. Bhutto took to social media network Twitter to express his anger.
“Deliberate attempts to disturb religious harmony will not succeed. Maintaining peace in this volatile situation is the number one priority,” he tweeted.
“I consider attack on temple akin to attack on GKB (Garhi Khuda Bakhsh). Perpetrators will b(e) brought 2 justice as will people who spread lies and incited violence,” he added. Garhi Khuda Bakhsh is a village in Sindh province. It is the burial place of Zulfiqar, Murtaza and Benazir Bhutto. The PPP is the ruling party in Sindh province.