A violent religious mob has set fire to a Hindu temple in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region and attempted to tear it to the ground.
Crowds of thousands, reportedly led by local Islamic clerics, descended on the Hindu temple located in the village of Teri, in Karak district, on Wednesday and began to rip bricks from the walls and set it on fire.
No one was inside the temple at the time. Footage from the scene which went viral shows the crowd chanting slogans and cheers greeting the destruction.
A hindu temple was demolished by religious extremists in karak today. It is very shameful moment for us because it reflects the way of how we treat minorities in our country.
You can’t run a federation unless and until the rights of minorities are protected. Strongly condemnable. pic.twitter.com/PJOKZA3a1l
— Ihtesham Afghan (@IhteshamAfghan) December 30, 2020
The shrine, which was first erected in 1919 before partition divided India and Pakistan, had recently undergone refurbishment following an order from the supreme court in 2015. This was the second time it had been demolished, following an incident in 1997 when it had been destroyed by a group of Muslim fanatics.
Police and guards had been stationed outside amid security fears for the temple.
“It was beautifully renovated and the community liked the work but it always remained under threat from the extremists who destroyed it last time,” said a local resident who requested anonymity. “I can’t say how much it’s been destroyed but people say it’s been badly damaged.”
Anger had begun to build up in recent days after the construction of a small property next to the temple, which locals wrongfully believed was an unauthorised expansion of the shrine.
Speaking to Dawn newspaper, another local resident said: “More than a thousand people led by some local elders of a religious party held a protest and demanded the removal of the Hindu place. Residents of nearby villages announced a protest demonstration a few days earlier which was completely ignored by police.”
The police confirmed that permission had been given for a peaceful protest, but that the people had “taken the law into their own hands” after incendiary speeches riled up the crowds.
Lal Chand Malhi, a politician from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, condemned the destruction as “an unfortunate incident”.
“Police officials have assured me that they will arrest the perpetrators as soon as possible,” he said.
Human rights minister Shireen Mazari tweeted: “Strongly condemn the burning of a Hindu temple by a mob in Karak, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. KP government must ensure culprits [are] brought to justice.”
Mazari said the government would be investigating the incident. “We as a government have a responsibility to ensure safety and security of all our citizens and their places of worship,” she said.
As an Islamic state, Pakistan has often proved hostile to its Hindu minority and Hindu places of worship have increasingly been vandalised or been targets of violence. Earlier this year a Hindu temple in Karachi was vandalised after blasphemy allegations were levelled at a local Hindu boy.
In July, Islamic activists blocked the construction of the first Hindu temple in Islamabad by challenging it in the courts. However, last week, permission was granted by the state body, the Council of Islamic Ideology, for the project to go ahead.