An eight-year-old Hindu boy is in protective police custody in eastern Pakistan after becoming the youngest person to be charged with blasphemy in the country.
Eight-year-old boy could face death sentence in Pakistan
Hindu boy faces possible death penalty after being accused of intentionally urinating in madrassa library
The boy’s family is in hiding and many members of the Hindu community in the conservative Rahim Yar Khan district of Punjab have fled their homes after a Muslim mob attacked a Hindu temple following the boy’s release on bail last week.
On Saturday, 20 people were arrested in connection with the temple attack.
The boy is accused of intentionally urinating on a carpet in a madrassa library, where religious books were kept, last month. Blasphemy charges can carry the death penalty.
The Guardian knows the name of the boy and family members, but has chosen to protect their identities for their safety.
A member of the boy’s family said the boy did not understand what his crime was and why he had been in jail for a week.
“We have left our stores and our work, the whole community is scared and we fear a backlash. We don’t want to return to this area. We don’t see any concrete and meaningful action being taken against the culprits or to safeguard the minorities who live here,” said the family member.
The blasphemy charges brought against the boy have shocked legal experts, who say the move is unprecedented.
Although no blasphemy executions have been carried out in the country since the death penalty for the crime was introduced in 1986, suspects are often attacked and sometimes killed by mobs.
Kapil Dev, a human rights activist, said, “I demand that the charges against the boy be dropped immediately and urge the government to provide security for the family and those forced to flee.”
Images circulating on social media appear to show an angry mob attacking and smashing the temple with iron bars and sticks last week.
Ahmad Nawaz, spokesman for the Rahim Yar Khan district police, said, “Police are in pursuit of the attackers and police teams are conducting raids to arrest the culprits, but no arrests have been made yet.”
In December last year, a large violent mob of conservative Muslims demolished a centuries-old Hindu temple in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.