An 8-year-old Hindu boy has become the youngest to be charged with blasphemy in Pakistani after he urinated in the library of a madrassa. The boy is now being held in protective police custody, while his family is in the hiding and many other have fled their homes after a Muslim crowd attacked a temple in the conservative district of Rahim Yar Khan.
The attack took place after the boy was released on bail last week. Soldiers were deployed to the area to help maintain peace. The charge of blasphemy in Pakistan carries death penalty and it may not be any different for the child.
Almost Starting a Religious War
According to the Guardian, the 8-year-old intentionally urinated on a carpet in the library of a madrassa, where religious books were kept, last month. He was immediately taken into custody since he did it intentionally. He has now been charged with blasphemy, which means it can now attract death penalty, the Guardian mentioned without disclosing the name of the boy and his family members to protect their identities for their safety.
"He 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," a family member told the Guardian from an undisclosed location.
Following the release of the boy last week, a Muslim crowd attacked a Hindu temple in the conservative district of Rahim Yar Khan, in Punjab. This led the boy's family to go into hiding, with several other Hindus fleeing their homes.
The boy's family is now living in fear as they know they too won't be spared if they are traced. "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," said one of the family members of the boy.
So far, 20 people have been arrested in connection with the temple attack. That said, the blasphemy charges have shocked legal experts, who call the move unprecedented. "The attack on the temple and blasphemy allegations against the 8-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," Ramesh Kumar, a lawmaker and head of the Pakistan Hindu Council, told the outlet.
Although no blasphemy executions have been carried out in Pakistan since the death penalty was introduced for the crime in 1986, suspects are often attacked and sometimes killed by mobs.
Kapil Dev, a human rights activist, 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," Dev told the Guardian.
However, the mob attack has been condemned by Prime Minister Imran Khan.