ISLAMABAD - An angry mob in southern Pakistan has vandalized several Hindu temples and property over allegations a local school principal belonging to the minority community had committed blasphemy.
Police said Sunday the riots in Ghotki in the province of Sindh broke out the previous day and quickly spread across the entire city, with an estimated 40% Hindu population, and surrounding towns.
Residents and the community leaders confirmed protesters had stormed three temples, vandalizing statues and other sacred material inside the places of worship.
They also assaulted and destroyed multiple houses belonging Hindus, including the school being run by the alleged blasphemer, prompting the district administration to call in paramilitary forces to assist in bringing the situation under control. Ghotki was completely closed Sunday amid tensions and fears of more protests.
Area police confirmed Sunday they have arrested the school principal and an investigation was underway into the accusations he made derogatory remarks regarding the Prophet Muhammad.
Videos shared via social media showed stick-wielding angry mobs roaming the streets and destroying infrastructure.
The non-governmental Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also shared a video of the violent protests , denouncing them and demanding authorities quickly take action to ensure safety of the Hindu community.
“The video circulated earlier is chilling: mob violence against a member of a religious minority is barbaric, unacceptable,” the commission said.
#Hindus living in #Ghotki are under seige as miscreants are vandalizing properties of Hindus & temples after a teacher Notan Das was accused of blasphamy. Mr Das has been teaching since 30 years, but some vested interests are distorting peace & interfaith harmony in #Sindh. pic.twitter.com/VQREltuz4E— Kapil Dev (@KDSindhi) September 15, 2019
A prominent Hindu rights activist in Pakistan, Kapil Dev, said Hindus living in Ghotki are under siege and posed the question "Aren't We Pakistani."
Aren't we Pakistani?— Kapil Dev (@KDSindhi) September 15, 2019
We #Pakistani #Hindus are only 2% of the total population. I just want to know what danger do we pose to 98% population. Just visit my timeline & see how we observed Muhrram a few days ago, but yet we suffer incidents like #Ghotki.
Insulting Islam and the prophet is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan where mere allegations of blasphemy have led to mob lynching of suspects.
The country’s laws carry a compulsory death sentence for anyone found guilty of blasphemy, though critics say the laws are often used to settle personal feuds and persecute Pakistani religious minorities.