An 8-year-old Hindu boy has become the youngest person ever to be charged with blasphemy in Pakistan after he intentionally urinated in the library of an Islamic religious school.
The boy is now being held in protective custody and his family is in hiding, the Guardian reported.
The child — whom the Guardian did not name — allegedly urinated on a carpet in the library of a madrassa, where religious books were kept.
A blasphemy charge in the deeply religious country can carry the death penalty.
“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.
“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.”
Many members of the Hindu community in Rahim Yar Khan, a conservative district in Punjab, have fled their homes after a Muslim crowd attacked a Hindu temple in the aftermath of the incident.
Twenty people have been arrested in connection with the attack on the temple, according to the outlet.
“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.
Blasphemy laws have been disproportionately used against religious minorities in Pakistan, according to the report.
No executions have been carried out in the country since the death penalty was introduced for blasphemy in 1986, but suspects are often attacked, at times fatally, by mobs, the Guardian said.
Human rights activist Kapil Dev called for the charge against the youngster to be dropped.
“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.
Police spokesman Ahmad Nawaz said: “Police are hunting the attackers and police teams are conducting raids to arrest the culprits but there has been no arrest made yet.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the mob attack, said he has ordered the provincial police chief to take action against anyone involved and promised that the government would restore the temple, according to the report.