Unrest has spread in the small city of Kumb, in Sindh’s Khairpur district, after an arson attack on a Hindu temple on Sunday evening.
The Sham Sundar Shewa Mandli Temple is located in a Hindu neighbourhood and is surrounded by around 50 to 70 houses.
Between 6pm and 6:15pm on Sunday people entered the temple and set fire to three sacred books – including as the Bhagwat Geeta and Guru Granth Sahib — and idols. Both were in separate rooms.
The fires targeted the books and idols (which were covered with flammable cloth) and did not seem to be intended to burn the entire temple down, believe members of the community. The suspects left right after setting the books and idols on fire.
The community has approached the police to register a case against unidentified persons. According to Vijay Kumar, the incharge of the temple, the police have obtained fingerprints from the temple window and taken three people into custody. An FIR has been registered, he confirmed.
Kumb is located around 28km from Khairpur. It falls in Kot Diji taluka.
The culprits had a small window of time to act as women pray at the temple till around 6pm and a group of children comes in at around 6:15pm. A resident, Gurnumal, said the suspects were in and out within 15 minutes. The children sounded the alarm that a fire had been set at the temple.
There is no caretaker at the temple because the community felt that it was safe enough, since it was surrounded by their houses. The door to the temple was also not locked as a lot of people come and go.
No one has come forward yet to identify the suspects.
The Hindu community members said that they were taken by surprise by the violence. Up until now they had not been contacted or threatened by anyone who they felt would perpetrate such an act.
Most of the Hindus here are traders. They held a protest in the city on Monday by closing down their businesses. They said they were disappointed that people from other faiths who they had lived with for years had not come forward in support.
Hindu traders from other cities in the district and Sikh residents of Jacobabad came to Kumb on Monday to join the protest and express solidarity.
The city itself is largely populated by Muslims but is diverse in its makeup; Sindhis, Pakhtun, Baloch and Punjabis live there.
One Muslim resident of Kumb, Shafique Wassan, said the incident was shocking for everyone. Nothing like this has ever happened here before, he said. He and his friends were among the few Muslims who joined the protest.
Rajesh Kumar Hardasani, the adviser of the Pakistan Hindu Council, has demanded the formation of a special task force for the security of Hindu temples. “The task force should consist of non-Muslims who should be deployed for the security of minorities’ religious places in order to avoid these kinds of incidents,” he said, adding that the council condemns the arson attack.
“This action has caused unrest among the Hindu community. These types of attacks are done in an attempt to disturb religious harmony across the country,” he said.