Tempers high in Sindh after two allegations of blasphemy

A Muslim man was accused of desecrating a Hindu temple, and a Christian man was accused of desecrating the Holy Quran - both are said to be mentally challenged

Tempers high in Sindh after two allegations of blasphemy
On March 3, 27-year-old Lutfullah Lashari was accused of damaging the idols of Shiva and Parvati in a Hindu temple in Hyderabad. The very next day, 22-year-old Yaqoob Bashir Masih was accused of desecrating the Holy Quran in Mirpur Khas.

Karam Chand, the priest in charge and the caretaker of the Durga Shiva Temple in the Circuit House, said Lashari entered the temple and didpranam (the Hindu greeting) before he entered the worship place. They thought that he was one of the devotees. “Soon, I heard a noise andrushed inside, where I saw that Lutfullah had taken out a hammer from his bag and was breaking the idols of Shiva and Parvati,” he said. “I overpowered Lutfullah with the help of my two sons and then we informed the police.”

“Our investigation shows that Lutfullah was under medical treatment for mental illness since 2003,” said the local police Station House Officer, Muhammad Ayoob Sumroo. “Regardless, the first information report (number 43/2015) has been registered and Lutfullah is now in a three-day physical remand for investigation.”

Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankawani, a member of the National Assembly from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, said he had visited the desecrated temple. Senior Superintendent of Police Irfan Baloch had taken quick action and arrested the suspect, he said.

“I have been appearing before the Supreme Court for the security of places of worship,” the lawmaker said. “The Sindh government was supposed to provide me a security plan in this regard several months ago, but it has failed to do it so far. Due to increasing religious extremism in our society, the protection of worship places is the need of the hour.”
"He took out a hammer from his bag and broke the idols of Shiva and Parvati"

He acknowledges it is not easy. “Even though it is very challenging to deploy security guards round the clock to protect religious places, at least there should be a plan to put barbed wire, and install security gates and surveillance cameras so that we could check this social evil.”

According to the daily Dawn, the magistrate has ordered Lutfullah’s medical examination to ascertain if he is mentally challenged. A number ofHindus took out a protest rally in Hyderabad the next day. People’s Party MNA Ramesh Lal disapproved, saying that after Lutfullah’s arrest, the protest was unnecessary.

Only 50 miles away, Yaqoob Bashir Masih was accused of burning a copy of the Holy Quran. “It was around 7 pm, and I was sitting with my wife on our camel cart. We were discussing how earning a living had become so hard, when we started heard a group of people shouting,” saidMushtaq Masih, a resident of Mehmoodabad who lived next door to Yaqoob before the incident.

His elder brother was asking him where the copy of the Holy Quran was that a local cleric had given him.

Locals say Yaqoob used to go to a local cleric who had given him a copy of the Holy Quran, and that morning, some students of a nearby madrassah had claimed they saw him burning it. They told a cleric.

“After being beaten up and doused with kerosene oil, he said he had burned and buried it,” said Mushtaq, who has now left the neighborhood.

He says Yaqoob “sometimes behaved as if he was possessed by a demon and had no control over himself” and had even tried to learn black magic some years ago.

Catholic priest Abid Habib says Yaqoob had received treatment for mental illness from a mental health facility in Hyderabad. “A local cleric had promised him that he would be cured if he recited the Holy Quran.”

Three days before the incident, Yaqoob’s mother said he had torn the Bible and thrown it on the floor.

“Some say that he was also drug addict and was under the influence of drugs when he committed the act of desecration,” said the priest.

As the news spread, a mob came to the locality chanting slogans against Christians, but the police and Rangers brought the situation under control. At about 1am that night, the police told the Christians to leave the colony, as more than 200 protestors demanded the colony be burned down.

“I visited the area next day but all the Christians had fled by then,” Mushtaq said.

Mehmoodabad Police Station House Officer Muhammad Dawood said there were three police vans protecting the neighborhood. “After Yaqoob confessed, a mob locked him in a house and informed the police,” he said. “He also confessed in front of the police and sought forgiveness, but I told him that he should seek forgiveness from Allah.” Yaqoob behaved normally in the court, and told the magistrate he was sorry, he said.

Meanwhile, although Mushtaq thinks his belongings are safe in Mirpur Khas, he says he does not want to take the risk of going back home.