Just a week ago on December 30th, a violent and angry mob of alleged Islamic leaders and followers ambushed a well-known historical Hindu temple in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region of Pakistan. Videos of the incident that circulated on social media showed the 100-year-old temple covered in smoke and surrounded by mobs of people with hammers attempting to demolish the building. The nation’s Hindu minority members are devastated to see the recently and beautifully renovated temple be treated with such disrespect and persecution.
The unanticipated attack is assumed to be in response to the construction of a small building adjacent to the temple, which many local residents angrily assumed would be the first step in an expansion of the Hindu temple. One local resident and witness reported that upwards of 1,000 people were encouraged by “local elders of a religious party” to protest what they believed to be the temple’s expansion.
Many Hindus were dismayed to see the police act without preparation, especially considering that there was a smaller protest just days before the December 30th riot. In response, police claimed that they had offered permission for a peaceful protest, but that participants swiftly became more agitated and grew uncontrollably violent.
This is not the first incident of a Pakistani Hindu temple being the target of radical Islamist groups and undue persecution. In August 2020, a 200-year-old venerated Hindu Hanuman temple in Lyari, Karachi was destroyed “by a group of men” and eventually “reduced to a pile of bricks.” One individual behind the demolition, a builder, had previously purchased the land surrounding the temple in order to erect an apartment complex; however, he allegedly made multiple assurances to local Hindu residents that the temple would remain unscathed. Meanwhile, during the pandemic, the builder began tearing down Hindu statues and preventing worshippers from entering; not long after, the temple itself was completely destroyed. One local Hindu individual who was a regular worshipper at the temple, Karishma Kumari, lamented the incident:
“I have been visiting this temple since I was a child. It’s unfair demolish a worship place irrespective of religion.”
Now, the Supreme Court of Pakistan under Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed has officially ordered the reconstruction of the Hindu temple in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and that all construction expenses be charged to the radical Islamic cleric who encouraged the mob violence and demolition. Over 100 individuals have been arrested for their participation in the incident, and many observing police have been suspended from their jobs for their inaction during the destruction. The municipal government has also pledged to use some of its funding to support the rebuilding efforts.