Police in Pakistan’s Sindh province have arrested a man in connection with an attack on a Hindu temple last week.
Ismail Sheedi was arrested on Oct. 10 on suspicion of vandalizing the temple in Kario Ghanwar in Badin district.
“He desecrated the temple by damaging our statues,” said Ashok Kumar, the temple priest.
It was not clear whether he was the only suspect or whether others were involved, but the priest suggested religious extremists were involved.
He said he did not believe Sheedi was mentally ill as some local reports had claimed. He said the motive behind the attack was likely sectarian and that people wanted to divert attention from case by spreading false information about him.
Following the attack, Hindu netizens flooded social media platforms with photos of the broken statues and hashtags including #Extremists and #LetUsLivePeacefully.
“We own this land, we are sons of this motherland. We didn’t migrate anywhere even during the partition of the subcontinent. We will be living here till our last breath in the face of extremist threats. We demand that they be brought to heel,” said Chaman Lal, a Lahore-based activist, in a Facebook post.
Hindus of Pakistan, a Karachi-based rights group, condemned the incident. “Miscreant Ismail Sheedi gave death threats to pujari [priests]. While media and government are busy spewing venom against Hindus, extremists are doing this with full impunity,” said the group in a statement.
According to Bishop Samson Shukardin of Hyderabad, this is the second temple attacked in Sindh, where the majority of Hindu enclaves are found.
“We condemn the attack on minority places of worship. The attack on temples in our province is a new trend,” he told UCA News.
In January, Mata Deval Bhittani temple was desecrated in Tharkarkar district of Sindh province. Police later identified the suspects as young Muslim boys.
Last month members of Pakistan Hindu Council held a press conference demanding construction of a crematorium and temple in the federal capital Islamabad. The Capital Development Authority (CDA) in July stopped construction of the boundary wall on the plot meant for the first Hindu temple in the federal capital.
The government’s move was met with angry social media reactions, legal challenges and a fatwa from Jamia Ashrafia, a leading Islamic religious school, which ruled that Sharia law doesn’t permit the construction of a new temple in an Islamic state.
Despite the allotment letter from the CDA, the site has been attacked and vandalized four times since the news of its construction was made public.