Fetching drinking water from a mosque in Pakistan‘s Punjab province landed a Hindu family of poor farmers in trouble as some local Muslims tortured and held them hostage for “violating the sanctity” of their place of worship.
Alam Ram Bheel, a resident of Rahimyar Khan in Pakistani Punjab, was picking raw cotton along with his other family members, including his wife, in a field. When the family approached a mosque nearby to fetch drinking water from a tap, some local landlords beat them up, Bheel said.
When the family was returning home after unloading the picked cotton, the Muslim landlords held them hostage at their dera (outhouse) and tortured them again for “violating the sanctity” of the mosque, Bheel alleged.
The police did not register a case as the attackers were related to a local parliamentarian of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, Bheel said.
Protesting against the police neglect, Bheel held a sit-in outside the police station along with another clan member Peter John Bheel. Peter, also a member of the district peace committee, said that they approached ruling PTI lawmaker Javed Warriach who helped them lodge a case on 17 September.
Peter requested other members of the district peace committee to call an emergency meeting over the issue but they did not take the matter seriously, the report said.
PTI’s south Punjab minority wing Secretary-General Yodhister Chohan said that incident was in his knowledge but due to the influence of a ruling party’s MP, he preferred to stay away. District Police Officer Asad Sarfraz said that he was looking into the matter.
Deputy Commissioner Khuram Shehzad said he would meet Hindu minority elders on 20 September before taking any action. Asked about the ‘inactive’ peace committee, the officer claimed it was “fully functional”.
Farooq Rind, a senior lawyer and former district bar president, said he also belonged to the Basti Kahoor area where the Bheels had been living for more than a century. He said that most of the clan members were farm workers and extremely poor.
Rind said the accused landlords were notorious for picking up fights with other villagers over petty issues. He promised free legal aid for the complainant family, the report said.
Hindus constitute the biggest minority community in Pakistan. According to official estimates, 75 lakh Hindus live in Pakistan. However, according to the community, more than 90 lakh Hindus are living in the country.
The majority of Pakistan’s Hindu population is settled in the province of Sindh where they share culture, traditions and language with Muslim residents. They often complain of harassment by extremists.