A Hindu youth was killed and another seriously injured when they were shot by members of a mob following communal tensions in a town in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province on Wednesday.
The Hindus, both traders, were attacked in Ghotki district by a mob protesting the alleged desecration of the Quran a day earlier. Dewan Kumar, 17, succumbed to his injuries while his friend Avinash was fighting for life, police said.
Witnesses said Kumar and Avinash were having tea at a stall in Mirpur Mathelo, the main town of Ghotki, when they were attacked.
Ghotki district was tense over allegations of the desecration of the holy book by a Hindu man, who was arrested on Tuesday. Leaders of the Hindu community have demanded protection for their lives and properties following the violence.
Most of Pakistan’s Hindu minority live in Sindh, and Ghotki has a sizeable population of the community. Sindh has traditionally been more peaceful than other provinces but the region has witnessed a spike in sectarian tensions and radicalisation that has coincided with the entry of groups such as the Jamaat-ud-Dawah.
The trouble started on Tuesday when some burnt pages of the Quran were found outside an old mosque near Daharki town. Angry protesters assembled on the National Highway and held a sit-in for five hours, demanding the arrest of the culprit after which the police arrested the prime suspect.
Local police chief Amjad Shaikh went to the protest site in Daharki with his team and tried to persuade people to end their sit-in but his vehicle was attacked and damaged.
Police told the media that residents of Mehran Samejo village near Daharki had caught a Hindu man while he was allegedly desecrating pages of the Quran. Members of the Hindu community told reporters that the suspect, Amar Lal, was a drug addict who had begun living in a mosque after converting to Islam a few months ago. They said his mental condition was unstable.
Soon after the incident, protesters took to the streets in most towns of the district and staged demonstrations. They burnt tyres, tried to ransack shops owned by Hindus and clashed with police. Most towns of Ghotki district, including Daharki, Mirpur Mathelo, Ubauro and Khan Pur Mehar, remained closed on Wednesday due to the tensions, and cities were deserted for the second consecutive day.
Amar Lal was booked and taken to an undisclosed location by police, who have said they fear for his life. Leaders of religious parties, including Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) and Ahl-e-Sunnat wal Jamaat (ASWJ) have demanded “severe punishment” for the man.
Law enforcement agencies personnel have arrested more than 150 people on charges of rioting in overnight raids. Large police contingents have been posted in sensitive areas, particularly outside the homes of Hindus.