Pakistani authorities arrested a Hindu principal over the weekend after “blasphemy” allegations against him prompted a mob to ransack a temple and damage a school and homes belonging to the minority group.
Principal Notan Lal denies the “blasphemy ” accusations, which can carry a penalty of life in prison or death.
In addition to the principal, Pakistani authorities also arrested three men who participated in the attack on the Hindu properties, district police chief Jamil Ahmed said Monday.
The incident took place in the southwestern town of Ghotki in Sindh province.
Principal Lal “is now in the safe custody of Police,” Ahmed proclaimed, GEO TV reported Sunday.
“He is in protective custody, and we are inquiring about what his role is [in the incident],” senior police official Farrukh Lanjar also told Al Jazeera. “The student has also been questioned. The inquiry is under process.”
GEO TV noted:
The [Hindu] principal of a private school was booked and detained by authorities Sunday for allegedly making derogatory remarks, a top [local] police officer confirmed after riots broke out in the town in northern Sindh.
According to … Ahmed, the principal had come under fire after the father of a student accused him of making comments that hurt the locals’ religious sentiments, leading to severe rioting as enraged protesters broke into and vandalized a [Hindu] temple in Ghotki.
Some news outlets report that the student leveled the “blasphemy” accusations against the principal.
On Monday, Ahmed reportedly revealed that authorities are taking the “blasphemy” allegations against principal Lal seriously, saying authorities are investigating the accusations that he insulted the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.
Sky News noted on Monday:
The educator, who denies blasphemy, was taken into custody for his own protection while police investigate the alleged comments and the actions of those who damaged two buildings in Sindh province.
“It seems the principal had not done anything intentionally,” Furrukh Ali, another district police chief, told Sky.
Referring to the police chief, TRT World reported:
He added officers restored order and arrested three people on charges of attacking the Hindu temple, disrupting traffic and damaging Hindu property. Thousands of members of the Hindu community live in Ghotki, in Pakistan’s Sindh province.
Although many people are on death row over blasphemy, Pakistan has yet to carry out an execution linked to that particular crime. Some Islamists, however, are known to carry their version of justice into their own hands in Pakistan where dozens are detained on blasphemy charges every year.
Human rights groups have determined that Muslims often use the law to settle personal disputes and vendettas.
Investigators often find many of the “blasphemy” accusations to be false and incendiary.
“The authorities must take prompt action to quell the violence and ensure the safety of the school principal being targeted,” the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan wrote on Twitter following the violence.
“Pakistan is home to roughly 3.3 million Hindus, a small minority in a country of 207 million people. The majority of the country’s Hindus live in the southern province of Sindh, where Ghotki is located,” Al Jazeera pointed out.