Fetching drinking water from a mosque in Pakistan’s Punjab province landed a family of poor farmers from the minority Hindu community in trouble as some people tortured and held them hostage for “violating the sanctity” of their place of worship, a media report said on Monday.
Alam Ram Bheel, a resident of Punjab’s Rahimyar Khan city, was picking raw cotton along with his other family members, including his wife, in a field. Bheel said when the family went outside a nearby mosque to fetch drinking water from a tap, some local landlords beat them up, the Dawn newspaper reported.
It said that when the family was returning home after unloading the picked cotton, the landlords held them hostage at their dera (outhouse) and tortured them again for “violating the sanctity” of the mosque. “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 the police apathy, 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 Friday.
The report said that 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. 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 Dr Khuram Shehzad said he would meet Hindu minority elders on Monday 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 form the biggest minority community in Pakistan.
According to official estimates, 75 lakh Hindus live in Pakistan. However, according to the community, over 90 lakh Hindus are living in the country. The majority of Pakistan’s Hindu population is settled in Sindh province where they share culture, traditions and language with Muslim residents.
They often complain of harassment by extremists.