An eight-year-old Hindu boy is being held in protective police custody in Pakistan after being accused of intentionally wetting himself in a religious library.
The child has become the youngest person ever to be charged with blasphemy in the country, a charge which can carry the death penalty.
The boy was accused of “intentionally urinating on a carpet” in the library of madrassa last month, where religious books were kept.
The boy’s family is currently in hiding and many of the Hindu community in Punjab have fled the area after a group of Muslims attacked a Hindu temple in outrage following the accused boy’s release on bail last week.
Soldiers were deployed to the area to help maintain peace. On Saturday, 20 people were arrested in connection with the temple attack.
Speaking to The Guardian from hiding, one of the boy’s family members said: “He [the boy] is not even aware of such blasphemy issues and he has been falsely indulged in these matters. He still doesn’t understand what his crime was and why he was kept in jail for a week.
“We have left our shops and work, the entire community is scared and we fear backlash. We don’t want to return to this area.
“We don’t see any concrete and meaningful action will be taken against the culprits or to safeguard the minorities living here.”
Legal experts are shocked at the blasphemy charges being filed against the child.
Ramesh Kumar, a lawmaker and head of the Pakistan Hindu Council, said: “The attack on the temple and blasphemy allegations against the eight-year-old minor boy has really shocked me.
“More than a hundred homes of the Hindu community have been emptied due to fear of attack.”
Kapil Dev, a human rights activist, said: “I demand charges against the boy are immediately dropped, and urge the government to provide security for the family and those forced to flee.
“Attacks on Hindu temples have increased in the last few years showing an escalating level of extremism and fanaticism. The recent attacks seem to be a new wave of persecution of Hindus.”
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