As in most cases, the events surrounding the arson of a Hindu temple in Larkana had a monetory aspect that is becoming clear.
On Saturday night, gangs of hooligans burnt a Hindu temple to the ground after allegations of blasphemy were levelled at a young man from the local Hindu community, specifically that he was burning pages of the Quran.
At this point one must ponder if religious minorities in this country are ignorant, insane, or just incurably stubborn since they apparently can’t stop burning pages of the Quran where everyone can see them. They must be suicidal to do so since allegations of blasphemy are sure to spark mob violence targeting anyone they are made against. Usually the police have to arrest the accused just to keep the mob from lynching them, and sometimes even this is not enough.
However, the sheer banality of the allegation shows how standardised accusations of blasphemy in order to settle personal disputes have become. In fact the law, which is supposed to keep people from inflaming religious sentiments, has been abused to the extent that often enraged mobs are expertly manipulated to conceal whatever the real motivation was behind the accusation. In this particular case, reports suggest that the allegation against the Hindu boy was made to prevent him pursuing a First Information Report (FIR) about a robbery at his house a few days earlier. The culprits were probably known to the man and apparently demanded he withdraw his case, otherwise they would accuse him of blasphemy.
Most disturbingly, it seems as though the allegation was widely publicised via mobile phone texts and was broadcast on a local television station as well.
The range of institutional failures this incident represents is manifest. Reports say that gangs of young men on motorcycles formed the bulk of the mob; young, unemployed, frustrated men with no access to entertainment are historically prone to violence, and their participation is one aspect.
The local television channel, if it broadcast the allegation, is representative of a puerile, irresponsible media. Participation of, and coordination by, local Muslim clerics can’t be ruled out, given growing religiosity and clerical power in the rural areas as well as past instances of their culpability.
Even Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s tweet, that the incident was like an attack on Garhi Khuda Baksh, shows an appeal to feudal power and political sainthood that is deep-seated in the rural psyche.
Most importantly, it shows the failure of the blasphemy laws as they stand to not only prevent insults to Islam, but also as enablers of instigators of mob violence for personal gain. At the very least, they should be amended so that false accusations as cover for revenge, land grabbing and other personal agendas are as heavily punishable as actual acts of blasphemy.