An 8-year-old boy could face the death penalty in Pakistan after urinating in a library of an Islamic religious school. The young Hindu boy is the youngest to be charged with blasphemy in the country. The charges hold a strict penalty and the child could be hanged for his crimes.
According to reports, the boy – who has not been named for security reasons – allegedly “intentionally” urinated on the carpet in the library of a madrassa. No religious books were ruined during the incident, but Pakistani officials charged the boy with blasphemy. The news has sparked outrage across social media, as many point out that the 8-year-old boy couldn’t have known any better.
“How can an 8-year-old Hindu child be charged with blasphemy?” Rashmi Samant, a human Hindu rights activist wrote on Twitter. “Little children wet their pants, you cannot call that blasphemy and execute the child. It is called Human Rights Violation @UNHumanRights.”
The boy is currently being held in protective police custody in East Pakistan, according to The Guardian. The boy’s family is in hiding for fear of retaliation by the Muslim community. There has also been a mass evacuation of the Hindu community in the conservative district of Rahim Yar Khan, in Punjab, reports claim. People have fled their homes fearing that they could be killed or imprisoned following the religious incident.
The boy was held in a Pakistani prison for a week, reports said. Following his bail release last week, a Muslim crowd attacked a Hindu temple. The attack took place on Wednesday in Bhong, a town in Rahim Yar Khan. Mobs destroyed statues and burned down the temple’s main door, according to reports. Imran Khan, the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan condemned the attack on Twitter.
Khan also deployed a battalion of troops to the area to prevent further unrest. On Saturday, 20 people accused of participating in the attack were arrested. The boy and his family have remained nameless in an effort to quell potential backlash or retaliation. The Muslim community is outraged at the Hindu boy’s disrespect for the library and its religious texts.
Since the incident, the 8-year-old boy’s family has gone into hiding. They spoke to reporters from an undisclosed location. “He is not even aware of such blasphemy issues and he has been falsely indulged in these matters,” one family member explained. “He still doesn’t understand what his crime was and why he was kept in jail for a week.”
They continued, claiming that “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.”
It’s unclear whether the 8-year-old boy will be punished for his crimes. Police are still holding the child for protection. While no executions have been carried out in Pakistan since the death penalty was enacted for blasphemy in 1986, mobs often carry out the ruling. There have been multiple instances of angry mobs beating and sometimes killing culprits who evade the law.
Attorneys in the country were taken aback by the blasphemy charge given the boy’s young age. This is the first time in history that someone so young was charged with blasphemy. Ramesh Kumar, a lawmaker from the Pakistan Hindu Council explained that “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.”
Others have taken to Twitter to express their dismay. Human rights activists, like Kapil Dev, have demanded the charges be dropped. “I demand charges against the boy are immediately dropped, and urge the government to provide security for the family and those forced to flee,” Dev said. “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.”
While many have expressed their disgust regarding the 8-year-old boy’s blasphemy charge, others have pointed out that the dangers of Pakistan are oftentimes exaggerated in the media. One user tweeted that an “8-year-old charged with blasphemy in Pakistan [means] it is time to start talking about how living in Pakistan is absolutely safe irrespective of religion.” They continued, explaining that the dangers are heightened because “some rare incidents picked up by social media for mudslinging.”