LAHORE: The trial of 85 suspects allegedly involved in an attack on a Hindu temple in Pakistan's Punjab province began at an anti-terrorism court on Friday.
Hundreds of people, carrying sticks, stones and bricks attacked the Ganesh temple at Bhong city of Rahim Yar Khan district, some 590 km from Lahore on August 4, burning parts of it and damaging the idols in protest against the release by a court of an eight-year-old Hindu boy, who was arrested for allegedly urinating in a local seminary.
The attackers had damaged the idols, walls, doors and electric fittings while desecrating the temple. "The trial of 85 suspects arrested in the temple attack case began today after police submitted a report to the anti-terrorism court," a Punjab government official told PTI.
The suspects have been detained at the New Central Jail in Bahawalpur city, 450 km from Lahore, on judicial remand. The official said the government has also recovered more than PKR 10 lakh compensation amount from the suspects.
"As the restoration of the Ganesh mandir was carried out by the government soon after the attack, the Supreme Court had ordered that the attackers would pay the restoration amount from their own pocket," he said, adding that the temple has been restored from inside, but the construction of the boundary wall is still underway.
Police had registered an FIR against 150 suspects under terrorism and other sections of the Pakistan Penal Code for attacking the temple. Pakistan's Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed had regretted that vandalism at the temple had brought shame to the country as police acted like silent spectators. "Imagine what mental agony the desecration incident had brought to the members of the Hindu community," he had observed.
The temple attack also drew strong condemnation from India and the minority community leaders in Pakistan. Pakistan's Parliament had also condemned the attack by adopting a resolution. According to a police investigation report, on July 25, a Bhong resident reported to police that on the previous day he had witnessed a boy passing urine in the library of the seminary.
The boy fled when he tried to catch him. A complaint was registered at the Bhong police station under various sections of the Pakistan Penal Code. The report said that the boy, aged between eight and 10 years, was arrested on July 26 and was produced before the court, which sent him to judicial lockup.
However, he was released on July 28 on post-arrest bail. 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.