Pakistani police arrested at least two dozen people in nighttime raids after a Hindu temple was set on fire and demolished by a mob on Wednesday, according to reports.
The crackdown came even as the country’s chief justice, Gulzar Ahmed, learned on Thursday suo motu of the attack on the place of worship in Teri village, Karak district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The country’s Supreme Court will hear the case on January 5.
Local police said raids were carried out overnight and more raids were underway to arrest those who participated in the vandalism or instigated crowds to demolish the place of worship.
About 1,500 people were said to have participated in the attack on the temple.
The chief justice took precedence after minority lawmaker Ramesh Kumar informed him of the temple fire, during their meeting in Karachi on Thursday.
The Samadhi of Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaj as well as the Krishna Dwara Mandir in the village of Teri were vandalized on Wednesday by an unruly mob. They claimed that the temple had encroached on additional land and set it on fire.
Pakistani minister of religious affairs Noorul Haq Qadri called the episode a “plot against sectarian harmony”. He took to Twitter on Thursday, saying that “protecting the religious freedom of minorities is our religious, constitutional, moral and national responsibility.”
Local media quoted attorney Rohit Kumar, a representative of the Hindu community, as saying the temple had not gone beyond the agreed area.
Meanwhile, dozens of Hindus are said to have gathered in the city of Karachi to demand the reconstruction of the place of worship in Teri village.
The temple was attacked and demolished for the first time in 1997. After the intervention of the Supreme Court in 2015, the local community accepted its reconstruction. Despite the reconstruction, there was a dispute over the land allocated to the temple. It also led to some misunderstanding between temple supporters and local clerics.
In 1919, Guru Sri Paramhans Dayal was buried at the site and a temple was built there.