Mob ransacks temple in Nowshera

June 30, 2005


NOWSHERA, Jan 29: An angry mob ransacked a temple to avenge an alleged desecration of Holy Quran by a man here, police and witnesses said. Chief Minister Mohammad Akram Khan Durrani has ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident and suspended two senior police officers. He also ordered immediate rehabilitation of the temple.

Police said that the incident took place on Tuesday evening when children playing in Lal Kurti in the Nowshera Cantonment area spotted two pieces of paper later identified as pages from a book taught to students before they start the Holy Book.

The children, however, immediately informed their elders about what they termed ‘desecration,’ triggering an angry reaction from residents. Police said that a Christian janitor, who was cleaning the rented quarters of a nurse from the Combined Military Hospital, had collected things left by the previous tenants and set them on fire, not knowing what was in it.

“I think the guy is innocent,” District Police Officer Zebullah Khan told Dawn. The 55-year-old Yusuf Masih was immediately taken into ‘safe custody’, the DPO said, recalling a tragic incident in Nowshera in April when a man was shot dead by a mob for allegedly desecrating Holy Quran.

Mr Khan said that a mob of about 300 people had gathered outside the police station where Masih had been kept , demanding that he be handed over to them. At around the same time, he said, the mob blocked the Grand Trunk Road for about an hour but dispersed peacefully after negotiations.

However, another group rushed towards a Hindu temple known as Lamba Vera Mandar and tried to set it on fire. They damaged the main door and ransacked its furniture, the DPO said. “It appeared pre-planned and premeditated,” Zebullah Khan said. Fire-fighters rushed to the place and the fire was put out before it could spread.

Deputy Superintendent of Police and SHO, Nowshera Cantonment, have been suspended and an inquiry has been ordered against them.

Minority MPAs, Felix Innocent and Gusaran Lal, met the chief minister and sought his intervention.

Mr Durrani ordered action against the two police officials for negligence of duty and directed that work be immediately undertaken to repair and restore the temple.

The DPO said that 13 people had been picked up for questioning, adding that three had been formally charged with attempting to damage the temple.

Jamaat-i-Islami Amir Qazi Hussain Ahmad also visited the temple and assured the Hindu community gathered there of full protection. The JI leader, who was elected to the National Assembly from the same constituency, told them that the government was duty bound to protect their lives and property. “Islam fully guarantees the rights of religious minorities,” he said.