A mob of Pakistani Muslims attacked and set fire to a century-old Hindu temple Wednesday in the northwestern part of Pakistan, Reuters reported.
Muslim clerics in the reportedly had organized peaceful protests against an expansion of the temple, located in the Karak district, Reuters reported.
Hindus have been the largest non-Muslim population in the country since gaining independence from Britain in 1947. Then the subcontinent was partitioned into a Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan, according to Reuters.
Locals filmed people at the scene taking sledgehammers and stones to the building as dark smoke can be seen coming from the structure, according to Reuters.
Local police are reported to have detained 24 people in connection with the temples destruction. There are also reported raids underway to arrest Maulana Shareef, a radical cleric who provoked the temple destruction, the Associated Press reported.
Shareef led supporters of Pakistan’s radical party, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, to the temple after the Hindu community received permission to renovate it, reports AP.
The temple was built in the early 1900s. First as a shrine, then in 1947 the Hindu community left the area and by 1997, Muslims had taken control of the site, Reuters reported. (RELATED: Brand Pulls Ad Featuring Muslim Man And Hindu Wife After Complaints Of ‘Love Jihad’)
It was ordered to be handed back over to the Hindu community in 2015 by a Pakistan Supreme Court, with the condition that it could not be expanded upon in the future.
The district police chief, Irfanullah Khan, said nine people had been arrested on suspicion of being involved in the attack, according to Reuters.
Pakistan’s Minister for Human Rights, Shireen Mazari condemned the attack on Twitter.
Strongly condemn the burning of a Hindu temple by a mob in Karak Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. KP govt must ensure culprits brought to justice. MOHR also moving on this. We as a govt have a responsibility to ensure safety & security of all our citizens & their places of worship.
— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) December 30, 2020
Members of the Hindu community rallied in Karachi in response to the attack. Ramesh Kumar, a member of the National Assembly and Hindu leader, told those at the rally he received assurance from the government that the temple would be rebuilt and justice would be served for those involved, reports AP.