Within two days last week, a temple in Pakistan was burnt down while a mosque in India saw a desecration attempt.
While one wishes there was enough communal harmony within the two neighbouring countries that were divided on religious lines 70 years ago that locals did not target fellow citizens’ places of worship, the fact remains that the reality is not even close to that.
Videos of both the temple and mosque vandalisation were widely circulated on the social media last week.
Many Pakistani commentators shared the mosque incident to say India is no better and Indians should not be commenting on the temple incident. Many Indian commentators toed the same line.
Some, like Zafar Sareshwala, who is businessman and chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University, juxtaposed visuals of the temple and mosque to lament the “depressing sight at the fag end of 2020”, thereby suggesting both cases to be identical. Some others, like Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, even cited the two cases to conclude that Pakistan is better than India.
Well, the two cases are not comparable or identical.
Before we elaborate, here is a look at what really happened in the two cases:
India: On 29 December, which was a Tuesday, communal tension flared up in different areas of Madhya Pradesh when some Hindu groups taking out rallies to raise funds for construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya came under attack.
As per police officers quoted in this Hindustan Times report, a rally by a Hindu organisation was attacked with stones at Chandankhedi village in Mandsaur, after which some people climbed atop a mosque in nearby Gautampura and removed the green Islamic flag.
They were brought down before they could inflict any damage to the shrine, police said.
An FIR was filed against some of those people under IPC section 153. The Hindu side too lodged FIRs against local Muslims for the attack.
Four days earlier (on 25 December), another Hindu rally had come under attack in Ujjain, where police have booked six men and two women under the National Security Act.
Pakistan: On 30 December, a mob vandalised a Hindu temple in Karak district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan, and later set it on fire. As per Pakistani media, the mob was led by local Muslim clerics.
Videos on social media showed a huge crowd chanting slogans and destroying the walls of the property, with smoke and fire in backdrop.
The trigger of the attack, as per police officers quoted in this report by Pakistani daily The Dawn, was that the temple’s keeper had “secretly” acquired a house next to the temple which the locals assumed was an attempt to expand the shrine.
The Dawn report says “there are no Hindus in the area”.
The temple – called Krishna Dwara temple - was built in 1919, on the same spot where Guru Shri Paramahans Dayal was laid to rest. Locals closed the temple after partition in 1947.
The temple was demolished in 1997 too, but was rebuilt in 2015 on orders of the Supreme Court. On 22 December – that is eight days before the attack – local Hindus and Muslims had signed an agreement that the temple’s renovation would not exceed the specified area, the report says.
As is evident from the details, the cases are not comparable either in damage or scale.
While the Madhya Pradesh case saw some people climbing a mosque and removing the flag in retaliation to a physical attack on a Hindu rally, the Pakistan case saw a crowd setting ablaze a temple over a petty misunderstanding.
Now, let’s the see the cases in a broader perspective.
The mosque case in Madhya Pradesh, seen in isolation, is not a fair representation of the communal situation in India. Here, Hindu temples are routinely attacked by members of the minority Muslim community whereas in Pakistan, Hindus attacking mosques is unheard of.
To recall a few recent examples from India, a temple was attacked, and the Hanuman idol inside it was broken and its face disfigured, in Phulwari Shariff area of Patna in Bihar last December by a mob protesting Citizenship Amendment Act.
A few months before this incident, a large mob chanting 'Allahu Akbar' and 'Naara-e-Takbeer' had vandalised and desecrated a Durga temple in the heart of the national capital, over a rumour that a Muslim man had been lynched by Hindus.
A month ago in November 2020, a man named Mansoor Ali entered a Shiva temple in Puducherry, abused Hindu gods and sculptures in the temple, and recorded the act live for Facebook.
Compare this to Pakistan, where one does not find even one case of a Hindu person, let alone a Hindu mob, vandalising, desecrating or attacking a mosque.
Cases of Muslims attacking Hindu temples in Pakistan are routine. In October 2020, a group of Muslim men vandalised a makeshift Hindu temple and damaged the idols in Badin district of Pakistan’s Sindh province.
A 200-year-old Hanuman temple in Karachi’s Lyari was demolished and the idols broken on 16 August, 2020.
In February 2020, a Hindu temple was attacked in Sindh’s Khairpur district. A group of people entered the Sham Sundar Shewa Mandli temple and set fire to three sacred books - including as the Bhagwat Geeta and Guru Granth Sahib - and idols.
Entire Pakistan has only 30 functional temples today, out of the 1,300 pre-Partition era temples.
It’s quite evident from facts that while India has communal conflict, where both Hindus and minority Muslims are participants, Pakistan has brutal one-sided persecution of Hindus, who are a minuscule minority in the almost entirely-Muslim Islamic country.
While Muslims form around 20 percent of India’s estimated 130 crore population, Hindus in Pakistan make up less than two percent of its population (1998 census said there were around 20 lakh Hindus across Pakistan).
Pakistan witnessed large-scale demolition of Hindu temples and properties in retaliatory attacks a day after the Babri demolition in India, but it’s hardly a part of the communal discourse in the two countries. The defunct Babri mosque, built in the 16th century by Muslim invaders after destroying an already existing Ram temple on what is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram, was demolished by a Hindu crowd on 6 December, 1992.
As per an 8 December 1992 report by Reuters news agency, more than 30 Hindu temples across Pakistan were demolished or vandalised in retaliation.
In Lahore, thousands of Muslims accompanied a bulldozer in demolishing a Hindu temple, the report said. Crowds set fire to six other temples the same day, accompanied by chants of ‘Crush India’ and ‘Death to Hinduism’.
Muslims further attacked five temples in Karachi and hurled stones at 25 temples across Sindh, where 95 percent of the small Hindu population of Pakistan lives. Locals told the media at that time that the local administration and government officials assisted the mobs in their attacks, who also targeted Hindu girls as well as Hindu shops.
None of these temples attacked in Pakistan have either seen state-sponsored renovation or criminal justice, as per well-known Pakistani Hindu activist Hindu Singh Sodha.
Raised in Pakistan, Sodha, who has been living in India for three decades, estimates that around 70,000 Hindus fled to India after the Babri demolition. He calls it “the third wave of exodus” of Hindus from Pakistan to India since Partition, the first two being 1965 and 1971.
In the Ayodhya case, the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board has been given five acres of land for building a new mosque. In sharp contrast, a recent proposal to build a new Hindu temple in Islamabad has seen such fierce opposition from religious leaders and civil society that the plan stands halted. A local Muslim even vandalised the site of the under-construction temple hailing Allah and posted the video on Facebook. A few days before the vandalism, a Tik Tok user had posted a video of his little son warning Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan that if he indeed built the temple, he would kill “each and every” Hindu. The vandalism was also preceded by a cleric declaring to his followers that if the government went ahead with its plan to build the temple, Pakistanis would chop their heads and throw it outside the temple to feed stray dogs.
Last year, Pakistan railways minister Sheikh Rashid released a video threatening Hindus of India that temple bells would stop ringing if India attacked Pakistan.
Three weeks ago, Rashid was promoted to be Interior Minister of Pakistan.
Recently, a video of Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi went viral on social media where he is seen comparing himself to Mahmud Ghaznavi out to destroy the Somnath temple. A crowd can be heard cheering in the background.
Swati Goel Sharma is a senior editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @swati_gs.
An appeal from Swarajya
At Swarajya, we rely on our readers' support through subscriptions to sustain our media platform. Unlike larger conglomerates, we are unable to relentlessly chase advertising money — our model is largely built on your patronage.
Your support has never been more crucial. We work tirelessly to deliver 10-15 high-quality articles daily, ensuring you receive insightful content from 7 AM to 10 PM.
If you believe India's story has to be articulated in a way it has never been done before without shrugging it off, become a patron (or) subscribe now for ₹̶2̶4̶0̶0̶ ₹1999 and get 12 print issues, unlimited digital access for 1 year, a special India that is Bharat T-shirt (Offer ends soon).
We are counting on you!