KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistani Hindus Sunday protested the destruction of a Hindu temple in the southern port city of Karachi. The temple was razed, along with some nearby homes, by a builder.
Minority Hindus have complained of increasing harassment and discrimination in Muslim-dominated Pakistan in recent years, including the destruction or desecration of their places of worship.
Residents and members of the Hindu community said Sunday a builder with a police escort razed the small temple in one of the older neighborhoods of Karachi, along with some surrounding buildings.
The outer walls and roof of the temple were demolished, and rubble was strewn about the area. Local residents told an AP reporter on the scene that authorities took statues and artifacts out of the building before it was destroyed.
One of the longtime residents, 75-year-old Kali Das, said he was born in the area and remembers when the temple, called Sri Rama Peer Naval, was built. He said more than a hundred families lived nearby and prayed at the temple.
Residents protested at the Karachi Press Club on Sunday, demanding compensation as well as the return of religious materials they said were taken during the incident.
Ramesh Kumar Vankwani from the Pakistan Hindu Council said there is a long-running legal dispute between the builder and residents over the land, but it belongs to the Hindu residents.
Zeenat Ahmad, who runs the department in charge of military land, said a court order allowed some of the buildings to be razed. A Pakistani police officer, Parvez Iqbal, denied anything was taken.
The military owns vast tracts of land in Karachi and other parts of the country.
Vankwani said the incident was another example of the problems Hindus are facing in Pakistan. Hindus complain that girls are forcibly converted to Islam, there is no legal recognition for Hindu marriages, and Hindus are discriminated against when it comes to access to government jobs or schooling.
"Every month there is an incident, like taking property of Hindu people or forced conversion of Hindu girls," he said.
During partition in 1947, the violent separation of Pakistan and India into separate countries, hundreds of thousands of Hindus decided to migrate to India, where Hinduism is the dominant religion. Those who remained and their descendants now make up a tiny fraction of Pakistan's estimated 190 million citizens. Most live in Sindh province in the southern part of the country.
Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana in Islamabad contributed.