The charge was based on a student’s claim on social media that the teacher had had committed the act when he visited the school.
In yet another shocking incident of religion-based verdict, a Hindu teacher was sentenced to life imprisonment last week by a Pakistani sessions court in Ghotki over charges of blasphemy in the southern Sindh province. A case had been registered against the teacher, identified as Nautan Lal under Section 295-C (use of derogatory remarks).
The physics teacher was also fined Pakistani ₹50,000 by Additional Sessions Judge Murtaza Solangi, in Ghotki in Sindh.
It took the court two years to convict Lal, who has been in jail since 2019 as an undertrial prisoner. His requests for bail have been rejected twice in that period. After the conviction, he has been sent back to Central Prison in Sukkur.
In September 2019, a video went viral on social media in which an intermediate student of a public school alleged that the Hindu teacher, who was the owner of Ghotki’s Sindh Public Higher Secondary School, had committed blasphemy against the Prophet. The student claimed that Lal, who also teaches physics at the Government Degree College Ghotki, had visited the school that day and committed the act, a report by Samaa TV said.
Very soon, a leader of the Jamaat-e-ahle Sunnat party and local cleric Mufti Abdul Karim Saeedi filed a complaint with the police against Lal under the blasphemy act. Nautan Lal was arrested shortly after that.
As the news spread, violent protests erupted in the town and a mob attacked the Sacho Satram Dham Temple in Ghotki, damaging some of its idols, according to the report.
The caretaker of the Sacho Satram temple, Jay Kumar, later said that around 50 masked men did attack the temple, but around 500 Muslim men later came and guarded the temple throughout the night.
For those who are unfamiliar with blasphemy laws, they were first codified by India’s British rulers in 1860 and were expanded in 1927. Pakistan inherited these laws when it came into existence after the partition of India in 1947. The military government of General Zia-ul Haq wanted to “Islamicise” them and hence added a number of clauses to these laws between 1980 and 1986.
Despite the implementation of these laws, no one has yet been executed by the order of the courts or governments as to date, only imprisoned to await a verdict although the mere accusation of blasphemy makes a person a target for hardliners and in many cases, they have been killed based on mere suspicion alone. These laws carry a potential death sentence for anyone who insults Islam, but critics say they have been used to unfairly persecute minority faiths.
According to many human rights groups, the laws have been used to not only to persecute minorities but also settle personal rivalries against other Muslims in cases which appear to have little or nothing to do with religion.
Hindus form the biggest minority community in Pakistan. Official estimates put the number of Hindus at 7.5 million, but the community claims there are over 9 million Hindus living in Pakistan. Majority of these Hindus are settled in Sindh province, sharing similar language, traditions and cultural heritage with their Muslim neighbours for decades.