Desecration of Hindu Temple in Karachi: Stop It. NOW!

Posted on October 11, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Law & Justice, Minorities, Religion
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Adil Najam

Religious intolerance must never be tolerated. To be silent in the face of intolerance is intolerance itself. It is a blot not only on those who commit the acts of intolerance, it is a scar on the face of societies that allow it.

One of the very first posts we had done here on ATP was about the alleged demolition of a Hindu temple in Rangmahal Lahore (here). We followed it up with a second post demonstrating that by design and by default key forces in the media and amongst politicians tend to distort issues for their own myopic gains, even at the cost of the larger issues at stake (here). A third post on this issue from ATP followed up the story further and tried, as best as we could, to separate the facts from the rhetoric (here).

Vigilance must, however, be ongoing.

Now one hears from a hard-hitting editorial in The News of a more blatant act of desecration of another Hindu Temple – this one in the Baghdadi area of Lyari Town, Karachi. Once again, it is greedy land grabbers playing on the religious insensitity of society to gain a little personal benefit without paying any heed to the massive costs and deep wounds they inflict upon an already maligned social fabric through their nefarious actions.

The News editorial (11 October, 2006) gets it exactly right; so let me quote from it in full:

Stop the desecration
In an ultimate insult to any place of worship, a Hindu temple in Karachi has reportedly been encroached upon by local butchers and parts of its compound have been converted into a slaughterhouse. This is most insensitive to the religious feelings of Hindus since cows are considered sacred by them. The actual culprits behind the steady encroachment in the compound where the temple is situated are not the butchers — who are plying their trade there with impunity — but the land grabbers allegedly operating with the collaboration of the local police. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has rightly demanded that the Sindh government and the city nazim take immediate action to stop this encroachment, not least because it offends the religious sensibilities of a minority community.

According to an application sent by the HRCP to the provincial government, the land grabbers have forced the Hindu residents of the century-old Pawaldass compound in the backward Baghdadi area of Lyari Town of old Karachi to sell their properties at cheap rates. The land grabbers’ tactics range from monetary inducements to the poor Hindu families to violence carried out with the active involvement of the local police. There are even reports of a Muslim praying area having been forcibly established inside the compound. The action of the land-grabbers is doubly criminal. They are dispossessing the residents, taking over their temple in the process. In addition, they are in direct violation of the West Pakistan Evacuee Properties Act of 1957. Both call for the immediate action the HRCP has demanded. The action should not stop at prevention of further encroachment by the land grabbers, but should extend to the return of the residents’ occupied properties. At the same time, of course, the religious rights of the Hindu residents must be completely restored. It is about time that we began to respect the religious feelings and sensibilities of those of other faiths, especially since we tend to be very sensitive ourselves if our own sensibilities are slighted. The government is eager to project itself as progressive and for that alone it should ensure that the shenanigans of the land-grabbers and their patrons in the local police are stopped immediately. It goes without saying that if a mosque were encroached the government would act immediately — it needs to show the same promptness with respect to safeguarding the rights of the minorities as well.

It is good that the media (The News) and civil society (HRCP) are vigilant and demanding action. Their demands are exactly right and we must all join with them in this cause. But more than that this is again a moment when the government must act, and act immediately, to stop this gross viloation, to make up for what has happened, and to take real measures that can insure that this will not happen again.

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