Hindu Temple(s) in Lahore: Continuing Confusions

Posted on June 17, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Culture & Heritage, Law & Justice, Minorities, Religion, Society
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Adil Najam

Updates: here and here.

Following from the earlier post on the reported destruction of a Hindu temple in Lahore, the confusion not only continues but compounds.

This is what we know:

On May 28, 2006, Dawn reported that a Hindu Temple in Rangmahal, Lahore, had been demolished to make way for a commercial complex, contrary to the rules of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (EPTB).

On June 13, 2006, The Times of India and other Indian news organizations were reporting on the BJP launch of a protest against this destruction of the temple in Pakistan.

On June 15, 2006, Zee News India reported that the Indian External Affairs Ministry had “taken up” the matter with the government of Pakistan at a “sufficiently senior level.”

On June 16, 2006, The Daily Times reported that Pakistan’s Foreign Office had rejected reports of the temple’s demolition as “baseless,â€Â? saying that “the Krishna Mandir in Lahore is safe. The temple referred to in sections of the press is not the Krishna Mandir but abandoned property being used as a part-commercial facility, according to the EPTB.â€Â? It was also highlighted that ‘The Krishna Mandir’ is located on Ravi Road while the property referred to in news reports is in Rang Mahal.â€Â? The Foreign Office statement also said that a temple did exist in the same locality about 300 feet from the property in question, it said. “That mandir is intact. Around 35 people reside on the property surrounding it, and have lived there since independence,â€Â? the statement said.

Also on June 16, 2006, The Daily Times (in a different news item) reported that the Federal Religious Affairs Minister Ejazul Haq had just visited the Krishna Mandir (on Ravi Road) and said: “The Krishna Mandir is in perfect condition. I invite L.K. Advani to visit Lahore and pray at the temple.� He also said that Rs 700,000 were spent on the renovation of Krishna Mandir a few months ago.

The minister said that irresponsible statements by the Indian leadership could affect the ongoing peace process between the two countries. Krishna Mandir supervisor Pandit Kashi Ram, who was with the minister, supported Ejaz’s statement and said the government was spending money on the temple’s renovation.

Evacuee Property Trust Board (EPTB) Chairman Lt Gen (r) Zulfikar Ali Khan said … “The newspaper wrongly reported the Krishna Temple was situated in the Wachhowali Bazaar in Rang Mahal. The property under discussion and claimed as temple is a disputed piece of land under the EPTB’s control,â€Â? he said. There was a temple named ‘Sanatan Dharm Sabha’ in Rang Mahal, and even that was 300 feet away from where the developer was constructing his building, he added.

The EPTB chairman said the developer, Khawaja Sohail Naseem, was constructing a building according to an agreement with the EPTB… Naseem later told reporters that two men claiming to be journalists had visited him on May 10 and asked for Rs 100,000. “They said the construction was illegal and threatened me to pay themâ€Â? he said. “False stories have been printed against me because I did not pay them,â€Â? he added. He said he registered a compliant with the Lohari Gate police duty officer against the ‘journalists’ on May 11.

Today, on June 17, 2006, Hindustan Times reports (as do other news outlets in India and Pakistan) that the Lahore High Court on Friday ordered a stay at the site where a commercial building is being built where a Hindu temple once allegedly stood.

The orders to maintain a status quo at the site were issued on a petition filed by a Hindu resident of Rawalpindi, Om Prakash Narayan, who is also a member of the Pakistan Minorities Welfare Council. Talking to Hindustan Times on the phone from Lahore, Narayan’s advocate Fawad Hussain Chaudhary said Justice Akhter Shabbir had ordered the Evacuee Board and all other respondents to restrain from further construction at the site. “The court asked the Evacuee Board to submit a written reply on contents of his petition,� Chaudhary said, adding that the next date of hearing had not been set yet.

So, that is where we stand right now on what remains an evolving story. It is a story that we should keep an eye on; here is my take on things as they stand now:

  • This is a story that will continue gaining ground. But for the wrong reasons. It is already becoming an ‘India-Pakistan’ story. This is really a ‘Pakistan’ story in the sense that this should be about what we as a society and people are and are becomin, and how we treat, or do not treat, fellow-Pakistanis who are not Muslim.
  • Having said that, I certainly hope and pray that the Pakistan government is correct, that this is just a case of misreporting (malicious or otherwise) and all temple (at Ravi Road, in Rang Mahal, and everywhere else in Pakistan) are safe.
  • However, the government’s little semantic-game (stressing that the ‘Krishna Mandir’ is safe) is not endearing. It is now obvious that there IS a Krishna Mandir in Ravi Road and that is safe and even thriving with government support. The real question is whether the building demolished in Rang Mahal was a temple and whether that was demolished illegally.
  • I must confess, my gut instinct is that this is as much of a property scam as anything else. This could be in one of two ways. Given the realities we know of, it is not inconceivable that either (a) the developer was able to get a religious site re-classified so he could build upon it, or (b) that this is an extortion scheme of some sort to pressurize him. We just do not have that information yet and I do hope someone will uncover this soon.
  • Meanwhile, irrespective of how this turns out, the government in Pakistan should use this discussion to make the appropriate advances and positive gestures towards minorities and minority rights in Pakistan. This should be done not because of this controversy, but despite it.
  • The Lahore High Court has certainly taken the right step. The Prime Minister also announced on June 15, 2006–right as this controversy was brewing–a special development package for holy places of Sikh community in Lahore, Nankana Sahib and Hasan Abdal besides setting up a new university in memory of Baba Guru Nanak, while addressing a seminar in connection with 400th death anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev in Lahore. Recently a number of other grants for the maintenance of Hindu and Sikh places of worship have been announced; which is also a good sign. However, the Minister’s statement seems to be needlessly adversarial.
  • In conclusion, I hope someone independent will soon get to the bottom of this. I certainly hope that this was just a confusion and the demolished building has no religious significance. But if it does, let’s make sure that no injustice is done to anyone’s place of worship. And even if it does not, let’s use this opportunity to reaffirm our national commitment to minority rights–a commitment that was so beautifully articulated in the one-fourth of the Pakistan flag which is white precisely to signify this commitment.

11 responses to “Hindu Temple(s) in Lahore: Continuing Confusions”

  1. samir sardana says:

    This is for those who pillory and villify Muslims for breaking satanic Hindooo Temples and Idols


    Sample the “Old Testament” – “On Killing Idolators” and “burning the bones of Idolators” ! Mamma Mia

    (1 Kings 13:1-2 NLT)

    Then at the LORD’s command, he shouted, “O altar, altar! This is what the LORD says:A child named Josiah will be born into the dynasty of David.
    On you he will sacrifice the priests from the pagan shrines who come here to burn incense, and human bones will be burned on you.”
    (2 Kings 23:20-25 NLT)

    He [Josiah] “executed the priests of the pagan shrines”, on their own altars, and he burned human bones on the altars to desecrate them.
    Josiah also “exterminated the mediums and psychics”, the household gods, and every other kind of idol worship, both in Jerusalem and throughout the land of Judah.
    He did this in obedience to all the laws written in the scroll that Hilkiah the priest had found in the LORD’s Temple.

    Sample the “Old Testament” – “On Rape of Wives” ! Mamma Mia

    (Deuteronomy 21:10-14 NAB)

    “When you go out to war against your enemies and the LORD, your God, delivers them into your hand, so that you take captives, if you see a comely woman among the captives and become so enamored of her that you wish to have her as wife,you may take her home to your house.
    But before she may live there, she must shave her head and pare her nails and lay aside her captive’s garb.
    After she has mourned her father and mother for a full month, you may have relations with her,and you shall be her husband and she shall be your wife.
    However, if later on you lose your liking for her, you shall give her her freedom, if she wishes it; but you shall not sell her or enslave her, since she was married to you under compulsion.”
    (Numbers 31:15-18)

    And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? … Now therefore “kill every male” among the “little ones”, and “kill every woman”, that “hath known man”, by lying with him.
    But all the women children, that “have not known a man”, by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.
    Sample the “Old Testament” – “Killing Babies” ! Mamma Mia

    (Isaiah 13:15-18 NLT)

    Anyone who is “captured will be run through”, with a sword.
    Their little children will be “dashed to death”, right before their eyes.
    Their homes will be “sacked and their wives raped”, by the attacking hordes.
    The attacking armies will “shoot down the young people”, with arrows.
    They will have “no mercy on helpless babies” and will show “no compassion for the children”.

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