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,à¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚? 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 ‘journalistsà¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ 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.
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10 responses to “Hindu Temple(s) in Lahore: Continuing Confusions”

  1. Abrar says:

    Dear Surjit Sahib, I just read all teh messages you left. So wonderful that your India is a country with great religious harmony where no mosques are ever demolished, no religious riots ever happen, no gurdawaras are ever attacked, everyone lives so very peacefully. Congratulations. I wish you the very best.

  2. surjit says:

    [quote comment=”42126″]Why do people want to tear down temples that are part of the culture and tradition of Pakistan,
    If we wipe this away you only kidding yourself …pakistan is aland of differetn cultures and customs , i am sorry but you need to accept that.

    there will will always be minorities in Pakistan THAT NEED TO FLOURISH PLS LEAVE THESE COMMUNITIES LAONE.

    RAVI[/quote] I have traveled all over India and see that there is a mosque in the middle of the road, but no body will think of demolish it, even to make way to commercial complex or main road. Go and look in New Delhi.The road will run around the Mosque.I believe there are no more Shamshan ghats for Hindus or Sikhs in Lahore for their deads, why?

  3. surjit says:

    [quote comment=”1011″]Indeed this story is riding the wave of “Pakistan Bashing”. But GOP and Pakistanis should begin to realize the reality of the suppressed minorities in Pakistan. I was reading a piece that you wrote about Pakistani Jews a little while back. For those who havent read it yet, the phrase “Pakistani Jew” is not a ocntradiction but a reality. A reality that we have been brought up with. There were some families on my fathers side that were of the Jewish faith and were accepted openly back in the 50’s and 60’s. Our last name “Mir” is or Jewish origins (disputed). And a very important fact; The Merewether Tower, in Karachi around which everything in karachi revolves, bears a “Star of David” on each side of the Clock Tower.
    I’ll quote the Quaid: August 11, 1947, in the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan.

    “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed â€

  4. Pakistani Hindu says:

    Why do people want to tear down temples that are part of the culture and tradition of Pakistan,
    If we wipe this away you only kidding yourself …pakistan is aland of differetn cultures and customs , i am sorry but you need to accept that.

    there will will always be minorities in Pakistan THAT NEED TO FLOURISH PLS LEAVE THESE COMMUNITIES LAONE.

    RAVI

  5. Cintamanih devi dasi says:

    I would like to have devotee association while I am in Lahore in March, 2007. Please share with me some contact information here, make Krishna consciousness available to all who choose it, everywhere on the planet. Spiritual faith is our birthright, an individuals choice. The more secure we are on our chosen path, the more tolerant we become of others who chose a different path, because we are so steadfast in our faith that nothing can distract us from our mission. Jaya Sri Radhe!

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