100-year-old temple demolished in Pakistan, angry Hindus asks govt to arrange tickets to India

December 4, 2012 by  
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Rubble of a Hindu temple demolished in Karachi

Rubble of a Hindu temple demolished in Karachi

Pakistan, December 3, 2012: A century-old temple in Karachi was hurriedly demolished by a builder despite a Pakistani court hearing a petition seeking a stay on such a move, triggering protests by the minority Hindu community on Sunday.

Besides razing the pre-Partition Shri Rama Pir Mandir in Karachi’s Soldier Bazar, the builder demolished several houses near it on Saturday.

Nearly 40 people, a majority of them Hindus, became homeless as a result, The Express Tribune reported on Sunday.

Following the demolition, the Pakistan Hindu Council organised a protest outside the Karachi Press Club on Sunday afternoon.

They protested the demolition by the builder and the lack of action on the part of authorities.

The Sindh High Court is hearing a petition seeking a stay on any move to demolish Shri Rama Pir Mandir.

“They destroyed our ‘mandir’ and humiliated our gods,” an angry man named Prakash was quoted as saying by the Tribune.

The demolition team placed the statues of four Hindu deities to one side, but local residents accused them of taking away gold jewellery and crowns that had adorned the statues.

Pointing to bruises on his arms, another man identified as Lakshman said, “They hit me with their guns when I tried to stop them. I told them to kill me instead of destroying our holy place.”

Hindu Houses DemolishedA woman named Banwri said the demolition team arrived at around 11 am while she was preparing breakfast.

She rushed outside when she heard the sound of a bulldozer and was given instructions to move her bed, cupboard and other essential items outside her home.

“I watched my house go down in just minutes and I couldn’t do anything,” she said.

Banwri said that during the demolition, the area was cordoned off by police and paramilitary Pakistan Rangers.

Outsiders were not allowed to enter the area, she added.

Saveeta was among the 40-odd people who lost their homes. With her husband away from Karachi, she said she and her three children would spend the nights in the open.

The area around the temple had 150 Hindu residents and some four families lived in each of the houses that were demolished, according to an elderly resident named Kaali Das.

“People were living in cramped houses, separated only by curtains. Over here, we live like animals,” he said.

Angered by the demolition, the Hindus demanded that the government should arrange tickets to India for them. “If you don’t want us, we will go to India,” screamed a woman.

Another man said the temple was “as sacred to us as your mosque is to you.”

However, police officials completely denied the existence of the temple.

They said they had orders to remove “encroachments”.

DSP Pervaiz Iqbal said, “There was no temple there. There were just Hindu gods present inside the houses and we made sure that they were safe.”

The people were given plenty of time to remove their belongings from their houses, he said.

“We did not injure anyone. In fact, those people threw stones on us and our SHO Abid Hussain Shah was injured,” he added.

The local residents managed to find a plaque of the temple from under the debris.

Maharaj Badri, who lived inside the temple, denied that the land had been encroached upon.

“Our ancestors have been living here since independence. We are not encroachers,” he said.

Military Lands and Cantonment Director Zeenat Ahmed contended the temple was “untouched” and denied it was demolished.

The operation was aimed against illegal occupants and temples are “old grant property,” she said.”The builder had possession of the place since years and these people were encroachers, and encroachers have no religion,” Ahmed said.

President Asif Ali Zardari took note of reports of the demolition of the temple in Karachi and sought a report on the incident from concerned authorities, presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.

Zardari had expressed concern at the reports and directed authorities to look into the matter “to ensure that no discrimination was made to any community in any manner”, Babar said.

The President reiterated the governments commitment to continue safeguarding the rights of minorities as enshrined in the Constitution.

– india today.in

The homeless will brave cold nights and put up a fight

Members of the Hindu community protest outside the press club

Members of the Hindu community protest outside the press club

Pakistan, December 3, 2012: The houses in Soldier Bazaar which were demolished on Saturday used to be spaces where 40 people built their lives and nurtured their children. Now, they are nothing more than debris which the homeless will use as pillows as they sleep under the open sky.

Around three or four houses and a century-old temple, the Shri Rama Pir Mandir, were demolished by a private builder. The swift operation seemed to have emerged out of the blue and caught the residents unawares.

“We are protesting against the injustice by staying out on the streets. We won’t leave or move in with our relatives,” said Kaali Das, an elder of the community. “We will sit on the road till our temples and houses are rebuilt.”

Other members of the Hindu community are also livid at the demolition of the temple. A petition had been filed in the Sindh High Court, seeking a stay order against its demolition. On Saturday, the court did restrain the local administration and the private builder from tearing down the pre-partition temple till December 7, but it was razed before the stay order could come in.

The homeless as well as other members of the community made their way on Sunday to the press club, vociferously demanding justice. “We don’t have any shelter. Our children spent Saturday night shivering in the cold. We were made homeless in just seconds. What was our fault?” shouted Pooja. Around her, women clad in bright saaris beat their chests, crying that the temple was desecrated.

People holding placards demanded the President to help rebuild the temple. “If a mosque was desecrated, the culprit would have been killed immediately. But nobody seems to be bothered about the temple,” said Lal Jee of the Soldier Bazaar Panchayat.

The residents of the neighbourhood whose houses were spared during the operation are providing food to the homeless people but demanded the government to help out as soon as possible.

Missing deity?

Pakistan Hindu Council’s patron, Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, said the police had seized the deity of Shankar Bhagwan and have yet to return it. “During the operation, the police put all the deities in their vehicle and took away all the gold ornaments  as well as the crown. While the other deities have been returned, the idol of Shankar Bhagwan and gold has yet to be given back.”

However, DSP Pervaiz Iqbal of the Nabi Buksh police station refuted the claims. “What would we do with their deities? We don’t have them and neither do we have the gold.”

Conspicuous by absence

Earlier on Sunday, reports floated that the provincial minorities minister, Mohan Lal, would visit the site. But he didn’t show up and hasn’t taken notice of the incident so far. The minister for excise and taxation, Mukesh Chawla, who has on various occasions stated that the minorities enjoy full protection in the province, has yet to take action as well. He was unavailable for comment.

MPA Pitanbar Sewani vowed to bring up the issue in the upcoming session of the Sindh Assembly. He said the Protection of Religious Minorities Properties Act 2012 was badly needed. He said the bill would be presented in the next Sindh Assembly session. “We will introduce the bill soon and hope that it is passed by the house. The law will protect the houses of worship of the religious minorities and punish the perpetrators.”

– express tribune

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