LAHORE: The only functional Hindu temple in Lahore has been demolished to pave the way for construction of a multi-storied commercial building despite the fact that the Pakistan government had ordered its renovation and extension last year which was to be completed by June 2006.
The temple was demolished last week after the Evacuee Property Trust Board (EPTB), the government body maintaining properties of minorities, specially Hindus and Sikhs, granted due permission to a jeweller to demolish the temple and construct a commercial building in its place at Wachhowali in Rang Mahal. The EPTB had approved the demolition in violation of its own Scheme for Management and Disposal of Urban Evacuee Trust Properties, 1977, which categorically prohibits the sale or demolition of an evacuee trust property that is part of appurtenance to a shrine, a religious place or a building of historical or architectural importance.
According to the Pandit of the demolished temple, Kashi Ram, many opposition members of the National Assembly belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League, had attempted to block the demolition by moving a motion in Parliament, saying such an act could have a bearing on Pakistan’s relations with neighbouring countries. However, some powerful members of the ruling party considered close to the builders, in collusion with EPTB chairman, Lt Gen Zulfiqar Ali Khan, failed their efforts and got the temple demolished for a few crore rupees, thus giving a clear cut message to the small Hindu community in Pakistan that they are Pakistanis but without rights of citizenship.
Another aspect of the case is that following instructions from the Prime Minister’s Secretariat, the EPTB had allocated a sum of Rs 12 lakh in January 2005 for the renovation and extension of the Krishna Mandir. The Krishna temple had been badly damaged in clashes that took place after the demolition of the Babari Mosque in India way back in 1990. The Hindu community used to celebrate several religious events at this temple and had been facing numerous problems due to the lack of a proper worship place and guest rooms for pilgrims at the temple.
After being approached by a Hindu member of the National Assembly, the PM Secretariat had directed the ETPB to carry out the renovation and extension of the temple. Strangely enough, the official website of the Minorities Affairs Division of the Pakistan government states that the tender for the renovation and extension of the Krishna Mandir was awarded on March 31, 2005 and 55 per cent of the work had been completed by June 30, 2005. The three rooms of the temple were to be converted into a big hall for the worshippers and it was to be completely restored by June 2006. It is not yet clear as to under which law the EPTB had sold the property and approved the demolition of the temple.