THE demolition of a Hindu temple in Karachi’s Garden area on Saturday raises some disturbing questions and is a prime example of the callous attitude that officialdom often has towards this country’s non-Muslim citizens. Reportedly, there is a dispute between a builder who claims to own the structure which contained the temple and residents, and the matter is in court. Yet the Pakistan Hindu Council and residents claim they were not given advance warning before the demolition squad showed up and that religious objects were desecrated during the operation. It has also been alleged that individuals accompanying the demolition squad took away religious objects as well as gold jewellery. Community members claim they have been living in the location for over a century. They say they have been harassed to vacate the land. An official of the cantonment board — the building falls under its jurisdiction — claims no place of worship was damaged in the “anti-encroachment” operation. However, images in the media of Hindu idols surrounded by rubble makes such denials questionable.
We are not assuming that the temple was deliberately targeted. Yet the matter should have been handled more tactfully considering the sensitivities, specifically the fact that a place of worship was involved. Would such action have been taken if a mosque had been built on illegally occupied land instead of a temple? Clumsily handled situations such as this only add to the discomfiture of minorities living in this country. As it is, in many instances non-Muslims have hardly been given equal treatment in Pakistan and have been increasingly marginalised with the growth of extremism. In such circumstances, disrespecting a non-Muslim place of worship only adds to the alienation. The authorities need to uncover the facts of the matter, especially regarding ownership, and apologise to the Hindu community for having hurt their sentiments by demolishing the temple. Even if the structure was illegally built, the community should be given an alternative site to build the temple. And if this is not the case and the demolition was illegal, then the temple should be rebuilt as it was.