Villagers stand on the roof of the shrine after setting it on fire in Karak. (Below) A damaged portion of the Hindu Samadhi. — Dawn
Villagers stand on the roof of the shrine after setting it on fire in Karak. (Below) A damaged portion of the Hindu Samadhi. — Dawn

KARAK/ISLAMABAD: A mob set on fire the shrine of a Hindu saint and demolished several of its parts in Teri area of Karak on Wednesday, eyewitnesses said.

Police and local people said that before the attack on the shrine, a meeting of clerics was held at Shanki Adda in Teri.

The enraged people were raising slogans vowing they would not permit any construction work of the shrine in the area.

The Samadhi (shrine) of Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaj is considered sacred by the Hindu community.

The Hindu devotees, especially from Sindh, used to visit it.

CM directs police to arrest people involved in damaging Samadhi

District Police Officer Irfanullah told Dawn that an FIR was registered against two local clerics identified as Maulvi Mohammad Sharif and Maulana Faizullah and several other unidentified persons.

He said that the protesters were peaceful in the initial stage but on the provocation of some clerics they turned violent and attacked the shrine.

However, the local clerics claimed that the Hindu community had given a contract of the expansion of the shrine to a local contractor which was not acceptable to the people. The speakers in the meeting claimed that they were ready to accept the verdict of the Supreme Court of the country wholeheartedly.

The local people claimed that the Hindu community provided funds for the expansion of the shrine which was in violation of the court’s judgment.

The local people led by religious clerics went to the shrine and stopped the expansion work forcibly.

Several of the charged protesters set on fire the shrine. They used spades and other tools to damage some parts of the building. The protesters remained there for several hours and dispersed after demolition of some of portions of the building.

The controversy over the Samadhi of Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaj erupted many decades ago. The Supreme Court had in 2015 ordered the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to restore and reconstruct the Hindu shrine.

The order was issued over a petition of an MNA, Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwami, who was at that time in PML-N and later joined PTI.

He is also patron of the Pakistan Hindu Council. He had claimed that the Samadhi of Shri Paramhans Mahraj had been occupied by an influential cleric of the area.

A letter written by the then deputy commissioner of Karak to a deputy secretary of the provincial home department in February 2014, which was submitted to the Supreme Court, had stated that a Hindu shrine was constructed at a place where Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaj died in 1919 and buried in Teri village. His followers used to visit the place to pay their respect and the practice continued till 1997 when some local people dismantled the shrine.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mahmood Khan also took notice of demolition of the Hindu shrine. In a statement issued here, he directed police to take immediate action against the attackers and submit a report in that regard.

Mr Khan said that those involved in destruction of shrine would be brought to justice. He said that the incident was condemnable. He said that his government would ensure protection to the lives and properties of minorities at any cost.

PM’s special representative, minister condemn incident

The special representative to prime minister on religious harmony and federal minister for human rights have condemned vandalising of the shrine of a Hindu saint in Karak district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Hafiz Mohammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, the special representative to prime minister on religious harmony and Middle East, has asked the provincial government and district administration of Karak to take immediate action against the people involved in damaging the Hindu saint shrine.

The chairman of National Commission on Minorities, Chela Ram Kewlani, has strongly condemned the incident. “I cannot imagine that this type of incident can take place in the country where we have given our blood and lives for many generations. Those, who have done this criminal act, cannot be called human beings,” he said.

He also appealed to the relevant authorities to take strict action against the perpetrators of the act.

“This is indeed a black day for all of us. I request people from all religions to come forward and support the cause so that strict action should be taken against the people responsible for it,” he added.

Similarly, Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari too strongly condemned burning of the sacred place of Hindus by a mob in Karak.

In her tweet, she said the KP government must ensure culprits are brought to justice. She said that the Ministry of Human Rights was also acting over the matter.

“We as a government have a responsibility to ensure safety and security of all our citizens and their places of worship,” she said.

The minister also held a meeting with Parliamentary Secretary for Human Rights Lal Chand Malhi. It was agreed in the meeting that Mr Malhi would proceed to Karak on Thursday (today) and console the custodians of the shrine and discuss the matter with local authorities.

In his message, Mr Malhi condemned the incident and said that the miscreants wanted to defame Pakistan. He expressed the confidence that the authorities would take action against the culprits and they would be punished as per law.

Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2020

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