Hindus’ holy sites a picture of neglect, says commission

Published February 8, 2021
The seventh report of the one-man Dr Shoaib Suddle commission submitted to the Supreme Court has depicted a dismal picture of most revered Hindu sites in the country. — Photo courtesy Supreme Court website/File
The seventh report of the one-man Dr Shoaib Suddle commission submitted to the Supreme Court has depicted a dismal picture of most revered Hindu sites in the country. — Photo courtesy Supreme Court website/File

ISLAMABAD: The seventh report of the one-man Dr Shoaib Suddle commission submitted to the Supreme Court has depicted a dismal picture of most revered Hindu sites in the country.

The report submitted to the apex court on February 5 regrets that the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) has failed to maintain most of the ancient and holy sites of the minority community.

The commission visited Katas Raj Mandir in Chakwal on January 6 and Prahlad Mandir in Multan on January 7. The report presents a general picture of decay and obliteration of two of the four most revered evacuee sites in Pakistan and their photographs have been attached to the report.

The one-man commission has been established by the Supreme Court but it has three supporting members, MNA Dr Ramesh Vankwani, Saqib Jillani and the attorney general for Pakistan, who has nominated the deputy attorney general to participate in fact-finding activities of the commission.

The report has requested the Supreme Court to direct the ETPB to get involved in the reconstruction of the desecrated Teri Mandir/Samaadhi and cooperate with the Khyber Pakh­­tun­khwa government for efficient implementation of the directives given by the apex court from time to time.

Report by Shoaib-led body submitted to Supreme Court

The report has suggested collaborative efforts in the renovation of Teri Mandir (Karak), Katas Raj Temples (Chakwal), Prahlad Mandir (Multan) and Hinglaj Mandir (Lasbela). It suggested an amendment to the ETPB Act to establish a working group for rehabilitation of the holy sites belonging to Hindus and Sikhs.

The report has said the Supreme Court had in its order of January 5 directed the ETPB “to submit a detailed report of all temples, Gurdawaras and other religious sites all over Pakistan which come under the purview of ETPB”.

The commission app­roached the ETPB on January 12 to get the requisite information within a week’s time so that the comments may be submitted to the Supreme Court before the next hearing date. A reminder was issued on January 21, but no response was received.

Finally, the ETPB responded on January 25, but ignored the commission’s format comprising six tables, “thus evading the details”.

According to the ETPB letter, out of 365 mandirs only 13 were being managed by them, leaving responsibility of 65 with the Hindu community, and practically abandoning the rest of 287 to the land mafias. “It is indeed strange that even in this age of technology, the ETPB has yet to get the evacuee properties geo-tagged,” the report highlighted.

The report has said that the ETPB, with its staff spread across the country and boasting huge paraphernalia, was managing 31 places of worship out of a total of 470.

The commission has raised objections over the ETPB’s response that non-functional Mandirs/Gurdawaras existed due to lack of population of Hindus/Sikhs. “However, there are several examples of active Mandirs, where no Hindu population resides, such as Hinglaj Mata Mandir in Balochistan and Shri Param Hans Ji Mahaaraj Mandir/Samaadhi at Teri in Karak district of KP...,” the report said.

Regarding mandir and samadhi in Teri, the report stated that after partition and resultant migration of Hindus to India, the local Muslims of Teri illegally occupied the entire mandir/samaadhi property. However, the ETPB remained unmoved.

In 1997, the Hindu community struck a deal with one of the illegal occupants to at least open up a passage to the samaadhi. But again the ETPB did not bother to get the possession of the samaadhi.

When the samaadhi was desecrated/demolished in August 1997, the ETPB even failed to lodge an FIR of such a tragic incident, and it was only after orders of the Supreme Court in 2015 that the board got the possession from illegal occupant, but not without active support of the Hindu community.

However, after handing over possession of just 1,604 sq-ft area to the Hindu community, the ETPB was never seen at the site of samaadhi, the report said. Nor did the ETPB bother to explore the actual area of mandir/samaadhi, despite the pursuance by the Hindu community. Even when nudged by the Supreme Court to start work for restoration of Teri Mandir/Samaadhi, the ETPB did not give any response for months.

The commission has reported that the ETPB has yet to reimburse the renovation expenses amounting to Rs38 million, after subtracting Rs2m paid by KP government.

The report alleged that the ETPB was only interested in occupation of valuable properties of migrated minorities, even after passage of more than 73 years, and charitable, worship and other joint properties of minority communities in hundreds of towns have been taken over by the ETPB.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2021

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