Plot for Hindu temple in capital restored after public outcry

Published November 9, 2021
Workers build a boundary wall at the temple's site in Islamabad. — White Star/File
Workers build a boundary wall at the temple's site in Islamabad. — White Star/File

ISLAMABAD: The Capital Development Authority (CDA) on Monday came under severe criticism from the public for cancelling a plot allotted for the construction of a Hindu temple and cremation centre at H-9.

However, within hours the city managers had to withdraw a notification under which the plot had been cancelled.

The four kanals at H-9/2 was allotted to the community in 2016 for the construction of the first ever Hindu temple, cremation and community centre in the federal capital.

During hearing of a case in Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday, CDA’s counsel Javed Iqbal told the court that the civic agency had already cancelled the plot for the Hindu community in February this year for not starting construction on it.

Following this, the mainstream as well as social media criticised the CDA, forcing it to withdraw the notification and restore the plot within few hours.

CDA says plot cancellation was result of misinterpretation of cabinet’s decision

CDA spokesperson Syed Asif Raza said in the light of a decision of the federal cabinet, allotments of all lands allotted to various offices, universities and other institutions on which no construction work had been started were canceled.

However, the officials concerned in the civic agency misinterpreted the cabinet decision and had cancelled the plot allotted to the Hindu community. He said approval had already been given for construction of a boundary wall on the land allotted for the temple so the decision of the federal cabinet did not apply to it. This plot did not fall in the category of those where construction had not taken place, he added.

The spokesperson also shared a copy of the new allotment letter which stated: “The allotment of subject plot allotted for temple, community centre and cremation ground for Hindu community in Sector H-9/2, Islamabad, stands valid as the same is not affected by the cabinet decision dated 22-09-2020 as construction work on the subject plot had been initiated after approval of CDA dated 21-12-2020.”

It added: “In view of the above, Directorate of Estate Management II’s letter dated 15-2-2021 stands withdrawn as ab-initio.”

Asked if the CDA will initiate any inquiry against those who misinterpreted the cabinet’s decision, he said: “Actually, there was no bad intention involved in this case. There was some sort of confusion and misinterpretation of the cabinet decision and when the matter was brought into the notice of high-ups, the allotment was restored immediately.”

He added that it was the legal and constitutional right of all citizens to observe their faith and the CDA had been playing its positive role in this regard.

In July last year, after strong reaction from rightwing groups, who criticised the government for its intention to build a Hindu temple with government funding, the CDA all of a sudden stopped the community from constructing the boundary wall around the plot.

However, the matter was resolved in December when the city managers issued permission to the community to raise the boundary wall around the proposed site.

The permission letter issued in December stated: “Permission to construct the boundary wall around cremation ground for Hindu community in H-9/2 is hereby accorded in accordance with clause 4.1.1 of Islamabad Capital Territory, Building Control Regulations 2020.”

It said the height of the boundary wall shall not exceed seven feet and that of the enclosure not less than three feet.

There is no temple and cremation centre in Islamabad for the Hindu community. After lots of efforts by the community and on the direction of the Human Right Commission of Pakistan, the CDA allotted the four kanals to the community in 2016.

In the past, there was a temple in Saidpur village but that was abandoned decades ago.

The cancellation and subsequent restoration letters were addressed to former president Islamabad Hindu Panchayat, Preetam Das. Last year, a delegation of the Hindu Panchayat led by its president Mahesh Kumar had held a meeting with the CDA chairman and informed him that the Council of Islamic Ideology had given a ruling for the construction of a crematorium in Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2021

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