THE CDA’s withdrawal of a notification regarding the cancellation of allotment of a plot reserved for a Hindu temple and cremation centre demonstrates how crucial public pressure is to ensuring that the state takes affirmative action for minority communities.
In 2017, the CDA allotted four kanals of land to the Hindu community residing in Islamabad. But last year, because of pressure from right-wing religious groups, the CDA stopped the community from constructing a boundary wall around the land. It also emerged during a hearing of the Islamabad High Court on Monday that the CDA had cancelled the allotment of the temple site in February 2021 because construction had not begun. This led to criticism on social media, forcing the CDA to restore the allotment within a few hours.
With this move, around 3,000 members of the Hindu community in Islamabad and its adjoining areas might finally have a designated place to perform religious rituals and organise festivals. In contrast to the fickle-headed approach of the authorities, public pressure prevailed, enabling the government to stand by its decision of extending to the beleaguered Hindu community their constitutional right to practise their religion.
However, public pressure alone cannot do much if the state is unwilling to take action for the protection of marginalised groups. In this context, Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed’s inauguration of a restored temple last week in Karak, KP, was a notable gesture of support for Pakistan’s minority communities. The Teri temple had been destroyed in December last year by a mob led by members of a far-right religious party.
His visit not only showed support of the highest court of the land to the Hindu community, it also sent a message to extremist groups that the state will not always surrender to their diktat. But though these are important steps, they are not enough unless combined with reformative changes such as those mentioned in the 2014 Supreme Court judgement authored by the then chief justice Tassaduq Jillani.
Published in Dawn, November 10th, 2021