TRT World – Pakistan needs to do more than renovate temples to tackle minority issues

In recent years, Pakistan has increasingly invested in renovations to both Sikh gurdwaras and Hindu temples, but structural problems still exist with its minorities.

Haroon Khalid

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 20 August 2019. On the morning of December 7 1992, a mob gathered in the courtyard of the Valmiki Hindu temple in Anarkali Lahore, one of the two functional Hindu temples in the city, which had a considerable Hindu population before the creation of Pakistan in 1947, including several functioning temples.

According to mythology, the origin of Lahore, the second-most populous city in Pakistan, is attributed to the son of the Hindu deity, Ram. During Partition riots, communities that had lived together for generations were torn asunder, with the majority of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs, forced or choosing to migrate to India.

A day before the gathering in Lahore, news of the destruction of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, India, had dominated headlines. Led by the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a mob had brought down this historic mosque. They claimed the mosque had been created after destroying a Hindu temple that marked the place of birth of the Hindu deity, Ram.

In retaliation to the destruction of the mosque, hundreds of mobs gathered all over Pakistan seeking to ‘avenge’ desecration of the mosque. Numerous Hindu temples were destroyed, as the state quietly looked on. Like numerous other Hindu temples, most of which were either abandoned or taken over by people to be used as residences and for other purposes, the Valmiki Temple in Anarkali was looted, destroyed and then burned.

Carved out of British-India, the two countries of India and Pakistan became Hindu and Muslim dominated respectively. While India shocked by consciously defining itself as a ‘secular’ country, Pakistan whole-heartedly embraced its Muslim identity.

On the one hand, this Muslim identity meant taking up Islamic symbols and the Islamisation of state institutions, on the other hand, it was defined in opposition to the ‘Hindu identity’.

Festivals that had Hindu origin, words which had entered the vernacular via Sanskrit, and other customs that were perceived to be part of ‘Hindu culture’ were jettisoned. The phenomena gained momentum particularly in the aftermath of the 1965 and 1971 wars with India. Hindu became synonymous with India, the enemy.

Anti-Hindu rhetoric gained currency in public discourse, including the education system, with Hindus being labelled as ‘cunning’, ‘scheming’, ‘deceptive’ and ‘mischievous’ in school textbooks that were taught to young students all across the country. As these children grew up the narratives became part of the worldview of the politicians, bureaucrats, judges, army officers and media representatives.

With the Hindu minority in Pakistan dwindling, generations of Pakistanis grew up without ever encountering a Hindu in their social setting. ‘Hindu’ became a distorted figment of their imagination rather than an actual person. In this environment, acts of violence against the minuscule Hindu minority, including forced conversion, and the property grabbing of Hindu temples went unnoticed.

The situation began to change in the last couple of decades under the military dictatorship of Pervez Musharraf. With Pakistan in limelight in the aftermath of 9/11 and the war on terror, the state was desperate to project a more ‘progressive’ image of the country.

Calling it ‘Enlightened Moderation’, the Musharraf government particularly reached out to the religious minorities and oversaw the renovation of a few Sikh gurdwaras and Hindu temples. For example the ancient Hindu temple of Katas Raj in Punjab was renovated and opened to pilgrims.

Similarly a historical Hindu temple in Islamabad was renovated and made part of the ‘model village’ of Saidpur. With the patronage of the state, the media responded as well, increasing the coverage of minority issues in Pakistan.

In 2008, Pakistan elected a civilian government, which continued the promotion of this ‘soft image’. Many more Sikh gurdwaras and Hindu temples were renovated. Just last month, a historic Hindu temple in Sialkot was renovated. The action received widespread appreciation.

It seems as if the state which in 1992 had looked on passively as mobs destroyed Hindu temples has taken a swift turn and is now actively protecting its Hindu heritage, a far cry from what has happened across the border during Indian Prime Minister Modi’s tenure in office.

While these actions are praiseworthy and do to some extent represent a qualitative change in how the state views itself, it needs to be kept in mind that these actions are more symbolic than they are a systematic change.

The fact remains that the Hindu minority of Pakistan is a persecuted minority. The forced conversion for many Hindu girls is a widespread issue and often representatives of the state are silent spectators as these atrocities occur.

The education system remains problematic, continuing to depict Hindus in an ‘otherised’ form. Journalists and sometimes politicians often resort to an ‘anti-Hindu’ language when tensions flare with India. The Pakistani identity it seems is still deeply rooted in separation from the ‘Hindu identity’.

While lip service is paid to the need to secure rights for religious minorities in Pakistan, with the renovation of a handful of Hindu temples as an example of this, the social structures that result in this persecution and exclusion remain intact.

These acts might win the state accolades but it hardly changes the reality of religious minorities in Pakistan.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.

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The Hindu – SAD, BJP team to meet PM over Guru Ravidas temple demolition

SAD, BJP team to meet PM

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 16 August 2019. Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal on Thursday said a SAD-BJP delegation would soon meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and urge him to provide a piece of land for rebuilding the Guru Ravidas temple which was demolished in Delhi’s Tughlakabad area.

The delegation would ask the Prime Minister to assuage the hurt feelings of the Dalit community and find an amicable solution, he told a gathering on the occasion of ‘Rakhar Punia’ here.

Sint-Pieters Woluwe – Notre Dame Chant d’oiseau

Église notre dame des graces
Sint-Pieters Woluwe
01 Augustus 2019

Église notre dame des graces
Onze-Lieve-Vrouw der Genadekerk

Église notre dame des graces
Onze-Lieve-Vrouw der Genadekerk

MIVB – STIB Bus to Schuman

Notre Dame Chant d’oiseau
Sint-Pieters Woluwe
01 Augustus 2019

Avenue des Franciscains – Franciskanenlaan

Notre Dame Chant d’oiseau

The park behind the conference centre

Young trees

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Published in: on August 12, 2019 at 6:07 am  Leave a Comment  

The Tribune – 72 years after Partition, Pakistan opens Gurdwara Choa Sahib for Sikh devotees

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 02 August 2019. Seventy-two years after Partition, Pakistan on Friday opened the doors of the historic Gurdwara Choa Sahib in Punjab province to Sikh devotees, including from India, in the run-up to the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in November.

Lying closed since 1947 after Sikh community members from the area migrated from Pakistan, the gurdwara in the Jhelum district of Punjab province was in a state of neglect.

The Gurdwara Choa Sahib, located close to Rohtas Fort, a UNESCO world heritage site, was reopened in a colourful ceremony in the presence of several high officials and community members.

The ceremony began with an ‘ardaas’ (prayer) and ‘kirtans’ (devotional songs) performed by Sikh community members. Dr Aamer Ahmed, chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) that looks after the holy places of minorities in Pakistan, was the chief guest.

Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhik Committee (PSGPC) president Sardar Satwant Singh was also present on the occasion.

“Gurdwara Choa Sahib has been opened for worship and visit. It is also opened for foreign Sikhs, whether they come from India or any other part of the world, they are welcomed to visit this historical place,” ETPB spokesperson Amir Hashmi told PTI.

The restoration work of the gurdwara is underway, he added.

Commissioned by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the gurdwara was completed in 1834. It is believed that Guru Nanak, who was returning from nearby Tilla Jogian temples, stayed at the place, which was reeling under drought-like situation at that time.

Guru Nanak is said to have struck the earth with his cane and moved a stone, thereby revealing a natural water spring (choa) in the area.

Recently Pakistan also opened the centuries-old Shawala Teja Singh mandir in the eastern city of Sialkot for “worship”.

The mandir was also reopened after 72 years of Partition on the demand of the local Hindu community.

Oostende: De Lijn Stelplaats – Orthodox Church

De Lijn Stelplaats
22 June 2019

De Lijn – tram of the 75 km Coastal Line 0

New tracks

Orthodox Church
Kyrillos & Methodios
22 June 2019

Oostende Orthodox Church

Goedheidstraat – Goodness street

Goedheidstraat 9 – 8400 Oostende

Overvloedstraat – Abundance Street

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Oostende: Flowers – Mercator – Ravi Das Bhavan

Oostende Flowers
22 June 2019


Oostende Mercator
22 June 2019



Oostende Ravi Das Bhavan
22 June 2019

Bhagat Ravidas, one of the authors of the Guru Granth Sahib

Sri Guru Ravi Das Bhavan

Plakkerstraat 33, 8400 Oostende

We pushed the bell,
a man answered in English, but did not let us in

Open from 04:00 till 05:30and from 17:30 till – 18:30

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Dawn – Hindu council delegation visits ancient temple site in AJK

Muzaffarabad – Azad Jammu and Kashmir – Pakistan, 26 June 2019. A five-member delegation of Pakistan Hindu Council, led by ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNA Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, visited an ancient temple site in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Tuesday in what was believed to pave way for throwing the area open for religious tourism.

Located in Sharda, some 137 kilometres northeast of here in the upper belt of Neelum valley, the temple is revered by the Hindu community, particularly the Kashmiri Hindu Pandits.

In India-held Kashmir, a committee by the name of ‘Save Sharda’ has been campaigning for opening up of an exclusive crossing along the Line of Control for “pilgrimage” to Sharda by the Hindu community.

The committee is led by Ravinder Pandita. Sources in the AJK government told Dawn that immediately they had no plans to allow visitors from across the divide to this site.

According to them, a few months back AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider had indicated at a high-level meeting that Pakistan-based Hindu community would be allowed, in the first place, to visit Sharda.

It was in the wake of this decision that senior civilian and military authorities had undertaken a joint visit to Sharda to see for themselves the facilities and requirements in the event of influx of religious tourists.

Both authorities had resolved to take joint measures “on an urgent basis” to protect archaeological sites and promote ecotourism in AJK.

According to sources, prime minister Haider had made up his mind around same time to invite Dr Vankwani as a first Hindu visitor to the area.

Dr Vankwani arrived in Muzaffarabad late on Monday along with four other members of Pakistan Hindu Council, and called on Mr Haider at a dinner in the PM House.

Speaking to him, Mr Haider pointed out that Kashmir was home to the followers of different religions and faiths since centuries and enjoyed exemplary religious harmony.

“Religious extremism had never found space in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly in Kashmir Valley. Even the struggle against autocratic Dogra regime was not on religious lines but it was aimed at achieving long suppressed political and civil rights,” he said.

Mr Haider however recalled that the 1947 pogrom against Jammu-based Muslims had vitiated disputed Himalayan region’s peaceful and harmonious atmosphere.

He told the visitors that his government had conceived a comprehensive plan to protect and revive the worship and other sacred places of non-Muslims and only recently he had visited a Hindu temple in the heart of Muzaffarabad city to see for himself its repair and renovation work.

Dr Vankwani expressed his gratitude to the AJK premier and said since Sharda was a revered site for Hindus they wanted to work in close coordination with the AJK government for its renovation and preservation.

According to sources, Dr Vankwani and his colleagues were accompanied to Sharda by AJK Secretary for Tourism and Information Ms Midhat Shahzad, Director General, Tourism and Archaeology, Pirzada Irshad Ahmed, and some other officials on the direction of Mr Haider.

However, they could not be reached on phone due to weak mobile phone coverage in the mountainous area.

Associated Press of Pakistan – British Sikh businessmen to donate Rs 96.5 billion to upgrade religious sites in Pakistan

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 11 June 2019. The Peter Virdee Foundation (PVF) and some Sikh businessmen living in the United Kingdom have announced to donate £500 million (Rs 96.5 billion ) to upgrade their religious sites in Pakistan.

The commitment was made by the PVF, a non-governmental organization working for marginalized section of the society, in a meeting with Chairman National Tourism Coordination Board (NTCB) Sayed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari in London.

Zulfikar Bukhari, talking to APP by phone from London on Tuesday said the PVF’s announcement for setting up the £500 million fund depicted how the government was channelising available resources for promoting religious tourism effectively.

British Sikh businessmen to donate Rs 96.5 billion to upgrade religious sites in Pakistan

Gent Phoenixstraat – Gentbrugge Peter Benoitlaan – Gent-Sint-Pieters

Gent Phoenixstraat
VZW El-Albani
12 May 2019

Albanian Islamic Cultural Centre Ghent

Gentbrugge Peter Benoitlaan
13 May 2019

Inspired by South American art ?

Santo is a meeting point in Gentbrugge
Everybody welcome

16 May 2019

Do not board this train

I am waiting for the 08:57 to Mechelen

Train to Tongeren via Aalst, Aarschot and Hasselt

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Dag van de Arbeid: Hand in Hand – Gent-Sint-Pieters – Leuven NMBS

Dag van de Arbeid
01 May 2019

Hand-in-Hand supporters

This family also joined the parade

04 May 2019

Brussel Centraal – Eupen via Leuven

Escalators out of order, we had to use the stairs

Track 10 IC train to Brussel and Eupen

Leuven NMBS
04 May 2019

Track 5: Brussel – Blankenberge via Gent

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