The Times of India – ‘Fear drives Peshawar’s minorities to turn cremation ground into graveyard’

Yudhvir Rana

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 20 May 2018. In yet another twist to the Peshawar crematorium issue, the Sanskar Sewak Samiti (SSS), a Peshawar-based organization, has claimed that Hindus and Sikhs, who can’t afford to travel to the nearest crematorium (which is about 90km at Attock), are forced to bury their dead in a five-kanal (2,500 sq yards) cremation ground that has been turned into a graveyard following objections by the locals.

Former SSS president Zahid Kumar told TOI over the phone from Peshawar that after the Partition, they were allotted five-kanal land for a cremation ground, but due to opposition by neighbouring residents and some locals against burning the dead, they started burying them.

“We are peace loving minority communities of Pakistan, so we changed our last rituals so as to not create any bad blood,” said Zahid, adding that they had also got the platforms constructed for burning the dead ones, but they didn’t use them to maintain communal harmony.

He said both Sikhs and Hindus have filed a writ in a court urging it to direct the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) government to release Rs 3 crore, which was earmarked by it in 2017-18 budget for a crematorium for the minorities. The writ was filed by Gurpal Singh, a resident of Peshawar, said Zahid.

He said an ambulance charged something between Rs 6,000 and Rs 7,000, while a bus takes Rs 15,000 and Rs 18,000 to ferry a body to Attock for cremation.

“Sometimes when there are many relatives or friends, then there is requirement of two buses which costs anything around Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000,” he said, adding that everyone couldn’t afford the expenses.

Notably, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) president Manjit Singh GK has also appealed to the KPK government to provide land to the minority Sikh and Hindu communities of Peshwar for the cremation ground in the absence of which they were forced to bury their dead ones.

GK had also offered financial assistant for the construction work, which evoked sharp reaction from Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC).

Zahid said SSS provides conveyance expenses, wood and a pandit for the Hindu families who couldn’t afford to travel to Attock for cremation of their dead ones.

Daily Times – Sikh community express their issues at open court for minorities

For security, locals suggested that the personnel withdrawn from VIPs in KP should be provided to them instead

Peshawar – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – Pakistan, 28 April 2018. The Sikh community in the metropolis got a chance to put forward the issues they were facing, at an open court organised for the first time for minorities by the district administration at Gurdwara Bhai Joga Singh on Friday.

During the session, locals told Peshawar Deputy Commissioner Dr Imran Hamid that they lacked certain facilities in the area such as those pertaining to security.

They demanded security for their community school, saying it has been attacked in the past but still lacked proper security and safety measures. They were talking about the gun attack on the school that happened a few months back.

For security, locals suggested that the personnel withdrawn from VIPs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa should be provided to them instead. They were referring to the security claimed to have been withdrawn from influential people in KP over Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar’s directives during his visit to Peshawar on 19 April.

Sikh community members also spoke about hindrances they were facing in obtaining national identity cards, saying no officer attested their documents when they go for their NICs.

Besides, they added, the provincial government did not provide them the Sehat Insaf cards. The cards were issued to people of the province by KP government under its two-year health insurance scheme called Sehat Ka Insaf.

The locals also said stipend should be provided to caretakers of their gurdwaras just like a sum is allocated for prayer leaders of mosques. They also demanded a safe cremation ground to perform final rites of their deceased. “Even if it is a land of 20 marlas, we would accept it,” said one of the locals.

Participants at the open court said they were facing issues in getting basic facilities despite being regular tax payers.

They also demanded that the Sikh marriage bill be passed in the KP Assembly as well, just like it was done in Punjab. The Punjab Assembly passed a bill on March 14, making Sikh community marriages legal.

Other than stating their grievances to the deputy commissioner, locals expressed their pleasure at his arrival for the first time to the gurdwara.

After listening to locals’ concerns, the deputy commissioner promised their issues would be solved and formed a five-member community comprising district administration officials and Sikh community members.

The deputy commissioner said they would try their best to address the grievances as soon as they are communicated.

The open court was held at Gurdwara Bhai Joga Singh in Peshawar’s Mohalla Jogan Shah, one of the famous Sikh neighbourhood’s in the city.