Three pistol-waving bearded Muslim men stormed a 60-year-old temple in Pakistan’s largest and most cosmopolitan city, Karachi, and desecrated the murti (idol) of Bhavani Mata, leading to fear among the minority Pakistani Hindu community there.
The incident happened on January 21 when the three Muslim men clad in salwar and kameez stormed the temple waving pistols and ordered everyone inside the premises to step out. They then proceed to desecrate one of the three beautifully-decorated murtis at the temple near the Karachi Zoological Gardens. The temple is dedicated to Hindu females deities of Shitala Mata, Santoshi Mata and Bhavani Mata – all manifestations of the feminine divine Shakti, worshipped in Hindu Dharma alone.
People are afraid now: Hindu priest
“The people are afraid of coming here for puja now after the attack,” said Maharaj Hira Lal.
About the significance of this little temple, he said it was built as a small place for puja by his paternal grandfather some 60 years ago. “He was childless but adopted a 14-year-old boy, Mohan, who he brought up as his son. The young boy was soon married to Champa Bai, who lived nearby in Soldier Bazaar. And I am Mohan and Champa’s son. By the grace of Shitala Mata, my parents had five daughters and two sons including myself,” the Maharaj provided a bit of his background.
“The private temple soon became known when several women considered unable to give birth to children came to perform puja here following which they were able to conceive. Then some eight years ago, during regular puja here, devotees witnessed another miracle when Kali Mata’s footprints made from red holy powder abir suddenly appeared beside the mantel,” the Maharaj added. “I know I should have registered this temple long ago but I don’t know how to go about it, quite frankly. Puja-paat is all that I know,” he said.
“From the donations by devotees, we have been able to strengthen the walls of this room that houses the temple and raise its ceiling. My mother, Champa Bai, and sister, Lalitha, bathe the deities and dress and decorate them while keeping the place clean and pure. We are very saddened by the incident. It has really terrorized the neighbourhood.
“There are four Hindu households in the quarters near gate no 5 of the zoo and 15 more near gate no 1. More who have heard about the miracles of this temple travel here from all over the city. But all have stopped coming here now after being threatened. Word spreads around fast. Pakistani Hindus are handful of peace-loving members of a religious minority. We feel extremely insecure after what has happened,” he concluded.
This incident again highlights the extreme persecution which Hindus in Pakistan face – temple desecration and demolishment, land grabbing, kidnapping, rape, forced conversion, sex trafficking are some of the day to day problems this truly peaceful minority community has to deal with. The legal discrimination against them just makes the matter worse – even 68 years after Independence, Pakistani Hindus cannot register their marriages; they are subject to jurisdiction of the draconian Federal Shariat Court in spite of not subscribing to Islamic principles; they are Constitutionally barred from several high offices.
Deep rooted persecution of Pakistani Hindus by Pakistani State
- Hindu parents fear giving their babies identifiable Hindu names, as they would become the target of Muslim extremists.
- Pakistani Hindus live in constant fear of threats to their lives and property, desecrations of their places of worship, and punishment under the Blasphemy Act.
- Noted human rights activist Suhas Chakma went even further by describing the current system in Pakistan as “religious apartheid.”
- In Pakistan, Islam has become institutionalized and pervades all aspects of the legal system. Article 41(2) expressly provides that an individual must be Muslim in order to hold the office of President of Pakistan.
- The Constitution also provides that high office holders must take the oath of office by invoking an Islamic prayer, regardless of whether they are Muslim.
- The Constitution and other statutory laws favor Muslims and directly and indirectly discriminate against religious minorities, thereby making them second-class citizens.
- The blasphemy laws, which are part of Pakistan’s Penal Code, impose severe punishments for insults to the Prophet Mohammed or desecration of the Koran.
- On March 24, 2005, Pakistan restored the discriminatory practice of mandating the identification of religion of individuals in all new passports.
- The continued demolition and encroachment of Hindu temples in Pakistan is often accomplished with the tacit support of government authorities and police.
- Many Hindu temples in Pakistan have also been converted into picnic areas, hotels, schools, and business centers. In many of these instances, the Hindu community lacked control over the sites, and the government failed to maintain the properties. As a result, several of the temples have been illegally converted. The following are some specific examples
- In Dera Ismail Khan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province), a Muslim group illegally acquired the 700-year-old Kali Bari Mandir and converted it into a hotel.
- The Raam Kunday Mandir in Islamabad, once considered a sacred site by Pakistani Hindus, is being converted into a picnic area.
- Eminabad in Gujranwala region has several temples dating back to the 15th century, which are in serious decay. Most of them are now being used as stables to provide shelter to donkeys, horses, and other animals.
- A famous Hanuman temple in Chakwal (Punjab province) is being used by the workers of salt mines as their office.
- In Punjab’s Bakkar city, Sheeran Wali Mandir has been used by Islamic clerics as a madrassa.
- One of the major reasons temples in Pakistan are facing such dire straits is the inability of the Hindu community to independently control their own places of worship. Currently, the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), a government body, is responsible for managing a large number of Hindu properties, including temples.
- The Trust Board, however, lacks adequate Hindu representation and has consistently failed to consult Hindu organizations, such as the Pakistan Hindu Council, before making decisions regarding Hindu properties and places of worship. In May 2008, for instance, the ETPB leased a 100-year old Hindu temple to a Muslim man in Karachi, who converted the sacred site into an auto repair workshop.
(This article has been curated from a Dawn news article)