An ancient Hanuman mandir was destroyed on Sunday evening by a builder in Lyari, Karachi, exploiting the situation of Covid-19 lockdown. Local Hindus are hurt and angry at the deception of the builder who had assured them that the temple would not be touched.
Pakistani news outlet The Express Tribune reports –
“The police sealed a construction site where a pre-Partition Hindu temple was allegedly demolished by a builder on Monday. Dozens of Hindu families had gathered at the site on the narrow streets of Fida Hussain Sheikh Road in Lyari after they heard that the Hanuman Mandir there had been razed the previous evening.
“It is an injustice as a place of worship has been destroyed,” decried an elderly onlooker, Mohammad Irshad Baloch. “It was an old temple. We have been seeing it since we were children.”
A resident of the area, Heera Lal, informed The Express Tribune that there had been 18 families living near the temple. “We were assured by the builder that the temple would not be destroyed,” he insisted, adding that the demolition had taken place late on Sunday evening.
“No one was allowed to visit the temple during the lockdown,” explained Haresh, another resident who often visited the temple before. “He [the builder] exploited the situation [of the pandemic] and demolished our place of worship while we could not visit it,” he cried, demanding that the temple be restored.
He, too, claimed the builder had promised the area’s Hindu residents that the temple would not be demolished, adding that all the families living around it were even assured of alternative housing.
As the news spread, several of Lyari’s Hindu residents trickled to the temple, voicing their disappointment and anger as they spoke to the officials present there.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Mohan Lal, a Hindu activist, accused the builder of threatening members of the minority community who had assembled at the site and highlighted the temple’s demolition.
“We tried to enter the temple but were denied entry by the builder,” he narrated, adding that the man had deceived the residents living there. “We will not allow anyone to demolish our places of worship in this manner,” he added.”
The elderly caretaker of the mandir broke down in tears while talking to a local news channel about the destruction-
He is the Maharaj of the Hanuman Mandir which has been destroyed by a builder. He is crying because he has been taking care of the temple for years. Why taking away our religious places like that? @ShireenMazari1 , Will you take any action? pic.twitter.com/TPkwJ2Yrgc
— Voice of Pakistan Minority (@voice_minority) August 19, 2020
Another man in the above clip says, “We don’t even know what they did with the murtis…no one is telling us anything.”
As usual, Pakistani authorities are obfuscating the issue. A deputy commissioner told The Express Tribune that ‘there had previously been two temples there, but one of them had already been moved earlier’. He reiterated that an inquiry had been launched into the incident, adding that they would examine all aspects of it. “A committee will be formed for the purpose, including an archaeologist, and the probe will be completed within seven days,” he claimed. “We will ensure that everyone will get justice.”
In 2014, a survey conducted by All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement (PHRM) found that only 20 Hindu temples out of the 428 places of worship (that existed at time of partition) are operational. Out of 428 minorities’ places of worship in the country, 408 have been converted into toy stores, restaurants, government offices and schools after 1990, the survey found.
Last year, amidst rising pressure from the international community about its atrocious human rights record, the Imran Khan led Pakistani govt. had announced grand plans of restoring those 400 temples to its Hindu minority. However, this destruction of the ancient Hanuman Mandir in Lyari, and the bigoted opposition by locals and clerics to construction of a new temple in Islamabad, shows that such talk just remains lip service in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
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