By Kaswar Klasra
August 24, 2014
Javed Bhatti, a custodian of Maharishi Walmeck Sawami Jee temple, in Rawalpindi.
The Hindu community in Pakistan's Rawalpindi is protesting against the demolition order of a temple located in the heart of the garrison city.
Built in 1935, the Maharishi Walmeck Sawami Jee temple serves as the hub of religious activities of the Hindus living in Rawalpindi. The temple is situated in high-security zone surrounded by residential and official buildings of the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO).
The decision for demolishing the temple along with other 53 single room small houses to construct the barracks by the FWO has sent shock waves across the Hindu community. An administrative branch of the Pakistan Army, active duty officers, civilian scientists and engineers serve in the FWO.
According to reports, the demolition notices were issued on July 18 but the orders were served on August 12. What had further shocked the community is the demolition of graveyard of Hindus situated at a distance of one kilometre from the temple. Luxurious bungalows are likely to come up on the 6.5 Kanals of land.
When contacted, an FWO officer refused to comment on the matter. During a visit to the site, this correspondent saw construction of washrooms for labourers was under way. The bungalows meant for Army officers were also under construction less than a hundred yards away.
Anti-Hindu sentiments run high in Rawalpindi. Recently, unidentified men had attacked the people assembled at a ceremony held in the temple to mark 'Janmashtami'. Luckily, no one was hurt seriously. Incidentally, the temple was attacked in 1992 following demolition of the Babri mosque in India. Later, the Pakistan government had reconstructed the temple. Since then, 50 Hindu families were living in the temple neighborhood.
"We are living in Pakistan from even before the Partition took place. But life isn't smooth as it was before 1992," Ranish Das said, adding that the authorities were forcing the families to shift to another place at the earliest. Another local, Javed Bhatti, confirmed the same. "Authorities of FWO have promised to build flats for us. They want us to hand our land to them. This is unacceptable to us," Javed said. "Despite the fact that we refused to live in India and stayed here in Jinnah's Pakistan, authorities want to demolish the temple... Is this fair?" Asfandyar Bhindara, a member of Lower House of Parliament, has moved a petition in a local court of Rawalpindi to stop the demolition. The court issued a stay order in this regard.
Cases of kidnappings and forced conversions are nothing new in Pakistan. As many as 400 Hindu families from Pakistan have migrated to India since 2011, while those left behind are said to have forcibly converted to Islam for escaping the wrath of extremists.
Hindus comprised nearly 15 per cent of the country's population in 1947. Now, they are a mere two per cent. Of the 428 temples in the country, only 26 are functioning, said Jagmohan Kumar Arora, the community head in Rawalpindi. To make matters worse for the minorities, the cremation ground in Rawalpindi, used by Hindus and Sikhs was demolished on July 19, 2010.