The government vowed to protect them. It did not happen, an official report says.
by Marco Respinti
In Pakistan, Hindu temples and Sikh gurdwaras are left in a state of abandonment and often illegally appropriated by a “land mafia,” notwithstanding the government’s promises that they should be protected and cared for.
This is the conclusion of the seventh report by the One-Man Commission on Minority Rights, Dr. Shoaid Suddle, submitted to the Supreme Court of Pakistan on February 5.
The One-Man Commission was established by the same Supreme Court, and Dr. Suddle is supported by two members of the National Assembly of Pakistan and by the deputy attorney general.
The One-Man Commission opened a dialogue with the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), which is theoretically in charge, inter alia, of protecting the places of worship of Hindus and Sikhs who have left Pakistan. The law mandates that, even if few or no members of the original religious communities remain in the country, the temples and gurdwaras should not be desecrated. This, Dr. Suddle said, is not happening, because the ETPB does not perform its job properly.
The One-Man Commission called the attention of the ETPB on the Samadhi of Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaji in Teri, which was set on fire on December 30, 2020, and on Katas Raj Temples (Chakwal), Prahlad Mandir (Multan) and Hinglaj Mandir (Lasbela), which all need reconstruction. But it went beyond that. It inquired on 470 places of worship, 365 of them Hindu, and got the answer that the ETPB manages only 31 of them. 65 are administered by surviving Hindu believers, which means that most of the remaining 374 are “abandoned to the land mafias,” the Commission said.
Dr. Suddle’s report then offered a summary of the events concerning the Samadhi of Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaji in Teri, which we have already reported in Bitter Winter. The Samadhi is the most sacred shrine of Advait Mat, or Paramhans Advait Mat, an important Hindu religious movement functioning as a network of more than 300 ashrams, both in India and internationally. The founder of the tradition, Sri Paramhans Swami Advaitanand Ji Maraji (1846–1919), was buried there. The Samadhi was destroyed in 1997, and the land illegally occupied by a Muslim cleric. The reconstruction ordered by the Supreme Court in 2014 was completed in 2017, but on December 30, 2020, a mob set the reconstructed Samadhi on fire.
The One-Man Commission reported that ETPB was supposed to reimburse the main part of the expenses for the reconstruction, but didn’t. The report also accused the ETPB of taking over places of worship and other properties of the religious minorities, rather than protecting them.