CJP directs to constitute committee to preserve Katas Raj site, its pond

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Hindu community relieved over SC intervention

Zubair Qureshi

Supreme Court’s intervention has rejuvenated hopes of the Hindu community of Pakistan regarding conservation and upkeep of its temples and holy sites. Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Thursday expressed displeasure over stark negligence and apathy of the government towards Hindus’ holy site and “our national heritage” Katas Raj temple located in Chakwal.
He was hearing a suou motu on the basis of media reports that the pond located in the Katas Raj temple complex was gradually drying up because cement factories nearby had drawn most of its water through a number of sub-soil wells. On the last date of hearing, earlier this week, the CJP had ordered the Punjab government’s Advocate General and Deputy Commissioner of Chakwal District to submit a report in this regard and explain how the state of affairs at the Katas temple had deteriorated and why the complex and its pond were in poor shape.
During the course of hearing, the CJP observed “This temple is not just a place of cultural significance for the Hindu community, but also a part of our national heritage.” He ordered the Attorney General to constitute a committee that would look into the matter and suggest some practicable solution to the problem. The Punjab government conceded before the court that besides a number of cement factories in the region, the unchecked plantation of eucalyptus saplings in the region has compounded the problem, In addition, almost every home in Katas Waulah and Choa Saidan Shah, two settlements near the temple, draws water through bored wells due to the absence of a proper water supply network.
Punjab’s Additional Advocate General informed the court that a cement factory was using more water than the entire population of the city of Chakwal. Besides the cement factories, the area is known for a number of coal mines. Since this involves massive digging of earth for coal extraction, the site becomes exposed to torrents of underground water. “If we need to close down 10 tube-wells or halt the water consumption for the factories, we will do it,” Nisar said.
“If necessary, we will even summon all four chief secretaries and the prime minister’s principal secretary,” he said, adding that experts would need to be taken on board. The CJP made it clear that the court was not against setting up of factories, “but they should be located in places that do not cause inconvenience to ordinary citizens”. “It is unacceptable to live without access to clean water or air,” the CJP asserted.
The case was adjourned till next Thursday. Meanwhile, Hindu community of the region welcomed the CJP’s suou motu and heaved a sigh of relief over the remarks that the site was a national heritage. “This has led us to hope that our sacred sites will be properly taken care of and we have a legal shelter to address our problems,” said Jagmohan Kumar Arora a Hindu community leader of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. The word ‘Katas’ is derived a Sanskrit word meaning ‘tearful eyes’. According to legend, the pond was formed after lord Shiva wept upon the death of his wife Satti. BJP leader L K Advani during his trip to Pakistan in 2005 also visited Katas Raj and inaugurated conservation work being carried out by government of Pakistan.

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