Once known for its gurdwaras, Pindi losing its heritage to fanatic mindset, land mafia

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Local school’s principal demolishes portion of gurdwara, sets up mosque inside

Zubair Qureshi

The rich heritage of the Raj days which Rawalpindi city is custodian of, is fast losing to fanatic mindset and land mafia and the few gurdwaras and temples the city claims today, too, continue to face a threat from the private as well as the public enterprises. Gurdwara Singh Sabha is the latest example.
Located in Raja Bazaar, the gurdwara was once a centre of Akali Sikhs. Later after establishment of Pakistan, the government set up a school inside the premises. Recently, the head of the school demolished a portion of the gurdwara and constructed a mosque in its premises which is not permissible as the place is a property of The Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Rawalpindi Region. Under the law tenants cannot make any changes to the building.
Talking to Pakistan Observer an official of the ETPB said the board has sought assistance of the Rawalpindi City Government and the DC office to launch an inquiry against the principal of the school. In order to protect the religious site, it has been conveyed to all the schools, offices and public departments working inside the ETPB buildings that they are not authorized to make any change in the construction scheme the building, he said. Gurdwara Sahib once used to be a spacious double-storey building with rooms for pilgrims, a Langarhall and Prakashasthan. However, ETPB’s typical indifference and apathy have taken its toll and the building is losing its luster fast. One can see the worn out walls and arches, dry pond and rusty windows of the building. Sadly the remaining part of the building too is being converted and demolished under the name of religion.
A Hindu resident of Rawalpindi requesting anonymity said Pindi is being deprived of its temples and gurdwaras slowly but steadily. Shami Narayan’s temple in Gawalmandi is also lying dysfunctional as the Hindu caretaker who was granted permission by the ETPB to stay there and run the temple later converted to Islam. He was convinced by the local community to convert to Islam and thus after conversion there seemed no logic for the temple to continue its services, said the Hindu resident of Pindi.
Old Shamshan Ghat located at Tipu Road near Nullah Leh is yet another story of the authorities’ treatment towards religious minorities. The Shamshan Ghat the only place of cremation for the Hindu community living in the city was given to a media group on lease in 2010.
The Hindu and Sikh Community protested after that the demolition of the historic site was stopped. According to Jagmohan Kumar Arora a well-known minority leader of the garrison city, besides the cremation place on the premises of the Shamshan Ghat, there was an old building which was considered as the Dharmshala-cum-temple by the Hindu community. The original area of the Shamshan Ghat was 277 kanals, he said but 10 kanals and 13 marlas were given to the Hindu community in 1949.
Back to Gurdwara Singh Sabha, according to the ETPB official local Hindu and Sikh residents had expressed resentment after the move and asked the ETPB to take action against the school administration. It may be noted here that many schools and offices are working in gurdwaras and temples, however, main portions of religious rooms are sealed to protect them from any changes.The ETPB has contacted the education authority, which issued notices to the school administration that the school did not give attention to, he said. After this, he said, the ETPB had no choice but to bring the matter to the Rawalpindi division commissioner.