Local administration forms investigation committee
The demolition of a temple in Karachi’s Lyari on August 16 has stirred controversy as local Hindus say it was a pre-Partition building. The police have sealed the site and the local administration is now conducting an investigation.
“The Hanuman temple dated back almost 200 years and was a worship place for several families living in the neighbourhood,” Pakistan Hindu Council Patron-in-Chief and MNA Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani said.
Late Sunday night the temple was demolished and the idols within were destroyed by a group of men, he told SAMAA Digital. Next morning, dozens of Hindu families living nearby gathered in the narrow Fida Hussain Sheikh Road where the temple was located. According to Vankwani, the temple had been reduced to a pile of bricks.
“The actual problem is that the Hindu community is considered to be beyaar o madadgar [helpless],” he said. “People think that since we are minorities, anyone can easily walk over us or take over our land.”
Another issue that the MNA pointed out was the lack of proper documentation for temples. “Most of the temples in Pakistan were built hundreds of years earlier and therefore do not have any proper or ownership documents, making it easy for the land to be taken over by anyone,” he said, adding that this is exactly what happened here.
Vankwani said similar incidents have recently taken place in Nagarparkar and Narowal as well where temples have been demolished and their land taken over. “In most cases when these Hindus speak up, they receive death threats as the opposing party has strong connections.”
Lyari Assistant Commissioner Abdul Kareem Memon, on the other hand, claimed that the building was owned by “a Bohri” who had rented it out to the Hindus a “long time ago”. He did not clarify when it was rented out but said the building wasn’t pre-Partition, which is being circulated on social media. A total of 18 Hindu families lived in a compound near the temple
“Two years ago, the family sold off the land after which the Hindus relocated while the temple remained intact,” he told SAMAA Digital. “It wasn’t a proper temple. The families living there had dedicated a lane where they had carved some statues in the wall and met for prayers,” he claimed.
“When the land was taken over by the new owners, they destroyed the statues,” the assistant commissioner said.
Memon added that an investigation committee has been formed comprising the district commissioner, the area’s DSP and a member from the Sindh Building Control Authority. An FIR has not been registered yet. “A case will be registered after the committee uncovers the true owners of the land.”
He said the committee will determine whether the building that was demolished was actually a proper temple or a makeshift arrangement.
Vankwani pointed out that the committee didn’t have any Hindu representation which may affect the committee’s findings but Memon clarified to SAMAA Digital that a notification has been issued inviting them to be a part of it. Senator Murtaza Wahab has also taken notice of the issue.
Sindh Building Control Authority Structure Director Beenish Shabbir told SAMAA Digital that historic buildings that are registered with the Sindh Heritage Department are protected and no alterations can be made to them.
“If the building is not registered, then the owner of the building can do whatever they want with it,” he said.
The Hanuman Temple is not on the list of heritage buildings available on the websites of the SBCA or the Antiquities Department.
Following the incident, a lot of people on Twitter demanded the government take action against the people involved in the destruction.
Another TEMPLE demolished in PAKISTAN!! A Pre-Partition Hanuman Mandir in Pakistan’s Lyari district was razed to the ground by a builder on Monday. There are around 18-20 hindu families left in the area, who are in fear of their lives and property, as they are being threatened pic.twitter.com/F5op1KHot0— मुकुल यदुवंशी 🇮🇳 (@Yadavji_) August 22, 2020
Hanuman temple in Lyari razed down. Hindu community says the builder took advantage of the Covid-19 lockdown to demolish the worship place. pic.twitter.com/PHMN8Am8g4— Naila Inayat नायला इनायत (@nailainayat) August 21, 2020
Apparently this was a pvt property where 17 hindu families resided & owner sold property to a builder. As per immediate reports all of this was done with consent of the familes who had themselves dismantled the moortis. Proper inquiry is being conducted & property has been sealed https://t.co/AmaAi5qEYX pic.twitter.com/iu3srIOADR— SenatorMurtaza Wahab (@murtazawahab1) August 17, 2020
Karishma Kumari, a Hindu who used to visit the temple regularly, said that the temple had been closed due the coronavirus pandemic and it is likely that the builders took advantage of that.
“I have been visiting this temple since I was a child,” she said. “It’s unfair to demolish a worship place irrespective of the religion.”
Azaad News, a Hindi language television channel, put up a video of the temple on social media in which residents of the area were seen complaining about the demolition. In one of the videos, the keeper of the temple said no one could fathom the pain they went through seeing their place of worship reduced to rubble.