Wednesday, July 2, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Idols missing from Pak temples
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 1
Many idols in ancient Hindu temples in Pakistan are missing and the government there has denied permission to install new ones in place of these. Reports from across the border say that the condition of most Hindu temples there has deteriorated since the 1999 ban on the Hindu jathas visiting Pakistan.

The government of Pakistan is not allowing even local Hindus to look after their desolate temples on the pattern of Sikh gurdwaras, which reveals its hidden agenda to divide the minorities in the country, says Mr Mathura Dass Arora (72), deputy leader of the last jatha of Hindus that visited the Pakistan temples in 1999. “After this pilgrimage, the Hindus were not allowed to visit Pakistan on the pretext that they were not safe there. If jathas of Sikhs can be provided with security, the Hindus can be protected as well,” he told The Tribune.

Mr Arora and his wife Mrs Sumitra said the Hindu jathas had to face a lot of humiliation in Pakistan. The ISI sleuths followed them everywhere during their pilgrimage. Mr Arora, a history teacher, said, as part of the national policy of Pakistan the Hindu temples there were not being renovated on the pattern of gurdwaras. “Being a student of history,” I was shocked to hear from an employee of Pakistan’s Evacuee Trust Board that the Hindus were responsible for the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev and not the Mughals, as claimed by Indian historians,” he said.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the President of the All-India Hindu Shiv Sena, Mr Surinder Kumar Billa, has said his outfit won’t let the Lahore-New Delhi bus service resume, if India and Pakistan fail to allow pilgrimage to temples in Pakistan.

The holiest Hindu temple in Pakistan, relating to Mahabharata is Katasraj, which, too, is in a bad shape. Mr Billa, who has visited the shrines twice in the past, said it was difficult to locate certain ancient temples in Lahore and the other parts of Pakistan, as these had not been opened to the public since the Partition.

Pakistan’s consent to open certain shrines came after a number of promises over the years — the first made in 1955 by Ghazanfar Ali Khan, first Pakistan ambassador to India.

The first yatra to Katasraj fixed for 1956 was cancelled 12 days before the scheduled visit. In 1960 and 1979, the story was repeated. In 1982, Mr Billa and other prominent Hindus threatened to stop trains at Attari bringing pilgrims from Pakistan. “The Nehru and Indira governments never took up the matter with the Government of Pakistan seriously.”

The first batch of Hindu pilgrims left for Katasraj in 1982, 35 years after the Partition. The next batch went in November 1983. Gone were the pre-Partition days of big religious festivals at Katasraj as fanatics in Pakistan had made a number of attempts to damage the Sivalinga in this ancient temple.

The Sheetla Mandir at Lahore, built before the invasion of Alexander, has seen many of its precious idols either looted or handed over to the archaeological department. The Doodhwali Mata Mandir between Shah Almi and Lahori Gate in Lahore survived in its dilapidated sanctum sanctorum. The famous Parahlad Mandir and Jain Mandir near Anarkali in Lahore have been locked and an Islamic school is being run in the compound of the latter. Bhagat Hakikat Rai’s samadhi, where a fair used to be held every Basant day is also in a bad shape, though the festival is still popular in Pakistan.


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