[Business Standard] A large number of Pakistani Hindus today joined a protest outside the Press Club here over the demolition of an 80-year-old temple in the city’s Soldier Bazar area.
The Krishna or Rama Peer Mandir at Dholi Khata in Soldier Bazar has become a bone of contention between the minority Hindu community and a powerful builder, who bought the land on which the temple was built from the military estate office through a government auction.
“Religious articles, including pictures and statuettes of our gods, are still lying in the rubble of the demolished temple and families living in the compound on which the temple was built still remain homeless,” Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, patron of the Pakistan Hindu Council, told PTI.
Several families displaced by the demolition of the temple participated in the protest. Observers said the issue highlighted the growing insecurity of Pakistan’s minorities.
Vankwani, a member of the Sindh chapter of the PML-N party, said authorities had trampled the sentiments of Hindus across the world by razing the historical temple.
“The departments responsible for this gross injustice are the military estate office and the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), who auctioned off the land to a powerful builder without caring about our sentiments,” he said.
An ETPB official, speaking on condition of anonymity, claimed the temple was illegally built on military land that had been auctioned. The temple was legally razed on the orders of a court, he said.
Many Hindu temples in Karachi have in recent years been the subject of disputes involving commercial builders.
The ETPB official said the dispute over the shrine in Soldier Bazar began in 2008, when the Military Estates Officer issued eviction notices to the temple and more than a dozen Hindu families living in houses built around it.
But Vankwani insisted that maps with the ETPB showed the temple was present on the plot even before Partition. “The Hindu families have been living in the compound since Partition and instead of being thrown out, they should have been offered ownership rights for a price,” he said.
Mukesh Kumar Jaidia, a resident of Doli Khata, said the government could have spared the temple. “This incident shows that there is no care for Hindus in Pakistan,” he said.
The 1998 census – the last official population count – placed Pakistan’s Hindu population at 2.5 million.